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John M. Stahl
Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain, Vincent Price, Mary Philips, Ray Collins, Gene Lockhart, Reed Hadley
Writing Credits:
Ben Ames Williams (novel), Jo Swerling

Hers was the deadliest of the seven sins.

Though she is engaged to a politician (Vincent Price), Ellen (Gene Tierney) lures the handsome Richard (Cornel Wilde) into marriage after knowing him just a few days. But Richard learns from her sister (Jeanne Crain) and mother (Mary Philips) that Ellen's selfish, possessive love has ruined other people's lives. When his own brother drowns while in Ellen's care and she has an accident that kills her unborn child. Richard grows increasingly suspicious of her unsatiable devotion.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby 2.0
English Monaural
Spanish Monaural
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 2/22/2005

• Audio Commentary by Actor Darryl Hickman and Film Critic Richard Schickel
• Movietone News Footage
• Restoration Comparison
• Trailers
• Still Gallery


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Leave Her To Heaven: Fox Studio Classics (1945)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 3, 2005)

Being in love sure is great, isn’t it? Love’s especially wonderful when somebody loves you right back. However, things aren’t quite so rosy when that other person loves you just a wee bit too much, a subject at the heart of 1946’s Leave Her to Heaven.

The movie starts with a quick and intriguing set up, as we see Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) return home to Deer Lake, Maine after two years in prison. From there, we launch into a flashback and see Richard meet gorgeous Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) on a train. Both of them end up in New Mexico at Rancho Jacinto along with Glen Robie (Ray Collins) and Ellen’s family: mother Margaret (Mary Philips) and cousin/adopted sister Ruth (Jeanne Crain). The Berents are there to scatter the ashes of their dead patriarch.

Though Richard sees an engagement ring on Ellen’s finger, the pair get to know each other better and clearly fall for each other. Eventually she tells Richard that she’s taken off her engagement ring “forever”, which leads to some tension when Ellen’s ex-fiancé Russell Quinton (Vincent Prince) comes to see her.

Nonetheless, Richard and Ellen get married and go to Warm Springs to visit Dick’s sick brother Danny (Darryl Hickman). Dick and Danny want to go back to their Maine home called Back of the Moon, but Ellen resists the notion. They all head back to Maine anyway, as Ellen won’t mention her reticence to Dick.

As time progresses, Ellen demonstrates increased signs of instability. She shows jealousness over Richard’s relationships with others and wants him all to herself. This creates more and more problems and leads Ellen to some extreme measures as the film moves toward its climax.

As I noted in my review of A Letter to Three Wives, I usually find the “Fox Studio Classics” movies to be all or nothing. Either I think they’re terrific or I hate them, as few of the flicks fall in between those extremes.

With Heaven, we get a “Studio Classic” that lands smack dab in the middle. I enjoyed the film and think it’s a worthwhile experience, but I wasn’t bowled over by it. The movie does open with a moderately intriguing set-up, as we know the flashback story will go down a negative path. This keeps us involved since we may have suspicions about where it’ll go, but the film keeps us off-balance enough to make things tense. The structure acts as a taut “ticking bomb under the seat”, as we wait for an explosion to eventually occur.

Unfortunately, the story moves awfully slowly. It doles out plot points parsimoniously and only occasionally grants us real moments of intrigue. For example, tidbits related to Ellen’s father or her engagement remain vague enough to pique our interest. It just takes the movie an awfully long time to get where its going, and the film’s final act really drags. The movie doesn’t end with a bang, as it instead whimpers along after the flick’s major dramatic twist occurs.

That zinger is a doozy and demonstrates Ellen’s pathology well. I really like the performance from Tierney, as I think she’s the best thing about the movie. Yes, she acts in a broad manner, but she brings a nicely coy and mysterious air to Ellen. We see something odd beneath the surface but she waits to let out the truth. This leaves us curious to figure out if Ellen’s simply just a little jealous or if there’s something more serious at work.

Unfortunately, the other characters are consistently less interesting. Richard is something of a cipher, as he presents very little personality. He lacks depth or intrigue, so we empathize with his predicament to a degree but don’t much care what happens to him.

Despite some lackluster characters and slow pacing, Leave Her to Heaven creates enough twists and turns to maintain our attention. The film takes some unanticipated paths and benefits from a coldly alluring performance from its lead. Heaven doesn’t qualify as a classic, but it’s an entertaining diversion.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C-/ Bonus C+

Leave Her to Heaven appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A mix of highs and lows meant that although parts of Heaven looked terrific, it lacked consistency.

The main issue stemmed from fairly prominent edge enhancement. Throughout the movie, moderately heavy haloes appeared, and these rendered the film awfully soft at times. It displayed decent delineation at times, but quite a few shots came across as rather ill-defined. I saw no issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering, though, and source flaws were fairly minor. Occasional examples of specks, nicks, marks and blotches appeared, but these stayed well within the realm of acceptability for a nearly 60-year-old flick.

For the most part, hues seemed wonderfully bold and brilliant. The colors of Heaven were frequently a serious treat for the eyes as they virtually leapt off the screen. The movie offered a broad palette and the film displayed these with fine clarity and vividness. We got the slightly unnatural but totally lovely tones that Technicolor did so well. Black levels seemed deep and rich. Shadow detail looked clear and appropriately opaque. Some shots presented terrific visuals, but the general softness created too many concerns for this transfer to merit anything above a “B-“.

Leave Her to Heaven presented a Dolby Stereo 2.0 soundtrack that was similar to the usually inferior remixes found on other Fox Studio Classics DVDs. This one presented a mushy affair. The audio stayed in the front spectrum and displayed mediocre imaging at best. Music was the best-defined element, as the score showed passable stereo delineation.

Otherwise, the track showed poor localization and blending. Effects stayed essentially monaural; a couple of scenes used additional speakers, such as when we got to a big town meeting. Speech displayed murky delineation through the movie. Most of the lines remained in the center, but they bled to the sides in an unnatural way. This became a moderate distraction.

Audio quality was also average at best. Lines lacked much edginess and remained intelligible, but they seemed somewhat thin and lifeless. They suffered from a little annoying reverb as well. Effects didn’t play much of a role, and they remained fairly flat and bland. Music failed to demonstrate much vivacity. The score was dull and undefined. A little background noise appeared during the flick. Between the drab quality and the awkward soundfield, the audio of Heaven landed in the “below average” category.

As for the package’s extras, the most significant component comes from an audio commentary with actor Darryl Hickman and film critic Richard Schickel. Both were recorded separately for this edited piece. The veteran of many commentaries, Schickel provides some basics about the production and its participants. He also tosses in a little interpretation of the film and occasional critical elements.

Frankly, Schickel’s moments don’t add up to much, and they mostly remain forgettable. Hickman, on the other hand, offers a very interesting set of statements. He discusses his time in Hollywood as a child actor, his experiences on Heaven, and other thoughts about movies and acting in general. Hickman relates positive memories of actor Cornel Wilde and a few others and not-so-positive thoughts about Gene Tierney and director John Stahl. He gives us many illuminating details about his experiences and helps make this a generally winning commentary.

Otherwise, only some Fox Studio Classics basics pop up here. A Still Gallery presents 21 images. Most are good shots from the set, though a couple of ads pop up as well. Two Movietone News reels also appear. We get “Hollywood Spotlight: Galaxy of Stars Attends World Movie Premiere” and “Motion Picture Academy Awards Oscars for Film Achievements”. The first is pretty dull, but the second’s fun because we get a slightly extended clip in which Bob Hope jokes with a few winners. (By the way, this clip shows up here because Leon Shamroy won for Best Cinematography, Color.)

In addition to the film’s trailer, the Studio Classics area presents ads for In Old Chicago, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Snake Pit, and The Three Faces of Eve. Finally, a Restoration Comparison provides images of a mix of different versions of the film.

Occasionally slow-paced and melodramatic, Leave Her to Heaven nonetheless manifests a generally intriguing tale. We get an alluring performance from its leads and intriguing plot twists, all of which are enough to make it keep our interest. The DVD presents occasionally great but very erratic picture with problematic stereo sound. The extras don’t offer much, though the audio commentary presents useful notes. While Heaven didn’t dazzle me, with a cheap list price of less than $15, I recommend it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4545 Stars Number of Votes: 22
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