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)

6 thoughts on “Scarlet Street (1946): Unrelenting Noir”

  1. Scarlet Street is one very overrated film. Watching a man (Robinson) play the role of a complete fool & idiot for 2 hours is too much. After seeing what a chump and sucker he is, I had no compassion for him whatsoever. Robinson & Bennett were in a far better movie when they performed in “Woman In The Window”. The film had a dumb ending, but the character that Robinson played was that of a self respecting, calm, distinguished man, and not the submissive, foot kissing boob that he portrayed in “Scarlet Street”. Robinson’s healthy relationship with Bennett and the clever plot make “Woman In The Window” a far better film.

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  2. You all hating on my absolute favorite film noir makes me ask myself, Why do I love this movie so much? Well to start, the trio of actors of course: Joan Bennett is the harlot that makes you cringe, and yet I find the dame a treat. DD is an actor I never tire of watching in everything he does, and he’s a master of slipping in some sly humor too. And of course the great Eddy G. is always brilliant, riveting, and in this case, utterly heart-breaking. I find him not so much a fool as a hopeless romantic, caught in the throes of a first love that he’s never known before, and a doomed passion that is all he wants from life. It’s not his fault that he doesn’t look the part of the romantic lover; but his heart beats true for his elusive lady love… even after he kills her. What’s not to love?

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