Scarlet Street review by Tom Blain

DVD store bargain bins are a treasure trove for genre hounds. Whether its sci-fi or horror you can usually get something to tickle your fancy for a cheap price. The best part about the bargain bins at big enough stores is that you will often find something off the wall that you may not have heard off. I always on the hunt for good film noir, and found a 3-in-1 DVD. One gem on the DVD was Scarlet Street directed by Fritz Lang (Metropolis and M are just two of his masterpieces) and starring Edward G. Robinson as an average man who got pulled into a web of deceit and tragedy.

Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson), is a poor nave old man. He couldnt hurt a fly and is very well-meaning, but his life is more than just dull, its torturous. His cashier job is boring and to say he has a nagging wife would be an understatement; she is down right bitchy. The only solace he has is in his paintings. His life changes, one night he is walking home alone from a work dinner. He witnesses a younger woman named Kitty (Joan Bennett) being hit around by a man. Chris rushes to aid her and knocks out the assailant. He walks her home, has a drink with her, talks about his paintings, and instantly falls in love. All of a sudden, there is a new Chris who sees a more ideal life in this young beautiful Kitty.

What sounds like romance to Chris, is just a big joke to Kitty though. She is really a parasite; a femme fatale. The goon beating her was actually her fast-talking, dirt bag boyfriend, Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea). They both believe that Chris is some rich artist and together they scheme new ways to lift money off of the poor unsuspecting Christopher. As Chris gives Kitty more love and trust, she continues to take advantage of him. It starts out with just borrowing money that she doesnt intend to pay back to even trying to sell his paintings without his knowledge.

Scarlet Street starts off like a drama where you really hope that Kitty will change her evil ways and end up with Chris. Aside from the dark, street side introduction, it really has the feel of a romance or drama more so than it does a film noir. Christopher goes back and forth between his house and Kittys, helping her out and getting himself deeper into a bad situation; but all of this is somewhat harmful or maybe it just feels that way because its all in the daytime. Then about an hour and fifteen minutes later, it shifts gears into darkness. The characters start to make decisions they cannot turn back from, every scene feels dark and tragic and, of course, there are consequences for drastic actions.

Its not one of Langs best films or even one of the better film noir pieces I have seen, but it definitely holds up to the genre rules. Considering it did have Fritz Langs name as director I would have wished that the middle of the movie would have had more noir-ish visuals. As I mentioned above, its a bit to daylight and ho-hum but one affect that does create is a severe shift from peace to unrest when the movie finally does hit high gear. If you have seen The Man Who Wasnt There you may recognize some of the themes, story and even characters. If you are a fan of Lang or the genre, its worth a pickup.




5 out of 10 Jackasses
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