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Scarlet Street: Kino Classics Edition [Blu-ray]
Kino Classics Edition
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SYNOPSIS: A box-office hit in its day (despite being banned in three states), Scarlet Street is perhaps legendary director Fritz Lang's (Metropolis) finest American film. Kino's immaculate 1080P 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. Robinson breathes subtle, fragile humanity into Chris Cross while film noir super-heavy Dan Duryea, as Kitty's pimp boyfriend Johnny, skillfully molds ''a 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 ''bristling 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.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary from David Kalat, author of ''The Strange Case of Dr. Mabuse'', Photo Gallery.
Top customer reviews
Its director was Fritz Lang, and it is a kind of film version of Dreiser's naturalistic novel "An American Tragedy" - except that Edward G. Robinson plays a character who - instead of being an attractive young leading man, is instead a hapless middle-aged married schnook at the end of his career as a lowly clerk - and who -through no fault of his own but his Walter Mitty fantasy life and his naivete - is stepped on like a bug by Fate.
There's humor in this film, but it is black humor. Robinson did not like doing this film and did not like the character he played; of course, Edward G. Robinson made his name by playing tough, smart, aggressive, capable males. In this film, he's totally clueless - a foolish man full of wish-fulfilling illusions as to his talent as a painter who's duped by a prostitute brilliantly played by Joan Bennett in an era when no prominent actress like Ms Bennett would ever risk their career by playing a woman who "made her living on her back." But the career of Joan Bennett spans the history of Hollywood from the silent era to the '50's - so veteran, totally professional actress that she was, she was not daunted by the role she played. Dan Duryea almost walks away with the film playing the Bennett character's pimp - an ill fated character, as is often the case in films of the 40's that this handsome, smart actor was cast in.
It is only hinted in this movie that the Bennett character is a prostitute. We first meet her as she's arguing with her pimp under a streetlamp - a visual convention from paintings, illustrations and films; prostitutes were often shown posed under streetlamps. Also, her pimp calls her "lazy legs" - suggesting the part of her attractive body she makes her living with - the selfsame body (and face) with which the Caspar Milquetoast character played by Robinson is smitten.
By today's standards, this film is slow to get going, but then the cleverly plotted, sordid storyline kicks in and carries the picture. The ending is of a downbeat variety - possibly one of the most pessimistic of any famous film of the 40's.
My only problem with this Amazon offering is the dismal quality of the print Amazon uses. There's a very watchable remastered version of this classic, deeply troubliing film that was issued by Kino Video in 2005 and which is available on Amazon.com "Movies and TV." as a DVD. Amazon owes it to its Amazon Prime customers - and to the very inventive makers of this historically important film - to use a better quality print of it, perhaps the Kino remastered one.
Bennett and Robinson do workman-like, albeit uninspiring work; Dan Duryea makes "a vicious and serpentine creature out of a cheap, chiseling tinhorn off the streets"
Bennett sums up Robinson perfectly: “How can a man be so dumb?”
Robert C. Ross
Fritz Lang made the Woman in the Window a year earlier with the same three leading role actors and lightened up on the resolution; and everything seems to play a little better in that film. Nonetheless, Scarlet Street despite lacking the polish of some of the film noir classics that were being made about the same time, eg Double Indemnity, is worth a watch.
The film quality was fair at best. I am a little surprised that this is the best transfer they could come up with.