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Scarlet Street (1945) [DVD]

3.8 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea, Margaret Lindsay
  • Directors: Fritz Lang
  • Format: Dolby, PAL, Black & White, Full Screen
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.37:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Odeon Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 22 Sept. 2008
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001CG23JC
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 64,778 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

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.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Scarlet Street is a classical cinenoir. You have here femme fatale, a sucker and an evil cad. You name any characteristic of noir film and you have it here.But the film goes much beyond the standard clichées of noir film. That is the achievement of the director of the film,Fritz Lang. He has turned the film into the work of art.

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.
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"Scarlet Street" was directed by Fritz Lang in 1945 and adapted for the screen by Dudley Nichols from the the French novel "La Chienne" (George de la Fouchardiere,1930). It had previous been filmed by Jean Renior in 1930 starring Michel Simon. With such classics as "Dr Mabuse: The Gambler"(1922), "Metropolis"(1927), "M"(1931) Lang established himself as a true innovator in German expressionist cinema and its that quality which he would take with him when he moved to Hollywood in the mid 30s. Lang can be credited as a major player in the development of Film Noir where imagery would become a significant part of the story. His first two American films "Fury"(1936) and "You Only Live Once"(1937) are often credited as two of the earliest examples of Film Noir before the 1940s. In 1944 and 1945 he made three classics of Film Noir: "Ministry of Fear", "The Woman in the Window"(1944) and "Scarlett Street"(1945). It can be difficult for younger audiences to appreciate what makes Lang so important because many of his cinematic innovations seem commonplace today but Lang's dark vision of modern metropoli and a deep sense of paranoia and fear was truly original at the time. "Scarlet Street" contains one of the most popular themes of Film Noir, a femme fatale luring an upstanding man into the whirlpool of the Noir world that makes it an entertaining genre to watch. The femme fatale character of Kitty performed brilliantly by Joan Bennett is for me quite possibly the finest examples of this type of character in Film Noir and can be traced back to German cinema like "Pandora's Box"(Pabst, 1929) and "The Blue Angel"(von Sternberg, 1930) There is a certain amount of physical and moral debasement of male characters at play in these films that serves as a key motif of Film Noir. Joan Bennett must surely be regarded on the same level as Gloria Graeme, Barbara Stanwyck, Rita Hayworth and Joan Crawford in similar roles. Film Noir buffs will not want to miss this essential and key work of Film Noir.
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Do not be tempted to buy this DVD. I omitted to notice that it is released by Elstree Hill which is the worst DVD manufacturer/distributor I have come across. The transfer is quite obviously direct from VHS so the picture quality is indistinct, blurry and, in a word, rubbish. The DVD has gone straight down the local charity shop.
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Made just a year after Lang's The Woman in The Window, Scarlett Street is very much a follow up to that film. Although it isn't the same narrative, it uses the same principal actors from the previous, while exploring similar themes. While not the same in terms of cinematography, Scarlett Street rather builds its peculiar tension through the intricate relationships and connections between the characters, the lies, deceit and suspicions. While the audience might find its sympathy with Edward G. Robinson's character, there is not really any character in this that is not in some way very flawed or wronging someone else.

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.
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