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VINE VOICEon October 11, 2005
Kino has promised a nice transfer of Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street (from an archived print - one not used by anyone else for a DVD release). That is excellent news for fans of Film Noir. This is a very good to excellent movie (depending on your tastes), and it deserves much better than the shoddy treatment it has received on virtually all the other DVD releases of this title to date. The cast is excellent, and features Edward G. Robinson, Dan Duryea, and Joan Bennett.

If you are considering buying Scarlet Street, then the Kino version is the only one to buy.

(Update: The image on the Kino DVD is amazingly sharp when compared to the other versions currently available, but there is one minor issue with the Kino release; there are some instances of "combing," (visible scan lines or "ghosting"), in the picture. To the untrained eye it isn't very noticeable, if at all. There is no question that this, even with the minor combing issue, is still BY FAR the best release of this title ever on DVD. If you are going to buy Scarlet Street, definitely buy the Kino version.)
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on March 18, 2003
Greenwich Village, that is, which we learn was home to "hop-heads" and "long-hairs" in 1945 (!) Fritz Lang's masterpiece tells the story of a middle-aged bank clerk (Edward G. Robinson, dependably brilliant) who escapes the dreariness of his job and his marriage to a harpy by spending his Sundays indulging his only hobby: painting. His life gets considerably more exciting when he runs across Joan Bennett, a con-artist and tramp who -- with the help of her pimp, the always-amusing Dan Duryea -- proceeds to slowly drain his financial wherewithal. Of course, the greatest irony is that Robinson has conned the con-artists: they think he's a wealthy artist because, in his attempt to impress Bennett, he neglected to mention that he's a just a lowly bank cashier. The movie shows us a dizzying amount of untruths, scams, cons, misperceptions . . . nothing is what it seems. Truth is relative, baby. While Lang has a lot of fun with all the illusions, he also dedicates himself to the principle that no good -- or bad -- deed goes unpunished, and that great noir principle, the inescapability from Fate, starts weighing more and more heavily on our characters as they perambulate through their sundry fictions and cons. -- For the sake of historical interest, it should be noted that *Scarlet Street* is an American remake of Jean Renoir's excellent *La Chienne*. (This story was based on a French novel; hence the concern with painting. Needless to say, the story migrated easily to Greenwich Village during the budding of the beatnik movement.) Renoir, in his film, spends a considerable amount of time building up the characterizations -- at the expense of the plot, to some degree. Lang, however, correctly understood that these characters are not as inherently interesting as the situation itself, with its myriad variations on the theme of Reality and (or versus) Illusion. As a result, Lang's movie is rather more suspenseful than Renoir's. Also of note: *Scarlet Street* is a follow-up of sorts to Lang's previous movie, *The Woman in the Window*, which featured the same cast (Robinson, Bennett, and Duryea)! It's a masterpiece, too. [A special word of congratulations must go to "Alpha Video": Congratulations on crafting the ugliest-looking and poorest-sounding DVD I have ever seen or heard. It's a great thing, when masterpieces in the Public Domain can be snatched up by any unscrupulous producer. Simply burn an old magnetic-tape version onto a digital disc, press a few thousand copies, and voila! -- Instant profit. Bravo!]
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on November 28, 2005
Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson) is an unhappily married, middle-aged man who leads a boring and lonely life as a cashier. His only passion in life is painting. When he meets the lovely Kitty March (Joan Bennett) one night, he immediately falls for her. Thinking that Chris is a famous and wealthy artist, Kitty leads him on while coming up with a dirty scheme with her lover Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea). Johnny gets Kitty to get as much money as possible from Chris, who is totally unaware of Kitty's cold-hearted motives. Chris gladly pays for Kitty's lavish apartment where he can paint her portrait.

Chris steals money from his boss' company in order to buy Kitty whatever she wants, and he's happy like never before in his life. Even when he discovers that Kitty has been selling his paintings and keeping the money, Kitty's charm wins him over and he forgives her easily. When the first husband of Chris' wife, thought to be dead, shows up alive, Chris eagerly makes plans to marry Kitty. But when he goes to see her he finds her in the arms of Johnny, and realizing finally that he'd been cruelly misled and used, he loses control of his temper. To reveal anymore would spoil the ending.

Filmed shortly after the successful "Woman in the Window," which featured the same three stars (Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea) and was also directed by Fritz Lang, 1945's "Scarlet Street" had a much darker conclusion. Like "Woman in the Window," Edward G. Robinson was once again seduced and victimized by femme fatale Joan Bennett, only this time the nightmare was real. "Scarlet Street" is a haunting and incredibly bleak film noir and is unquestionably one of Fritz Lang's best movies. I've seen three previous versions of this classic on dvd, and everyone had an awful picture and sound quality. Now at last, Lang's masterpiece can be seen like never before, with an excellent restored print used for the Kino release. This dvd is a definite must for any fan of film noir!
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on March 18, 2012
The original story was filmed by the great French director Jean Renoir as "La Chienne" which means "The Bitch." The director was the son of the outstanding impressionist Pierre August Renoir; the son actually sold his father's great art masterworks to subsidize his effort to make films featuring his ambitious wife. In the end, Renoir felt deeply manipulated and divorced her. In Renoir's hands, this is a black comedy. In Fritz Lang's hands, it becomes a tense sexual thriller and the tale of the dark descent of a man who is completely destroyed by his erotic longing for a beautiful woman who never returns his love.

Edward G. Robinson plays a shy, henpecked married man who works as an unimportant bank cashier/clerk. In his spare time, he loves to paint and in fact possesses an original vision in his naive paintings. His wife humiliates him and announces the art is worthless.

The film really begins when the Robinson character believes that he has saved a gorgeous woman from being beaten up by a man in the street. (That man happens to be her pimp). Unable to take his eyes off this woman, he allows his sexual desire for her take complete control. All his normal ethics of honesty are misused in his attempt to raise money.

Let's be fair. A woman as gorgeous as Joan Bennett could demand favors from her admirer, particularly when he is so emotionally vulnerable. Obviously, she just leads him along, takes his paintings, and discovers that there is a hot market for them. But all along, she is really attracted to her pimp, who is handsome in a cheap sort of way, mean spirited, and cunning.

When the truth is discovered, needless to say, things get darker and darker.

Compared to other scratchy and dull versions which have appeared earlier on DVD copies, this Kino Classics Edition is a superb translation of the original film onto the disc. The cinematography of dark and rainy streets and confining apartments creates an exterior landscape that matches Edward G. Robinson's sexually repressed character.

As a cinematic treatment of a man's psychological descent into hell, this is one of the best film noirs that I have ever seen.
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on November 21, 2005
If you have been frustrated by the inferior prints in circulation of this Fritz Lang Film Noir classic, fret no longer. Kino has delivered an amazing print here with great sharpness and clarity that I never thought possible, judging by the garbage available up until now. Throw in the beautiful, and most colorful cover art and your Scarlet Street dreams have come true! I am so thrilled that I have watched it two nights in a row. This is one of the more underrated Film Noir titles. More people know Woman In The Window and usually it is thought of as a better film, but I'll take Scarlet Street over Window anytime, as I feel it is a bit more harder edged and comes without the soft ending that Window has that leaves me a bit flat. Both great films, both are a must for noir fans, and both star Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and one of my favorite bad guys, the very underrated Dan Duryea. Worth the 25.00 price of admission as I am sure if you are a noir lover, it will be one you watch many times over in the coming years.
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on November 3, 2006
The film Scarlet Street (1945), based on a novel by Georges de La Fouchardière, was produced and directed by Fritz Lang (Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler, M, The Big Heat), and stars Edward G. Robinson (Little Caesar, Double Indemnity, Key Largo), Joan Bennett (The Man in the Iron Mask, The Woman in the Window), and Dan Duryea (Criss Cross, The Flight of the Phoenix). Also appearing is Margaret Lindsay (The House of the Seven Gables), Jess Barker (The Night Walker), Rosalind Ivan (Johnny Belinda), and Charles Kemper (Gallant Journey).

As the film begins we meet a character named Christopher Cross (Robinson), a timid and unassuming middle-aged man, who is celebrating his 25th anniversary as a cashier in a department store. After the party winds down, a tipsy Chris gets turned around somewhere in Greenwich Village and comes across a woman taking the beating from a man, and rescues her, sort of...turns out the attacker, whose face we don't get to see, was fairly drunk and easily enough chased away. Anyway, Chris is immediately taken with the woman, a wannabe actress named Katharine 'Kitty' March (Bennett), allowing her to believe he's a wealthy artist, rather than telling her the dismal truth (seems Chris fancies himself a painter, but it's more or less a hobby rather than a career option). Here's where things get complicated...unbeknownst to Kitty Chris is lowly nine to fiver, married to a shrill harpy named Adele (Ivan), theirs being a marriage of convenience, and unbeknownst to Chris Kitty is involved with a real slick huckster named Johnny Prince (Duryea), the same guy who appeared to be attacking her on the street (turns out he was just trying to get some gambling money). Anyway, Johnny, ever the schemer, believing Chris to be a man of means, convinces Kitty to schmooze him up a bit for some dough, which she does, but Chris, who's a real sap, hasn't the green, so he procures it from his skinflint wife. Eventually Chris eventually comes clean to Kitty about the fact he's married and ends up setting her up in a posh pad, which allows not only for him to visit her, but also gives him a place to pursue his painting, something his wife thinks is a waste. Through a series of circumstances involving Johnny trying to sell Chris' paintings (he and Kitty still believe Chris to be a famous artist), Chris' works actually gain some attention, resulting in Johnny talking Kitty into pretending she painted them, rather than Chris (this wasn't too difficult given Chris never signed his own works). Anyway, as Kitty becomes famous Chris discovers the ruse (only Kitty's part, not her involvement with Johnny), and goes along with it, living vicariously through Kitty given the fact his work is garnering so much attention, but things turn sour once Chris learns of Kitty's involvement with Johnny along with how they've been playing him for a world class sucker...I won't say what happens but I will tell you a sharp implement is involved...

Of most all of the films I've watched recently, which is quite a few, this one had the most intricate storyline. If you've read through the previous paragraph it may seem like I've related a lot, but in actuality I've only touched upon a small number of highlights. There's so much more going on, in terms of both characters mentioned and those that weren't...everything about this feature worked for me, including the immaculate direction, the engaging writing, and the excellent performances. One aspect I was unsure of early on was the character played by Edward G. Robinson in that it seemed so different than what I've come accustomed to with some of his other films I've seen as I'm more or less used to seeing him portray hardnosed gangster types, not spineless, easily manipulated saps. Once I got past my own preconceived typecasting, though, it went down a lot easier, helped immeasurably by the fact Edward G. Robinson is probably one of the best actors to come out of the American cinema. As far as the other performers, Joan Bennett played her part perfectly as she was able to maintain her character's pretense of decorum, at least enough for a lovesick sap to buy off on, but once her character's guard was down we saw her for what she really was, an opportunist who desperately sought the affections of another, even more opportunistic individual played by Dan Duryea, whose character was about as oily and charming (and misogynistic) as they come. Seriously, this is the type of guy who could talk you out of your skin and be long gone before you realized what happened. One of my favorite sequences from the film comes as Kitty relates to Johnny the fact Chris is married and given they way his mind works, he suggests maybe Kitty can pry some money from Chris if it were thought by him that somehow his wife might learn of his relationship (which was nonsexual, by the way) with Kitty. Kitty replies about that being blackmail, to which Johnny states,

"It's only blackmail, baby, when you're dumb enough to get caught."

As I said the direction is wonderful as there was never a time when I wasn't engrossed in the material, which flows at a steady pace. One really interesting aspect for me was near the end, when Chris finally allows himself to realize his tragic folly, and reacts in a shocking, but not unexpected manner. All in all this is probably one of the best film noir features I've seen in awhile, and I'd highly recommend it as an example of a truly unique and fascinating feature within the genre.

The fullscreen (1.33:1) picture on this Kino Video DVD release looks sharp and clean, and it is indicated on the DVD case that digital transfer was culled from the 35mm negative preserved by The Library of Congress. There are a few, minor flaws, but they're barely noticeable. The Dolby Digital audio comes across very well, matching the quality of the picture. There are a couple of extras including an audio commentary track with author David Kalat and gallery containing images of promotional materials, deleted scenes, and some script excerpts.


By the way, it seems there are a few, different DVD releases of this floating about, but I can only speak towards the quality of the one released by Kino Video, which seemed the priciest of the bunch. As far as the others, well, buyer beware...
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VINE VOICEon April 28, 2006
"Scarlet Street" (1945) remains among the few Hollywood films in which director Fritz Lang had total creative control. The result is a cinematic masterpiece with a provocative twist on Jean Renoir's 1931 classic "La Chienne." Fresh from the success of "The Woman in the Window," Lang's inspired recasting of Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea surpasses his earlier achievement in this uncompromised film noir. The Kino DVD features a beautifully restored 35mm print that adds considerable luster to a landmark film in Lang's career.
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on September 11, 2014
Edward G was apparently able to play the sap, just as well as he could play the heavy, as this film illustrates. The film is an interesting study in how far any man might go in pursuit of the unattainable woman. We can sympathize, because we have all been there and been fools, either for love or money. In his case it all goes bad in the extreme. It is the stuff of nightmares, and so it is great classic film noir. Dan Duryea and Joan Bennett are also very good bad people.
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When Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson), a meek, middle-aged cashier, ran one rainy night to the aid of Kitty March (Joan Bennett) who was being beaten by her boy friend, Johnny Prince (Dan Duryea), he had no idea how his life would be changed. It's probably also fair to say that Robinson, Bennett, Duryea and director Fritz Lang had no idea at the time that they were making one of the great noirs, a movie so good, in fact, that in my view it transcends the noir genre.

Cross is married to a shrew. He does the dishes wearing a frilly apron. He's taken for granted by just about everyone he knows. After 25 years with the bank, he has just been given a gold watch. And he paints. He loves to paint; it's the only thing that gives him happiness. When he meets Kitty and walks her home, he sees a beautiful young woman who is friendly. He arranges to meet her again. One afternoon he tells her about his love of painting. "Nobody ever taught me how to draw," he says. "I just put a line around what I feel when I look at things. It's like falling in love, I guess." Kitty looks at him sympathetically. When he looks down at his plate, though, she can't keep a little twist of amusement from her lips. He doesn't know that in him she sees a middle-aged figure of pathetic fun. She and Johnny begin to take Chris for every penny he can make or steal. When Johnny sells his paintings and the paintings become famous, Kitty takes the credit and Johnny takes the money. Johnny may beat up Kitty but she loves him. Cross finally realizes not just how he has been used by the pair, but how Kitty has held him in contempt as a little man whose feelings are laughable. One night she screams at him, "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." The ending is violent. Kitty and Johnny both pay a price. And Chris...his ending is sad, poignant and will last as long as he lives.

Of all the movies Lang made in Hollywood, this is the one where, I think, all the components came together in a completely satisfying way. Partly, this is because of the story and the script. The tale isn't just about a meek man's descent, it also is about three individuals using each other in a strange mixture of love, contempt and amoral selfishness. It also often is wry and jaundiced. When Kitty uses Chris' words almost verbatim to describe to an art critic how she feels about painting, "like falling in love, I guess," we know she could not care less about art and is, in fact, amused by her own clever use of Chris' feelings. The effect is funny in a sick sort of way.

Most importantly, I think, is that Lang was blessed by having all first-class lead actors. Duryea made a career out of playing sleaze, but he was never better than here. Joan Bennett, in my view, is one of Hollywood's underrated actors, probably because she was so good-looking. Compare her performance here with her performance as Wendy Van Kettering, smart, lovely, sympathetic in Vogues of 1938 and with the warm, understanding mother of the bride, Ellie Banks, in Father of the Bride. Here, Bennett convinces us that Kitty is captured by Johnny and his rough love, that Kitty hasn't a moral bone in her body, that Kitty is happy to be a slob, shallow and sexy. Kitty says "Jeepers" when she wants to emphasize something. She eats grapes and spits the pits on the rug. She tosses a cigarette end onto the dirty dishes that fill the sink. She has great legs and a lazy drawl. As for Edward G. Robinson, he is the heart of the movie. His meekness draws our sympathy as well our impatience. When he finally becomes violent it is startling and satisfying. The end of the movie may be sad, but it also is ironic and strong. Chris loved Kitty, and he'll be forever hearing in his mind, "Jeepers, I love you, Johnny."
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on February 5, 2014
I really enjoyed this sad, dark, and tragic little noir. Eddie G. plays sad sap Chris Cross who gets more than he bargains for when he helps the no-good babe Kitty on the street one night. It isn't long until Kitty's slimy boyfriend pimps her out to Chris so they can run a long-con on the poor guy. Everything of course goes down-hill from there.

Chris is one of the sadder film noir protagonists because he's just an aging nobody that wants to feel the love of a young girl again. The scene where Kitty basically makes him her chump by forcing him to paint her toenails is just painful to watch. This has everything that noir should be about.
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