Scarlet Street (1945)

“They’ll be masterpieces.”

In Scarlet Street mild-mannered bank cashier Chris Cross (Edward G Robinson) dreams of being a great painter one day. His nagging wife ridicules his hobby and constantly humiliates him. Then one day Chris meets a young woman named Kitty (Joan Bennett). He thinks she’s being mugged, but she’s really a ‘working girl’ squabbling with her slimy boyfriend, Johnny (Dan Duryea). Chris and Kitty strike up a conversation, and soon Kitty and Johnny are ready to use Chris for whatever money they can get out of him.

Chris seems to be just too nice for his own good. He’s a reliable, largely underappreciated employee who plugs away daily at his desk. But painting is one thing he’s passionate about, and it saves him from the sheer boredom of mediocrity. He’s a rather unhappy character–first his impossible wife is kicking him around, and it doesn’t take long for Kitty to sink her materialistic little hooks into Chris too. As events take place within the film, the strength and weaknesses of Chris Cross are explored. Will he exploit opportunities or is he destined to always be a slave to his character flaws? Many marvelous little touches raise this film above the average and make it memorable. I’d never heard of this film until recently when I came across the title in a book about film noir. As a fan of director, Fritz Lang’s films, I sought out this film. The plot is extremely clever–full of unpredictable twists and turns. Kitty deceives Chris, but he is guilty of his own sort of deception.

The DVD quality is not great, but I am not downgrading the film for that. My DVD is produced by Alpha video at a very reasonable price. The film is not re-mastered at all, and there are no extra features. At some points during the film, a thin vertical line was visible, and the sound quality varied (seems to get louder), plus there were some crackles. The black and white picture is grainy at times. All of these defects, however, did not interfere with my ability to watch and enjoy the film. It’s about the same quality as a television version of the film. If you enjoyed Woman in the Window (a much more famous Fritz Lang/Edgar G Robinson/Joan Bennett film) you should enjoy this one too.

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