Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Scarlet Street (1945)

I was going through some of the old posts I've never finished and found this one that I had apparently started on 6/23/2009. It only needed a little updating to get it to this point:

Director Fritz Lang re-teams with his WOMAN IN THE WINDOW stars Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett for a very similar story. Robinson is a successful, if lowly, bank clerk. He has settled for a rich woman that he doesn't love who keeps him under her thumb. He gets away from it all by painting in the bathroom, the only room his wife will allow it, until he "rescues" Kitty (Bennett), who winds up believing that he is a famous and rich painter. She leads him along, hoping to get a little money from him, but she really loves her sleazy boyfriend, Johnny (Dan Duryea). It's when Johnny gets involved in the plotting that things really go off the rails. Soon Robinson is embezzling from his job to support Kitty, who only wants more, at Johnny's insistence.

Once again Edgar G. Robinson is lead down the path to criminality by the lovely young Bennett. And with Lang at the helm, it is a very long and twisted path. The film is shot fairly straight until the last 20 minutes, when things really get dark, narratively and stylistically, but Lang is excellent at exploring the slow decay of morality in the service of self, and showing that Robinson is a willing participant.

Forgotten are the choices that Robinson has made in the past. He has stagnated in his job through lack of ambition. And he has settled into a loveless marriage to a woman who has money, because marriage is what's expected of him, and he need not be attentive to a woman who can take care of her own needs. These decisions were made to keep him comfortable through his life, but none of them make him happy. And if these non-decisions had not been made, or made differently, the difference between his reality and the new possibilities may not have been as tempting.

This is one of the noirs that takes a man through his entire journey across the landscape between darkness and light, that shows how the choices he makes undo him, that shows the fate of a man tempted into, and acts through, the darkness.

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