Three childhood friends, Martha, Walter and Sam, share a terrible secret. Over time, the ambitious Martha and the pusillanimous Walter have married. She is a cold businesswoman; he is the district attorney: a perfect combination to dominate the corrupt city of Iverstown at will. But the unexpected return of Sam, after years of absence, deeply disturbs the life of the odd couple.Written by
This is a well-written, well-acted, thoroughly absorbing film noir. The always-great Barbara Stanwyck is at her sultriest as Martha, and Van Heflin is incredibly sexy and masculine as Sam. Watching this movie, you wouldn't think Kirk Douglas, who plays the weak-willed, alcoholic Walter, would soon become a bigger star than Heflin and play the tough, romantic hero parts like Sam Masterson. Douglas excelled at those parts, as he did with a very different type of part in this movie, but I can't help thinking that if Heflin had gotten more of those roles, he would have been just as big a star. Husky-voiced Lizabeth Scott rounds out the star foursome nicely as Toni, a wrong-side-of-the-tracks girl who's been burned by trusting the wrong men. This movie, more than most of its era, trades in shades of gray; the "bad" characters, Martha and Walter, have reasons for the evil they do, while the "good" characters, Sam and Toni, are no angels--he's a decorated war hero, but he makes his living by gambling and once killed a man in self-defense, while she just got out of jail. This complexity adds to the film's interest. The film also provides a believable depiction of small-town life; it's realistic, no Bedford Falls. The flashback portraying several of the characters as teenagers has the spark of reality as well. Highly recommended.
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