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Scarlet Street (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 11, 2012 by  



Fritz Lang’s “Scarlet Street” was one of the earlier films that helped kick off the film noir genre and also was banned in three cities because of its surprising, bleak ending.  As for film noir fans, “Scarlet Street” is an awesome film for Kino Lorber to bring out in HD and one can only hope that more Fritz Lang noir films will also receive the Blu-ray treatment in the near future!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Kino Lorber Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Scarlet Street

FILM RELEASE: 1945

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1, B&W

COMPANY: Kino Lorber Incorporated/Kino Classics

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: February 28, 2012

Directed by Fritz Lang

Based on the novel and play “La Chienne” by Georges de La Fouchardiere and Andre Mouezy-Eon

Screenplay by Dudley Nicholas

Produced by Fritz Lang

Music by Hans J. Salter

Cinematography by Milton R. Krasner

Edited by Arthur Hilton

Art Direction by Alexander Golitzen

Set Decoration by Russell A. Gausman, Carl J. Lawrence

Starring:

Edward G. Robinson as Christopher Cross

Joan Bennett as Katharine “Kitty” March

Dan Duryea as Johnny Prince

Margaret Lindsay as Millie Ray

Rosalind Ivan as Adele Cross

Jess Barker as David Janeway

Charles Kemper as Patch-eye Higgins

Anita Sharp-Bolster as Mrs. Michales

Samuel S. Hinds as Charles Pringle

Vladimir Sokolff as Pop LeJon

Arthur Loft as Dellarowe

Russell Hicks as J. J. Hogarth

A box-office hit (despite being banned in three states), SCARLET STREET is one of legendary director Fritz Lang’s (M, Metropolis) finest American films.

When middle-aged milquetoast Chris Cross (Edward G. Robinson, Double Indemnity) rescues street-walking bad girl Kitty (Joan Bennett) from the rain-slicked gutters of an eerily artificial back-lot Greenwich Village, he plunges 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. Dan Duryea, as Kitty’s pimp boyfriend, skillfully molds “a vicious and serpentine creature out of a cheap, chiseling tin horn.” (The New York Times). Packed with hairpin plot twists and “bristling with fine directorial touches and expert acting” (Time), SCARLET STREET is a dark gem of film noir.

Fritz Lang’s 1945 film noir classic “Scarlet Street” may be banal with its golddigger storyline but once the grisly twist hits the viewer, you have no doubt that Lang (known for classics such as “M”, “Metropolis”, “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse”) has successfully drawn the viewer in for something unpredictable and shocking.

It’s no surprise that “Scarlet Street” was considered a bleak film noir that was banned in three cities, but nearly 70-years-later, one can marvel and perhaps be amused by how well-crafted this film was for its time.

“Scarlet Street” is a film adaptation by Dudley Nichols (“Stagecoach”, “Bringing Up Baby”, “The Bells of St. Mary’s”) of the French novel and play “La Chienne” by Georges de La Fouchardiere and Andre Mouezy-Eon.

Lang would also take his three stars from the 1944 film “The Woman in the Window”, Edward G. Robinson (“Double Indemity”, “Key Largo”, “The Ten Commandments”), Joan Bennett (“Dark Shadows”, “Father’s Little Dividend”, “Father of the Bride”) and Dan Duryea (“The Pride of the Yankees”, “Peyton Place”), and cast them in “Scarlet Street”.

While Fritz Lang was well-known for his films in Germany, it wasn’t until decades later that many film historians and critics learned how much of an impact Lang would have in the emergence and the evolution of the film genre, film noir.

“Scarlet Street” is a film that begins with the celebration for cashier Christopher Cross (played by Edward G. Robinson).  Having worked as a cashier for clothing retailer J.J. Hogarth & Company for 25 years, Hogarth honors Cross for his service.

As Hogarth gives Cross an expensive watch as a gift, when he departs, everyone at the party watches the married J.J. Hogarth getting into the car with a beautiful blonde (who is not his wife).  As Cross goes home, he thinks about how nice it would be to be married to a young woman that loves him.   Unfortunately for Cross, he is in a marriage where his wife Adele (played by Rosalind Ivan) doesn’t respect him (all she does is criticize him), as she is still respectful to her late husband.

So, while going home, he sees a woman, a prostitute named Kitty (played by Joan Bennett), being attacked by a man, who is actually Kitty’s boyfriend Johnny (played by Dan Duryea).  Cross comes to her rescue and attacks him with his umbrella.

Grateful for a man coming to her defense, she takes Christopher Cross out for a cup of coffee and when the two start talking about life and art (as Cross is an amateur painter), she begins to think that he is a wealthy artist, while Cross never tells her the truth that he is a cashier.

And Christopher Cross has fallen head over heels for Kitty.

Kitty ends up telling Johnny about Christopher and both come up with a scheme to take money from him.  As Kitty uses her charm to lure Christopher and tells him that she is desperate for money, Christopher starts to consider taking out a loan from the store he works at or stealing it.

And as Kitty starts to beg more money from him and Christopher’s infatuation with Kitty starts to grow, it will send him spiraling downward even more.

VIDEO:

“Scarlet Street” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio).  Because Kino Lorber were able to obtain the video from the archives of the Library of Congress, what we have here is the best print available.  And naturally, with it being in HD, this is simply the definitive version of the film to own.

With that being said, it’s important for those new to Kino Lorber to know that the company takes a hands free approach.  As restoration is quite laborious and very expensive, they present the film from the original master in HD.  So, what we have here is a film that does have its fair share of white specks (not too much that it would ruin your viewing pleasure) but in terms of picture quality, clarity is the keyword when watching this film on Blu-ray.

Black levels are deep, contrast in white and gray levels are great and compared to previous version of the film, there is no blurring effect nor the interlacing.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Scarlet Street” is presented in uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0 monaural.  As mentioned with video, Kino Lorber takes a hands free approach when it comes to Blu-ray releases.  So, “Scarlet Street” does have its share of a few clicks and even some mild hissing.  But dialogue is clear and understandable.

There are no subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Scarlet Street” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio commentary – Featuring a audio commentary by David Kalat (author of The Strange Case of Dr. Mabuse)
  • Photo Gallery – Featuring images of deleted scenes and artwork for the film.
  • Kino Classics Trailers

“Scarlet Street” is a 1945 film which may have seem twisted, dark or grisly to movie fans during that time.

But it was also the beginning of a genre in cinema known as “film noir” that would later become appreciated by cinema fans.

What I enjoyed about this film is that at first glance, it seemed as if it was too banal.  A story about an old man named Christopher Cross who doesn’t get the love and appreciation from his wife and wonders if men flock to younger women for fun and a exciting life.  Maybe it’s what he needs because his life is absolutely dull.

And then you have the banal gold digger Kitty who is directed by her boyfriend Johnny to bilk as much money she can from him.

But of course, Fritz Lang is not your traditional Hollywood filmmaker.  Even when I first watched this film and even today, I still had this grin of awe of the clever writing he was able to pull off and literally pull the seat under movie watchers because it was nontraditional movie making.

But “Scarlet Street” was a fantastic film that I absolutely enjoyed!  But for those who are not erudites to Lang’s work in Hollywood, let’s just say that “Scarlet Street” is just the beginning to Lang’s darker films.

During that era in time, Fritz Lang was well-known for his German films and in Hollywood, suffice to say, many film critics wondered why his films from the ’40s to the ’50s became darker and darker.  In fact, things would get even darker in the ’50s with films such as “The Big Heat” and it correlated with Lang’s pessimistic view towards the world and seeing how things worked in the move industry.

For Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett, the films they made with Fritz Lang would be in their peak as Robinson’s career would be called into scrutiny a few years later as he was threatened with black listening as the government (via the House Un-American Activities Committee) was cracking down on communist sympathizers in Hollywood.

This would lead for nearly a decade of B-movie films for Robinson until Cecil B. DeMille would later cast him in the epic “The Ten Commandments” in 1956.

As for Joan Bennett, she has had a long career since the silent era but a few years after “Scarlet Street”, her career would be slightly damaged when her husband Walter Wanger tried to kill her agent Jennings Lang, when Wanger suspected the two having an affair.

And as the careers of these three individuals would change after “Scarlet Street”, the film still resonates strongly among fans of Fritz Lang.  And it is a wonderful choice for Kino Lorber to release on Blu-ray and one can hope that more of Lang’s noir films will receive the HD treatment in the near future.

As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned earlier, this is the definitive version to own of the film at this time.  Watching it on Blu-ray has more clarity and no more interlacing or blurring issues.  The film looks good, granted it could look better with restoration.  The audio commentary by David Kalat is very good and includes a lot of in-depth information that cineaste will enjoy listening to.

Overall, “Scarlet Street” is an enjoyable, darker noir film from Fritz Lang and one of the earlier films to help kick off the film noir genre.  Definitely recommended!






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