Scarlet Street (1946): Unrelenting Noir

Scarlet Street (1946)

The banal and squalid machinations of a floozey and her pimp, and a lonely older man’s infatuation lead to inevitable destruction

Scarlet Street, a classic film noir from Fritz Lang, shattered the closed romantic realism of Hollywood. It is unremitting in its pessimism. A dark mood and pervading doom are devastating in their intensity.

On the surface the streetwalker Kitty (Joan Benett) is the femme-fatale to Edward G. Robinson’s chump, Chris, with her manipulative and abusive no-good boyfriend as her ally. But Kitty is not an active protagonist. She is an empty-headed girl who thinks she is in love with her pimp, Johnny (Dan Duryea), and who is pushed all the way by his cheap stratagems to milk Chris for money.

Like the Swede in Criss Cross, Chris is not so much dealt a raw deal by fate but by his own naivety and irrational need to believe that Kitty loves him.

Scarlet Street (1946)

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