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Leading Ladies [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
In The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, relationships formed in childhood lead to murder and obsessive love. The wealthy Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) is the prime mover of the small Pennsylvania town of Iverston. Martha lives in a huge mansion with her DA husband, Walter O'Neil (Kirk Douglas), an alcoholic weakling. No one knows just why Martha and Walter tolerate one another....but Sam Masterson (Van Heflin), an Iverstown boy who returns to town, may just have a clue. At least that's what Martha thinks when Sam asks Walter to intervene in the case of Toni Marachek (Lizabeth Scott), who has been unjustly imprisoned. It seems that, as a young boy, Sam was in the vicinity when Martha's rich aunt (Judith Anderson) met with her untimely demise. What does Sam know? And what dark, horrible secret binds Martha and Walter together? Directed by Lewis Milestone, and based on John Patrick's Oscar-nominated original story, Love Lies Bleeding, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers creates in Martha a unique and interesting, driven, obsessed, and spoiled character, but one not without sympathy. Barbara Stanwyck is outstanding as Martha, with her predatory smile and sharp, manicured nails. Kirk Douglas is surprisingly convincing as a lost, sad, weak man, who loves his wife, but is unable to gain her respect. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers eventually lapsed into public domain and became a ubiquitous presence on cable television. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte's classic Victorian novel is once again put through the paces, this time by Delbert Mann, in this stodgy Masterpiece Theater style television adaptation. Susannah York is Jane Eyre, the orphan girl who secures a position as a governess to the ward of Edward Rochester (George C. Scott), lord of an English manor house called Thornfield, whose halls hide a dark and sinister secret. Jane and the moody and the tyrannical Rochester fall in love and agree to marry. But at their wedding ceremony, Rochester is revealed to have been already married. Suddenly his dark past comes crashing in on both himself and the innocent Jane. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Anna Karenina
This 1948 adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina was produced in England by Alexander Korda, and released in the US by 20th Century-Fox. Vivien Leigh plays the title role, a 19th-century Russian gentlewoman married to Czarist official Ralph Richardson. Though her marriage is not intolerable, Anna is swept off her feet by dashing young military officer Vronsky, played by Kieron Moore. The ensuing scandal ruins Anna's status in society. Anna Karenina had previously been filmed twice in Hollywood, with both versions starring Greta Garbo. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Patterns
Rod Serling's incisive "gray flannel suit" TV drama created such a sensation when Kraft Television Theatre first aired it live on January 11, 1955 that, in an unprecedented move, it was repeated four weeks later, on February 9, again live. Richard Kiley starred as Fred Staples, a bright young man from Cincinnati brought into the executive pool at a top New York firm by ruthless CEO Ramsey (Everett Sloane). Staples doesn't know it at first, but he was recruited as the potential replacement for Andy Sloane (Ed Begley), an ailing exec whom Ramsey is easing out in a most unsubtle fashion. Staples takes a liking to Sloane and despises Ramsey's tactics; the question is: does he despise them enough to throw away the biggest opportunity in his life? Director Fielder Cook, who helmed both TV versions of Patterns, also did the same for the 1956 film version. While Everett Sloane and Ed Begley were carried over from TV, the more "bankable" Van Heflin replaced Kiley as Staples. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Magic Sword
In this fun-filled adventure-fantasy, a rookie knight embarks upon a valiant quest to save a princess who has been captured by a malicious magician. Along the way he must battle the usual assortment of dragons, ogres and other mythical beings. He is assisted by a good witch who gives him a magic sword. Unfortunately, the magic fails and suddenly he must find his own magic from within. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

As You Like It
This film version of the famed Shakespearean comedy features Laurence Olivier as Orlando and Elisabeth Bergner as Rosalind. As the story goes, Rosalind, smitten by Orlando and not able to get his attention, disguises herself as a boy to more easily remain in Orlando's vicinity. Eventually Orlando grows to like his new friend and Rosalind is stuck playing a boy with a boy with whom she'd rather be a girl. Confusing? Maybe only Shakespeare could come up with the idea, but director Paul Czinner does a fine job executing the concept. ~ Phillip Erlewine, Rovi

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