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With: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea, Margaret Lindsay, Jess Barker
Written by: Dudley Nichols, based on the novel by Georges de La Fouchardiere
Directed by: Fritz Lang
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 103
Date: 12/28/1945

Scarlet Street (1945)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Noir Trek

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Alfred Hitchcock thrilled audiences with his tales of suspense for six decades. Another director, Fritz Lang, was two jumps in front of him, yet he never received quite the same measure of fame.

Perhaps this is because Lang ventured into even darker corners than Hitchcock. Hitchcock was content with wry little moments of black humor, while Lang never provided such comforts. Lang's heroes were often innocents who, for no reason at all, are trapped by fate.

Two of Lang's darkest works of film noir, have been newly released on DVD. Scarlet Street (1945) has fallen into the public domain and is already widely available on inferior, bargain-priced discs, while House by the River (1950) is an ultra-rare Lang, barely seen in any form for over fifty years. Both are now available on high-quality Kino DVDs, priced at $24.95 each. (See for details.)

Scarlet Street is arguably the darkest of Lang's American films. A remake of Jean Renoir's La Chienne (1931), the story follows a recently retired man, Chris Cross (Edward G. Robinson), who is totally emasculated by a harping wife, though he takes refuge in his hobby: painting. One night, he rescues a young woman (Joan Bennett) from a mugger and becomes smitten by her. He puts her up in an apartment so that he can paint her without his wife's interference. Unfortunately, the mugger turns out to be the girl's boyfriend (Dan Duryea); together they scheme to take Chris for all he's worth.

Lang does remarkable things with Robinson's diminutive stature and odd presence. Chris wears an apron around the house, and is often seen as physically inferior to the other characters; he's a perpetual victim. The weird paintings, by John Decker, play an important role as well. Dudley Nichols adapted the screenplay from the French novel and play.

DVD Details: Kino's DVD comes with a commentary track by author David Kalat (The Strange Case of Dr. Mabuse) and a photo gallery.

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