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Scarlet Street
USA 1946
Directed by Fritz Lang
Running time 104 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Edward G. Robinson plays a mousey little man, Christopher Cross, whose sense of unrealized dreams leads him into the wily arms of a floozie (Joan Bennett).

Originally filmed in 1931 as La Chienne (The Bitch) by Jean Renoir, writer Dudley Nichols adapted this version from the play La Chienne by Georges de la Fouchardiere and the book of the same name by André Mouezy-Eon. It has the same leading actors as Lang’s 1941 film The Woman In The Window.

Lang and his DOP Milton Krasner get the atmosphere of Chris’s drab life exactly right and although Robinson is almost too big a star to occupy the role, he does an excellent job in an against-type performance. Although sometimes clunky in her mood swings, Bennett does a pretty handy job with her slatternly Kitty March but it is Dan Duryea, in the kind of role which was his stock-in-trade who steals the show as her smarmy, grifting boyfriend, Johnny.

Although visually very much in the Hollywood B-grade style of the period and often categorised as a film noir, its tone, with its depiction of a sad and lonely character driven to despair by his unrealized desires, is much more empathetic towards its central figure than is typical of the genre which more typically has a specific criminal intent underpinning its narrative (think, for instance, of Double Indemnity, 1945, in which Fred MacMurray is a willing participant in murder rather than a hapless victim and therefore does not elicit our sympathies as does Chris Cross). In this respect Scarlet Street recalls Lang’s own, classic M (1931) more than it does the dime-store fiction of Cain, Chandler or Hammett.

 

 

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