There's always something simmering beneath the quaint and placid surface of small-town New England lives -- and that includes the usual maladies of alcoholism, rape, and suicide. At least this is the case if you go by the tortuous tale told in By Love Possessed, a Peyton Place knock-off, directed with glossy intensity by the usually reliable action director John Sturges (Bad Day at Black Rock and The Magnificent Seven). The tale chronicles the miserable lives of Arthur Winner (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), Julius Penrose (Jason Robards Jr.), and Noah Tuttle (Thomas Mitchell) -- legal counseling partners in a law firm that could probably use some good counseling themselves. Arthur's wife Clarissa (Barbara Bel Geddes) has nothing but contempt for poor Arthur because she considers their marriage as more a business deal than a love match. Then there's Julius's wife Marjorie (Lana Turner) who has become a full-time alcoholic ever since Julius has been rendered impotent by an automobile accident. Arthur and Marjorie's frustrations both gel into an illicit romantic union. Arthur certainly needs some kind of diversion since his son Warren (George Hamilton) refuses to follow in his father's footsteps by becoming a lawyer. As if that weren't enough, he also refuses to marry Helen Detweiller (Susan Kohner), the girl Arthur wants him to marry because she is rolling in money and is also the ward of Noah. Instead, Warren runs off with the local town whore (Yvonne Craig), who accuses Warren of raping her. Despondent, Helen resorts to desperate measures when she is rejected, and Arthur realizes that he must begin to reconsider his life choices.