This has got to be the most beautifully photographed film I have ever seen. "Leave Her to Heaven" won an Oscar for Best Cinematography, and never was that award so richly deserved. There's a scene in a railroad car between Cornel Wilde and Gene Tierney that looks 3-D, and that's no jive.
However, the movie itself is what we used to call in grade school, nasty. Gene Tierney plays an amoral woman who will stop at nothing--and it just gets worse and worse--to keep Cornel Wilde all to herself. The other reviewers have characterized her as psychopathic, and she must be, to be so obsessed with Cornel Wilde of all people! He doesn't really do anything to deserve all this attention from her, except for a tell-tale detail: he resembles her late father, whose ashes Gene spreads all over New Mexico while bouncing somewhat suggestively on her horse. So there's this ever-so-slight suggestion of incest at the beginning of the movie, although we never really go much more into it.
Still, campy cult film that it is, I enjoyed this movie until she went out on the lake with Corne's crippled brother--that's the nasty part, I'm afraid. She encourages him to swim beyond his endurance and lets him drown in front of her. Now, although she goes on to do some other awful things throughout the movie, this one scene was too upsetting for me, reminding me of the scene in the original "Frankenstein" between the monster and the little girl he kills. It's too discordant, frankly; while the rest of the movie is kind of absurd in its campiness, this is something very different, very sadistic. In fact, because of that one scene, I can never really recommend this movie to my friends, although I wistfully mention the wonderful photography. So, if you are beyond being disturbed by mistreatment of the vulnerable, you'll be able to enjoy this movie quite thoroughly; if not, be prepared to fast-forward when they hit that lake.