Friday, July 8, 2011

Scarlet Street (1945)

Scarlet is the color of blood, right?

- Alright, so we are not told exactly why the film is called Scarlet Street but one is perfectly able to read between the lines. One thing is for sure: Scarlet Street is a fantastic film noir thriller that evolves from mild at the start to absolutely bone-chilling by the end.

The company consisting primarily of actors Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea, and director Fritz Lang created two very well done film noir thrillers back-to-back in the 1940s: 1945's Scarlet Street was the second and, in my mind, the best of these thrillers (1944's The Woman In The Window was the first).

The middle-aged Christopher Cross (Robinson), emasculated househubby and go-nowhere bean counter, develops a puppy-like attraction for young bad girl 'Kitty' March (Bennett). Along with her even badder boyfriend Johnny Prince (Duryea), Kitty begins to take advantage of Christopher's undying romantic affections, trustful occupation near a safe, and hidden artistic talent. But what is Christopher's breaking point? How far can Kitty push him until he is not satisfied with not being her main man? What will Christopher do when he is pushed too far?

The Woman In The Window and Scarlet Street are reasonably close together in quality and enjoyment - but I consider Scarlet Street to be the superior Lang/Robinson/Bennett/Duryea collaboration by a fair margin; it is certainly the darker and most shocking of the two films. The story of an ordinary pitiful man who drops off the deep end, Scarlet Street is authentic film noir; darker than night in picture and themes, clouded by murderous thoughts and deeds - and including some particularly chilling scenes that are some of the best of the film noir genre, so dark one wonders how it got past the censor in those days.

Edward G. Robinson has given many classic and unforgettable performances in his long, great career and his shocking performance as Christopher Cross here in Scarlet Street is easily one of his finest screen showings ever. Robinson's performance gets better and better with each new frame and twist in the story, he embodies this poor pathetic man extremely well and us audience members sympathize sincerely.

Scarlet Street is dark, chilling, and a must-see for film noir and Edward G. Robinson fans. For an optimum viewing experience, one might want to see Scarlet Street as part of a double feature after the other Lang/Robinson/Bennett/Duryea collaborated film noir The Woman In The Window; but Scarlet Street is the better and more intense of the two Lang noir thrillers.

CBC Rating: 9/10

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