Beautiful Ellen Berent unashamedly jilts her fiancé, Russell Quinton, for writer Richard Harland. Her attraction to Harland being that he reminds her of her deceased father. But soon it becomes evident that Ellen is very possessive and literally will do what it takes to keep all away from her newly obtained beau.
Director John M. Stahl and writer Jo Swerling adapt from the novel written by Ben Ames Williams. Filmed in luscious Technicolor by Leon Shamroy (Oscar winning), Leave Her To Heaven proves two indisputable things. One is that to craft a searing film noir it doesn't have to be filmed in monochrome, the other is that it's proof positive that Gene Tierney (Ellen) was more than just a gorgeously effective face.
Tierney of course needs no introduction to fans of film noir, her appearance and quality of performance in the previous years release of Laura ensures that. While to a lesser degree the mixed Whirlpool four years later also cements her status in the corridors of darkness. But an argument can be made for this being her crowning glory, both in terms of her effervescent beauty and of the performance she gives (Oscar nominated). It's not outrageous to say that the film achieves greater heights because of her portrayal as Ellen, a character that is the epitome of the femme fatale. Tierney has this beguiling knack of shifting from charm personified to outright evil in a heart beat - and amazingly as Ellen grows more warped and jealous, Tierney grows ever more sexy. It's not just Cornel Wilde's duped Richard Harland falling into her disturbed web, it's any watching human being with a pulse! Even as the shockingly cold moments unravel, and there are some truly chilling ones for sure, Ellen draws us in with a lusty fascination that's rather unique.
Credit too must go to Stahl's direction, perhaps a director that unfairly sits in the lounge of the unsung, he weaves his story adroitly, setting up plot roads to keep us intrigued, only to then shift focus back on the dame holding court for characters and viewers alike. Wilde does fine, his mannered approach work works well off of Tierney's show stealing turn while in support we get pretty as a picture Jeanne Crain as the crucial sister character, Ruth Berent, while Vincent Price - elegant as always - does his profession proud in the small but important role of the jilted Quinton.
Leave Her To Heaven is a must for noir fans, a must for Tierney fans, and definitely a production to get the best out of your High Definition TV. 8.5/10