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Scarlet Street

USA 1945
produced by
Fritz Lang, Walter Wanger (executive) for Diana Production Company/Universal
directed by Fritz Lang
starring Edward G.Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea, Margaret Lindsay, Jess Barker, Rosalind Ivan, Arthur Loft, Charles Kemper, Russell Hicks, Samuel S.Hinds, Anita Sharp-Bolster, Vladimir Sokoloff, Cy Kendall, Tom Dillon
based on the novel and play La Chienne by Georges de La Fouchardière, André Mouézy-Éon, music by Hans J. Salter, make-up by Jack Pierce

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Chris (Edward G.Robinson) is an unhappy but essentially well-meaning small-time bank cashier who is struck with financial problems, a hysteric, malevolent wife Adele (Rosalind Ivan), & the unfulfilled dreams to become a great painter. So it's little wonder that, when he one night saves Kitty (Joan Bennett), a girl young enough to be his daughter, from receiving a beating, he immediately falls in love with her, promises her heaven & tells her he's a famous painter.

What Chis doesn't know though is that the man who has beaten up Kitty was Johnny (Dan Duryea), her lover & a small time crook, & he soon persuades Kitty to date Chris & squeeze his money out of him.

Hearing her heart-ripping stories, Chris of course promises to help Kitty paying for her own appartment & helping her with her acting career - & because he doesn't have the money, he hjas to steal it, first from the insurance money his wife got for the death of her first husband, then from the bank - & his only condition is that he can use Kitty's appartment as his painter's studio.

Everything goes well for a while, but then johnny has the idea of selling some of Chris's paintings (as he still believes Chris is a famous painter), & has to realize Chris is just the nobody he seems to be. But by coincidence art critic Janeway (Jess Barker) & gallerist Dellarowe (Arthur Loft) stumble over the paintings & are highly impressed - & because the paintings are not signed, Johnny claims they are all made by Kitty, who soon becomes a minor sensation in the arts world (despite not knowing the first thing about painting).

It is inevitable that Chris finds that out though, but he is far from angry, as finally he gets the recognition that he has always wanted, & does not mind if it is under her name since she is the woman he loves (htat she actually despises him he doesn't know) & would want to marry, wouldn't he already be married ... & that's when fate intervenes, in the form of Adele's first husband (Charles Kemper), who has turned from cop to common crook after he faked his own death, & now he wants to blackmail Chris to stay dead & not ruin Chris' marriage - not knowing that this is the break Chris has always hoped for, & he makes arrangements for Adele to meet her former husband so he can get out of wedlock easily & legally ...

But when he, now a free man, comes to Kitty's appartment, he finds her with Johnny. In anger, he leaves & gets drunk, but when he later comes to reconcile, she - having finally grown tired of him - mocks him ... & he stabs her with an icepick.

All evidence though leads to Johnny, who is consequently convicted & sent to the chair, & Chris gets off scot-free. & even when his thieving from the bank is found out, his boss J.J. (Russell Hicks) lets him off easily as he has sympathy for older men having affairs with younger women (as he himself has one), & Chris is only fired (of course) but escapes punisment again ... but does he, as for the rest of his life, he is haunted by his conscience in the form of the voices of Kitty & Johnny, whom he killed, & who now never let him go ...

His paintings meanwhile, all signed by Kitty, sell for thousands of Dollars.

 

Excellent noir crime-melodrama that concentrates on the little crimes of little people (Robinson is a simple bank cashier, Bennett a rather common seductress, & even Duryeas gangsterism is strictly small-fry) that only eventually culminate into something as grave as murder. & in an ironic twist, the most honest, most well-meaning character of the film, Robinson, turns out to be the biggest criminal of them all, & what's more, he gets away with it too (at least in a legal sense).

Robinson, Bennett & Duryea all played in Lang's Woman in the Window from the previous year.

The novel La Chienne was previously filmed by Jean Renoir in 1931under that title, with more emphasis on the ironic, even comedic elements. In 1954, Fritz Lang would remake another Jean Renoir film, La Bête Humaine (1938) as Human Desire.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD