Leave Her to Heaven is a thriller that moves at a slow pace, like a watched pot set for a boil. It's about a cold, calculating woman whose need to possess the men she loves leads her to commit heartless acts of murder. The pace of the film is similar to that of The Sixth Sense in that it builds slowly under a constant state of dread.
I find this movie fascinating, if a little slow. Also, many of the things that happen are tame by today's standards and a bit cliched, but were probably more surprising back when it was released. The tone of the movie, one of building dread and discomfort as the villainess' true nature is revealed, is sustained throughout. Watching it today, however, one can't help but wonder why family members didn't take matters into their own hands before she could wreak such havoc upon them all.
Visually, this film is STUNNING. It was filmed in Technicolor, and though it comes off as "colorized" at certain points due to the limits of the coloring process of the era, for the most part it's breathtaking. It's so rare that we can see this era in full color because most of the films from that time are in black and white, which creates a barrier between the viewer and the world of the film. This is the first film I can remember seeing that breaks down that barrier; it's the first time I've really felt I have an idea of what it was like to see the world as it was back then.
Gene Tierney is absolutely beautiful, even if she does come off as cold (that is, after all, the whole point). She got a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance (she lost to Joan Crawford in Mildred Pearce). Cornel Wilde is quite a hottie when he's caught at the right angle, although unfortunately we're never treated to a shirtless shot of him. We do see his muscular forearms and bulging bicep, which is just enough to make us wonder what the rest of him looks like. The wardrobe is breathtaking, especially the men's clothes. Oh to live in a time when every day one wore a jacket and tie, and in the New Mexico desert no less! The cinematography is the undeniable star of the film, the lighting and framing is simply amazing. There's a lot of great architecture to be seen, and the set design is interesting as well, although most of the sets are residential, which can tend to be somewhat boring and floral (yuk) in their domesticity. The train scene at the beginning is wonderful with the interior of the art deco styled lounge car.
The movie winds up in a courtroom (with a prissy Vincent Price playing the jilted District Attorney out for vengeance) before delivering its happy Hollywood ending, but the trip to get there is well worth the time...once again, I say this if you are at all intrigued by the actors or the era.