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Scarlet Street

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Scarlet Street

Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett
Director: Fritz Lang
Rated: NR
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: December 1945
Genres: Action, Classic, Drama

*Also starring: Dan Duryea, Margaret Lindsay, Rosalind Ivan, Jess Barker

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Dragan Antulov review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Jerry Saravia read the review ---

Review by Dragan Antulov
3 stars out of 4

In few last decades Hollywood producers were very often using critically and commercially successful film from France for their own remakes. For many critics, such practice was the sign that American cinema, at least the segment associated with big studios, begins to lack the last sparks of originality. However, remaking French films isn't such new phenomenon in Hollywood. It happened even half a century ago, but the results were usually much better than today. That was the case with LA CHIENNE, 1931 classic by Rene Clair. In 1945 it was remade as SCARLET STREET, classic film noire by Fritz Lang.

Plot of the film is set in New York City. Christopher Cross (played by Edward G. Robinson) is cashier who has nothing in life except his job, gold watch and shrewish wife Adele (played by Rosalind Ivan). One night he accidentally stumbles in dark alley and rescues beautiful Kitty March (played by Joann Bennett) from a street thug. Almost immediately he falls in love with her, never knowing that Kitty actually works on the streets for living and that the thug happened to be her abusive boyfriend Johnny (played by Dan Dureya). Of course, Christopher, blinded by the feeling of love he hadn't felt for decades, lies too. Since his hobby is amateur painting, he presents himself as successful and wealthy artist. Kitty sees that as an opportunity to get a lot of money, and these misunderstanding are just the first in the spiral of events that would lead to ironic and tragic finale.

Although SCARLET STREET belongs to the realm of film noirs, viewers accustomed to more conventional examples of that genre would have some difficulties cataloguing it as such. Reason is in the script by Dudley Nichols, which brings refreshing mix of drama, tragedy and devastatingly black humour, that would seem somewhat out of place in standard film noirs. People are not supposed to laugh at the characters and situations in film noirs, but this is the case here. To make this achievement even more unusual, the characters are played by small army of very capable actors. Edward G. Robinson as Chris Cross gives probably one of his best performances; his character is flawed, artistic soul, intelligent enough to deceive people but blinded by feelings and unable to detect deception himself. Since we could meet such small, inconspicuous people every day at street, his tragedy gets very close to viewers. Joann Bennett is also very good as not so bright femme fatale, but Dan Duryea steals the show. His character is painted in most unflattering light, he even doesn't look like someone who could steal women's hearts, but Duryea plays him as someone who could invoke audience's sympathy in the end. Fritz Lang as director brought some of the European feeling into this film. First of all, his New York doesn't look like American metropolis. Instead, it looks like any big European town, with slang phrases spoken by Bennett and Duryea as the only clear national identification. But the biggest original contribution by Lang is his ironic portrayal of New York art world - critics, dealers and artist wannabes (with always-reliable Vladimir Sokoloff in one of such supporting roles). It is a real shame that the movie was made in black and white; paintings that play important role in the plot should have been displayed in their full glory. However, this isn't the only problem SCARLET STREET had. Tragicomical irony of the film and unexpected finale is compromised with too dark overtones in the epilogue. Those last scenes, although powerful in its own way, seem somewhat out of place and nothing more than Lang's concession to censors, unable to digest unconventional finale. On the other hand, despite those flaws, this film is real gem of the Old Hollywood, the one that justifies the existence of remakes.

Copyright 1999 Dragan Antulov

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