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March 01, 2009

LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Leave-her-to-heavenMartin Scorsese famously called director John M. Stahl's post-war Technicolor masterpiece "Leave Her To Heaven," "a film noir in color." The distinction is apt. This 1945 picture never crosses into neo-noir territory.  

Gene Tierney uses her exotic pale blue eyes to stark unemotional effect as Ellen Berent, a femme fatale seductress who lays a marriage trap for successful author Richard Harland (played by Cornel Wilde). Ellen is an obsessive compulsive whose insular idea of wedded life excludes everyone except the man she holds onto with a death grip. Ellen's twist on munchausen by proxy resonates with Gothic sensibilities. She has no use for the baby growing in her belly; her loyal husband is all the child she needs to contain and control. Moreover, Ellen has the ability to kill in cold blood.  

A pre-horror maestro Vincent Price plays Ellen's jilted former fiancé in this luscious thriller filled with chewy dialogue, great costume designs, and lakeside locations to die for. Every one of master cinematographer Leon Shamroy's compositions is a work of sublime art. This is a picture that burns itself permanently on your eyeballs. 

Mental illness never looked so seductive or bit with such a ferocious over-bite as from Gene Tierney's demented character. Creepy never looked so seductive. 

Leave-Her-to-Heaven-

Not Rated. 110 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

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