By Chaz Lipp
A vivid Technicolor production from 1945 focusing on a deeply disturbed young woman, Leave Her to Heaven remains potent enough to get under viewers’ skin even today. Boutique label Twilight Time has helped rescue this striking minor classic from obscurity with a superb Blu-ray release. As with all their titles, Leave Her to Heaven is limited to 3,000 copies, so anyone interested should head over to Screen Archives (exclusive distributor of TT releases).
Admittedly, Heaven gets off to an awfully slow start. At the outset we meet Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde), a respectable looking, stalwart gentleman who has just been released after two years in prison. The bulk of the plot consists of a long flashback that shows us exactly how Richard wound up there. Without revealing too much, it involves a beautiful femme fatale by the name of Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney). They meet on a train and Richard is immediately taken by her. What strikes Ellen about Richard is his apparent resemblance to her late father, with whom she was extremely close.
Before long, the couple is married and vacationing at Back of the Moon, Richard’s lakeside retreat. Unbeknownst to Richard, Ellen has been demonstrating some strange behavior. Much of this is centered on Danny (Darryl Hickman), Richard’s younger brother. The boy is still in the process of recovering from polio and he is very much the center of Richard’s world. Ellen exhibits intense, pathological jealously when Danny is deemed fit to join them at the lake house. Her attitude only gets worse when Richard reveals he’s invited a number of extended family members.
I’m not comfortable revealing more. The decisions made by Ellen (played with exacting iciness by Teirney) regarding how to secure the undivided attention of her husband are chilling. They have to be seen to believed, even if they are not easy (or even possible, for most of us) to understand. This was a bold movie to make in ’45 (with John M. Stahl directing Jo Swerling’s adaptation of Ben Ames Williams’ novel of the same name). Get past some pacing issues during the first half and brace yourself for an unflinching look at a sociopath and the unwitting victims of her unscrupulous actions.
Framed at 1.33:1, the 1080p transfer is remarkably clean; free of visual artifacts that might betray the film’s age. The colors are less bright and bold than we expect from modern productions, but their presentation here can’t be faulted, as far as I can see. The soundtrack is a very simple DTS-HD MA mono track with clean dialogue. Just a touch of overdriven harshness is present in the music. Luckily for fans of Alfred Newman’s score, the score is available as a DTS-HD MA 2.0 isolated track that sounds fantastic.
As for additional extras, there’s a theatrical trailer and a couple minutes of Movie Tone News newsreel material. The booklet contains a customarily informative essay by Julie Kirgo. For the record, Ben Ames Williams’ novel was adapted again in 1988 for the TV movie, Too Good to Be True (starring Loni Anderson and Patrick Duffy as Mr. and Mrs. Harland).