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Scarlet Street (1945) [DVD]
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A major box office hit in its day, despite being banned in three American states, Scarlet Street is seen by many as on of Fritz Lang s finest films during his American period. Its film-noire setting sees Edward G. Robinson in one of his most emphatic performances as a middle-aged cashier, Chris Cross, who has a chance meeting with the wayward Kitty (Joan Bennett). Trapped in an unfulfilling marriage and desperate to be a painter, Chris falls in love with Kitty. Kitty, however, is already under the spell of her conman boyfriend Johnny (Dan Duryea) and as Chris becomes obsessed with the irresistibly vulgar Kitty, Johnny senses an opportunity to extort money from the love struck cashier.
In a way, Scarlet Street is a remake. It's taken from a French novel, La Chienne (literally, "The Bitch") that was first filmed by Jean Renoir in 1931. Renoir brought to the sordid tale all the colour and vitality of Montmartre; Fritz Lang's version shows us a far harsher and bleaker world. The film replays the triangle set-up from Lang's previous picture, The Woman in the Window, with the same three actors. Once again, Edward G Robinson plays a respectable middle-aged citizen snared by the charms of Joan Bennett's streetwalker, with Dan Duryea as her low-life pimp. But this time around, all three characters have moved several notches down the ethical scale. Robinson, who in the earlier film played a college professor who kills by accident, here becomes a downtrodden clerk with a nagging, shrewish wife and unfilled ambitions as an artist, a man who murders in a jealous rage. Bennett is a mercenary vamp, none too bright, and Duryea brutal and heartless. The plot closes around the three of them like a steel trap. This is Lang at his most dispassionate. Scarlet Street is a tour de force of noir filmmaking, brilliant but ice-cold.
When it was made the film hit censorship problems, since at the time it was unacceptable to show a murder going unpunished. Lang went out of his way to show the killer plunged into the mental hell of his own guilt, but for some authorities this still wasn't enough, and the film was banned in New York State for being "immoral, indecent and corrupt". Not that this did its box-office returns any harm at all.
On the DVD: sparse pickings. There's an interactive menu that zips past too fast to be of much use. The full-length commentary by Russell Cawthorne adds the occasional insight, but it's repetitive and not always reliable. (He gets actors' names wrong, for a start.) The box claims the print's been "fully restored and digitally remastered", but you'd never guess. --Philip Kemp --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Edward G.Robinson plays Christopher Cross, a cashier cum sunday painter, a sucker type. He is besotted with a young actress,Kitty March(Joan Bennett). She,in turn,is madly in love with a blackmailer Johnny(Dan Duryea). He wants her to abuse Cross's tender feelings for her to fleece him of big amounts of money.He wants the money for his dubious schemes that will lead him to the life on easy street. The way story proceeds,the sunday painter's works are sold for high prices,without him getting any credit or sou. The paintings were sold as the works of a reclusive Kitty March. Mr.Cross is still besotted with Kitty,in the meantime, he is free from his bad marriage by a twist in the story, wants to marry her.That is the moment of truth for him. She humiliates him,calls him a loser and in a fit of rage he kills Kitty.
Visually the film is stunning. That is the legacy of Fritz Lang, who was credited with bringing expressionist German art of his time into Hollywood films. The film has some dozen scenes shot through glass doors,or reflections in the mirror to create different planes of space and depth. The way camera moves,one has the feeling of being there.
For the ironies of life,watch carefully the court scene with different testimonies and opinions regarding the murder and Mr.Cross.Another great scene is when Johnny is led to the death chamber. That scene is a masterpiece in visual effects,almost three dimensional.Read more ›
It is darker than The Woman in The Window, but less mysterious. Building less on formal principles, Scarlett Street is a looser film in terms of structure, but that doesn't diminish the straining tension which is built up as the narrative progresses. The films might seem on the surface to be fairly typical noir films, but Lang's films make themselves noteworthy from the rest of the genre with their uniquely intricate cinematography, complex relationships which strengthen the narrative and unnerving tension built up.
For some reason, it seems, Lang's American films haven't received as much attention as his early silent work, particularly M and Metropolis. But I do feel that his films are just as good, or indeed, even better than his European output. His films are dark, mysterious, ambiguous and subtle, interweaving the different elements that makes his films such intricate narratives, and I find his building of tension and meaning much more elegant than most directors of the same era. Fritz Lang was very much the equal of such masters as Max Ophüls, Alfred Hitchcock and Douglas Sirk.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent in every respect. Script story/ convincing scenario / superb performance.Published 4 months ago by Terry W painter
I confess to being a bit torn about Scarlet Street. For film noir fans, it is surely a 5-star film, and it is about as inky-black as you can get in its take on life. Read morePublished 12 months ago by schumann_bg
Problems with the American legal system was a recurrent theme in the work of the film director Frtiz Lang from his first American film 'Fury' in 1936, in which a character played... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Andrew Banks
Eureka 2002 version: Don't be fooled by the fact that this is a Eureka release, (like I was) this version is of a very poor standard. Buyer beware!Published 17 months ago by ANDREW
Not at all what I expected Edward g Robinson is a very insipid cashier I thought he would be more of a gangster as in other films I found it annoying to watch as it dragged on glad... Read morePublished 17 months ago by jay
I'm puzzled by the rave reviews given to this film. Maybe I focussed too much on the story, rather than the visuals (or maybe I don't enjoy noir 'cos you can't see very much...). Read morePublished 21 months ago by Derek