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Scarlet Street

Scarlet Street (1945) starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea – classic film noir directed by Fritz Lang

Editorial review of Scarlet Street (1945) starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea courtesy of Amazon.com

Scarlet Street, starring Edgar G. Robinson, directed by Fritz LangKino Video’s remastered edition of Scarlet Street finally does justice to one of the best film noir classics of the 1940s. Less than a year after scoring a critical and popular success with The Woman in the Window, director Fritz Lang reunited with stars Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea for this fatalistic New York City tale of a meek, middle-aged cashier and aspiring artist named Christopher Cross (Robinson) who unwittingly falls into a trap set by a pair of Greenwich Village con artists (Bennett, Duryea) who plot to sell his paintings and make off with the profits. In addition to Lang’s masterful use of studio backlot locations and cinematographer Milton Krasner’s exquisite control of light and shadow, the film draws its primary strength from the atypical performance by Robinson (typically so good at playing heavies, and a knowledgeable art collector off-screen) as a hen-pecked husband and self-professed failure whose withered ego makes him especially vulnerable to the false charms of Bennett, a femme fatale as heartless as she is ultimately doomed.

Her scandalous behavior on screen and off (Bennett was the wife of producer Walter Wanger and Lang’s mistress) and Duryea’s pimpish amorality made Scarlet Street both immensely popular and scandalous enough to be banned in three states when the film was released in late 1945, but in Lang’s dark vision of corrupted souls and avenging angels, nobody goes unpunished. The ending of Scarlet Street is as unforgiving as it is unforgettable, and in the hands of Fritz Lang, it’s the purest essence of film noir at its finest. Kino’s DVD release offers a high-definition digital transfer from a 35-millimeter negative preserved by the Library of Congress (in other words, it puts every previous video release to shame), and there’s an astute, scholarly commentary by Lang expert David Kalat that puts Scarlet Street into critical perspective with Lang’s career and film noir in general. For fans of the genre, this is a must-own DVD. — €“Jeff Shannon

Product Description of Scarlet Street

Joan Bennett and Edgar G. Robinson in Scarlet StreetA box-office hit in its day (despite being banned in three states), Scarlet Street is perhaps legendary director Fritz Lang’s (M, Metropolis) finest American film. But for decades, Scarlet Street has languished on poor quality VHS tape and in colorized versions. Kino’s immaculate new HD transfer, from a 35mm Library of Congress vault negative, restores Lang’s extravagantly fatalistic vision to its original B&W glory. When middle-aged milquetoast Chris Cross (Edward G. Robinson — €”Double Indemnity, Little Caesar) rescues street-walking bad girl Kitty (Joan Bennett — €”The Reckless Moment) from the rain slicked gutters of an eerily artificial backlot Greenwich Village, he plunges headlong into a whirlpool of lust, larceny and revenge. As Chris’ obsession with the irresistibly vulgar Kitty grows, the meek cashier is seduced, corrupted, humiliated and transformed into an avenging monster before implacable fate and perverse justice triumph in the most satisfyingly downbeat denouement in the history of American film. Both Scarlet Street producer Walter Wanger’s wife and director Lang’s mistress, Joan Bennett created a femme fatale icon as the unapologetically erotic and ruthless Kitty.

Joan Bennett in Scarlet StreetRobinson breathes subtle, fragile humanity into Chris Cross while film noir super-heavy Dan Duryea, as Kitty’s pimp boyfriend Johnny, skillfully molds — €œa vicious and serpentine creature out of a cheap, chiseling tin horn. — € (The New York Times). Packed with hairpin plot twists from screenwriter Dudley Nichols (Stagecoach) and — €œbristling with fine directorial touches and expert acting — € (Time), Scarlet Street is a dark gem of film noir and golden age Hollywood filmmaking at its finest.

Movie quotes from Scarlet Street

[first lines]
Bank Employees: [singing] For he’s a jolly good fellow. For he’s a jolly good fellow. For he’s a jolly good fellow — €¦ which nobody can deny. Which nobody can deny. Which nobody can deny. Which nobody can deny.
[repeat chorus]


Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea): Can’t you get those Lazy Legs off that couch, baby?


Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea): And then you gave me a dirty look.
Kitty March (Joan Bennett): I didn’t give you a dirty look!
Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea): Listen, any girl that waits two hours in the rain for a guy is gonna give him a dirty look.


Kitty March (Joan Bennett): Who do you think you are? My guardian angel?
Millie Ray: Not me, honey. I lost those wings a long time ago.


Adele Cross: Next thing you’ll be painting women without clothes.
Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson): I never saw a woman without any clothes.
Adele Cross: I should hope not!


Kitty March (Joan Bennett): If he were mean or vicious or if he’d bawl me out or something, I’d like him better.


Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea): Lazy Legs,
[kisses her]
Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea): I don’t know what you told Janeway, but you got him eatin’ right out of your hand.
Kitty March (Joan Bennett): It won’t stop with lunch!


Kitty March (Joan Bennett): Well, I was going to do this myself, but, uh — €¦
[hands him toenail polish]
Kitty March (Joan Bennett): Paint me, Chris! — €¦ They’ll be masterpieces.


Kitty March (Joan Bennett): How can a man be so dumb — €¦ I’ve been waiting to laugh in your face ever since I met you. You’re old and ugly and I’m sick of you — €”sick, sick, sick!


Reporter on Train: [referring to being executed] I’d rather have a judge give me the works than to have to do it to myself.


Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson): Hey, did you read this?
Adele Cross: Read what?
Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson): This murder in Queens. A man killed his wife with the window weight, put her body in the trunk, shipped her to California. It says here — €¦
Adele Cross: I’ve read the paper, thank you. He didn’t get away with it, did he? He’ll go to the chair, as he should.
Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson): Yeah, a man hasn’t got a chance with these New York detectives.


[last lines]
Kitty March (Joan Bennett): Johnny. Oh, Johnny.
Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea): Crazy Legs.
Kitty March (Joan Bennett): Jeepers, I love you Johnny.


Since Scarlet Street has had its’ copyright expire, it’s available to watch freely via the Internet Archive: