Due to rights problems with the Cornell Woolrich novel on which the plot is (loosely) based, Martha never had a theatrical run in the United States. Martha (Margit Carstensen) is in her early thirties, beautiful, single, and a virgin. While strolling around Rome on vacation with her father, he suffers a fatal heart attack. Just as unpredictably, Martha meets a stranger in his mid-forties in front of the German embassy. Back in Germany, she sees him again and learns his name is Helmut Salomon (Karlheinz Böhm). Martha falls for his charisma and dominant personality, and soon Helmut begins his tender but unforgiving “education” of Martha. His sadism and her masochism set the stage for a claws-out satire of bourgeois marriage and the conventions that hold it in place.