A dark and perverse melodrama which stars Stanwyck as the wicked Martha Ivers, a wealthy and powerful woman who has gained control of the small town of Iverstown, Pennsylvania, after inheriting a large family fortune. She lives with her weakling husband Walter (Douglas, in his first film), a district attorney who is preparing to make a bid for mayor. What no one in the town knows, however, is that Martha and Walter share a deep secret--as a young girl, Martha murdered her aunt while planning to elope with then-sweetheart Sam Masterson. In order to protect the family name, an innocent man was executed for the crime. After a long absence, Sam (Heflin) returns to Iverstown. The couple fear that he is preparing to blackmail them, but their paranoia only makes him more curious about Martha's childhood secret. A cruel film noir which, although it starts somewhat slowly, builds to a frenzied state of suspense in which the characters, all of them vile, have a perverse hold over one another. The result is an often gripping film which shows the collaborative efforts of such talents as Wallis, Milestone, Rossen, Rozsa, art director Hans Dreier, and costumer Edith Head. This film also includes among its credits four future directors: screenwriter Rossen, Kirk Douglas, assistant director Robert Aldrich, and, as a bit player, Blake Edwards.