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USA 1946
Directed by
Fritz Lang
104 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Scarlet Street

Edward G. Robinson plays a mousey little cashier, Christopher Cross, whose sense of unrealized dreams leads him into the wily arms of a floozie (Joan Bennett) and her low life boyfriend (Dan Duryea).

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

Lang and his DOP,  Milton Krasner, get the tenor of Chris’s drab, hen-pecked 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 paramour, Johnny.

Although visually very much in the Hollywood B-grade style of the period (to which Lang was a major contributor) often referred to generically as  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 category in which more usually the protagonist has a specific criminal intent which underpins the plot (think, for instance, of Double Indemnity,1946, in which Fred MacMurray is a willing participant in murder rather than a hapless victim and therefore does not elicit our sympathies as does 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 and it is this that lifts the film considerably above its run-of-the-mill genre relatives.




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