The second half of a double feature shown at The New York Film Festival with Drums Along the Mohawk, and introduced by Martin Scorsese under the auspices of Scorsese's The Film Foundation as a restored three-strip Technicolor masterwork, Leave Her to Heaven, was clearly a film that Scorsese holds close to his heart. Scorsese could be seen at the screening in his seat, his head cradled in his hand, absorbing a climactic courtroom scene with vindictive prosecutor Russell Quinton (Vincent Price), as if seeing the damned thing for the first time, when you know the guy must have seen the film dozens of times already. It certainly holds a peculiar place in Scorsese's personal life. He related at the screening how he first encountered the film in the middle of the night in a big house in Hollywood. Awakening by a dreadful asthmatic attack, he switched on a colossal Zenith TV, and saw an otherworldly close-up of Gene Tierney on the set that hovered over the Los Angeles landscape through the window of his room. He proceeded to watch the rest of the film "through long gasps of breath."
Leave Her to Heaven stakes out its territory in the form of a flashback, as novelist Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) returns to a small lakeside town that has now become tainted with the aftertaste of murder. Homespun lawyer Glen Robie (Ray Collins) relates the sorry tale of how things came to such a pass and the film-length flashback begins -- noir fatalism in the blinding daylight. We are taken back to the genesis of all this misery, the ravishing but deadly Ellen Berent (played to evil perfection by Gene Tierney, in an iconic film noir role), who meets Harland on a train and quickly latches onto the poor sap, and soon her berserk compulsion for him drags the innocent Harland and his loved ones down into the dark waters of tormented possessiveness.
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