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3.5 out of 5 stars
Scarlet Street (1945)
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on March 18, 2003
Greenwich Village, that is, which we learn was home to "hop-heads" and "long-hairs" in 1945 (!) Fritz Lang's masterpiece tells the story of a middle-aged bank clerk (Edward G. Robinson, dependably brilliant) who escapes the dreariness of his job and his marriage to a harpy by spending his Sundays indulging his only hobby: painting. His life gets considerably more exciting when he runs across Joan Bennett, a con-artist and tramp who -- with the help of her pimp, the always-amusing Dan Duryea -- proceeds to slowly drain his financial wherewithal. Of course, the greatest irony is that Robinson has conned the con-artists: they think he's a wealthy artist because, in his attempt to impress Bennett, he neglected to mention that he's a just a lowly bank cashier. The movie shows us a dizzying amount of untruths, scams, cons, misperceptions . . . nothing is what it seems. Truth is relative, baby. While Lang has a lot of fun with all the illusions, he also dedicates himself to the principle that no good -- or bad -- deed goes unpunished, and that great noir principle, the inescapability from Fate, starts weighing more and more heavily on our characters as they perambulate through their sundry fictions and cons. -- For the sake of historical interest, it should be noted that *Scarlet Street* is an American remake of Jean Renoir's excellent *La Chienne*. (This story was based on a French novel; hence the concern with painting. Needless to say, the story migrated easily to Greenwich Village during the budding of the beatnik movement.) Renoir, in his film, spends a considerable amount of time building up the characterizations -- at the expense of the plot, to some degree. Lang, however, correctly understood that these characters are not as inherently interesting as the situation itself, with its myriad variations on the theme of Reality and (or versus) Illusion. As a result, Lang's movie is rather more suspenseful than Renoir's. Also of note: *Scarlet Street* is a follow-up of sorts to Lang's previous movie, *The Woman in the Window*, which featured the same cast (Robinson, Bennett, and Duryea)! It's a masterpiece, too. [A special word of congratulations must go to "Alpha Video": Congratulations on crafting the ugliest-looking and poorest-sounding DVD I have ever seen or heard. It's a great thing, when masterpieces in the Public Domain can be snatched up by any unscrupulous producer. Simply burn an old magnetic-tape version onto a digital disc, press a few thousand copies, and voila! -- Instant profit. Bravo!]
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on July 11, 2004
Robinson is a person without collective importance ; a looser , a henpecked man . He has only a hobby: painting . In that world he gives wings to his fantasy , and those dreams become his identity signal . The unhappiness and the loneliness are his real beloved friends . Suddenly this fantasy world will open widely when his alter ego is pulled into world of crime by Joan Bennet and his manipulative boyfriend Duyrea. He falls in love with Joan very soon he'll discover a shock revelation: the first husband of his wife is still alive , so he thinks at last the happiness knocked the door of his destiny but ...
Only the fertile imagination of Fritz Lang could give this melodramatic plot a touch of genius . Once more , we should remember that Lang was one of the greatest directors in the cinema story . Since he left Germany after finnishing The testament of Dr. Mabuse ; he decided to work in United States and he'll find out in the film noir the perfect vehicle to express the dark shadows and the haunting ghosts that will appear unavoidable in the mind .
And being Lang one of the most remarkable sons of the german expressionism , to face that challenge was perfectly adequate to his skills and abilities .
If you're a hard fan of the film noir ; you find in this genre that the hell is in your mind , the guilty has no ending and nobody deserves a bit of trust . The love , under these circunstances is unable of growing up and the road for the weakness , the evilness and the cruelty are clear to shine .
In my personal selection of unforgettable Lang's films' american stage, I find several that form part of the top list : Fury , You only live once ; The Woman in the window , Big heat and Clash by night.
So don't doubt even a second about this film . It deserves an important place in your private selection.
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on September 27, 2001
Powerfully harrowing and nightmarish noir about a henpecked husband who becomes the pawn of immoral, scheming lovers. Edward G. Robinson is both sympathetic and pathetic as Christopher Cross, the lovesick fool in a mid-life crisis whose only joy in life is painting since he is trapped in a horrible marriage with a hellish wife, and thus falls easy prey to a cunning and wicked young woman. Joan Bennett is electrifying as Kitty March, whose beautiful appearance and tacked-on niceness masks a thoroughly corrupt and vicious harlot. Dan Duryea is appropriately sleazy and slimy as Johnny Prince, Kitty's boy-toy hustler. The two lovers use Christopher's blind infatuation for everything they can get. Not being a rich man, to impress his prized mistress he pretends to be a wealthy artist and is forced to embezzle funds from his job in his blind desire for Kitty. As if that weren't enough, Kitty and Johnny sell Christopher's amateur paintings behind his back--which, surprisingly enough, attracts the attention and praise of noted critics and galleries--and are making a small fortune. Inevitably, Christopher discovers the cruel deception by the two--resulting in horrendous consequences for all three. A comment--the scenes of Robinson/Christopher getting henpecked by his nagging wife was meant to evoke sympathy, and indeed it does, but also manages to be unintendedly funny at times! The sight of a glum and closemouthed Robinson wearing an apron and doing dishes is not to be missed! This film was cutting edge at the time since it dealt with disturbing and important issues such guilt, damnation, repressed emotions leading to explosive acts of violence and mental breakdown, and showed the prostitute/pimp relationship in the most casual yet brutal fashion with Bennett's coldly realistic streetwalker having no illusions about life, and Duryea's pimp slapping her about and blatantly living off her body. Nevertheless, the superb performances, gloomy and tense B&W cinematography, the overwhelmingly oppressive and bleak mood which always looms large, Christopher's out-of-perspective surrealistic paintings which emphasizes the impending doom and also cleverly symbolizes his lovesick blindness, and the disturbing no-holds-barred ending make this one of the most memorable and darkest film noirs.
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on April 16, 2002
Scarlet Street succeeds in spite of the extremely poor quality of the video transfer to DVD. First rate screenplay, acting and direction defer this reviewer's condemnation of the picture. I haven't seen the VHS of this film, so I don't know what the comparison is between the two. The film's quality reminds me of the VHS release of another classic, The Red House, sadly, again starring Edward G. Robinson. Not worth the low price.
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on April 21, 2015
Excellent
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