Thursday, February 3, 2011

Scarlet Street

This week I review an old noir called Scarlet Street, because you know nothing interesting came out last week. And here's a sketch of two of the main actors, Edward G. Robinson and Dan Duryea. I went a little more cartoony this time.

This is a movie starring Edward G. Robinson and directed by Fritz Lang. Hold on a second while I have a noir geek out moment.


For those of you who don't understand why I'm freaking out about this, Edward G. Robinson (who was also in The Stranger) is a great character actor. I've seen him in a couple of noirs and one radio show(SUSPENSE!) and I think he's a fantastic actor. And then there's Fritz Lang. Sci-Fi buffs should know him from his silent masterpiece Metropolis, but noir buffs should know him from M: one of the greatest noir films made and viewed as the first real noir before noir was noir(It's a german film from the 1930's about the criminal organization trying to find a child murder and stars peter lorre. If you're into Noir, you should check it out).

The story involves a meager cashier named Chris Cross(Edward G Robinson), who happens to paint in his free time, and falls for a lay-about girl named Kitty(Joan Bennett), who herself is in love with no-good talkative thug Johnny(Dan Duryea). Things start to heat up when Chris spends more and more time with Kitty and Johnny tries to get Kitty to take poor meager Chris for all he's worth.

I have a real love hate relationship with this movie. I love the dialogue but I hate the pacing. I love the characters but I hate their personalities. I love the story but I hate how it unfolds.

The biggest problem I have with the story is that it involves painting and artists and as an artist it struk a real chorde. I suppose this should make it a good movie, but I just can't see any artist doing the things Chris does.

See Chris is actually a great painter, but Kitty wants to get money for Johnny, so he sells the paintings and tells an art critic SHE'S the artist, so she just goes along with it and steal's Chris's hard work. Then Chris finds out and beats the unholy crap out of her and...oh no wait he's completely ok with it and lets her sign her name.


WHAT?! Who would do that?! I just...I don't even...ugh. I was really hoping this would cause a change in him from meager Chris to badass gangster Edward G. Robinson, but no, not really.

Robinson does a great job with his part. You can really feel how small and meager and subordinate he is. Most movies have a character like this so they can have a dramatic change throughout the movie and really overcome their shortcomings, but in this case Chris is a pretty static character. Even when things get REALLY rough, he's still that meager bank clerk. I suppose this is the meaning of the story, that people can't really change who they are.

The rest of the cast members do a stand up job with their respective roles with Dan Duryea standing out. You really do hate the guy. The problem I see is that they add too many characters to the story and it just clutters it up and slows it down.

The cinematography and writing really shine through. The copy I had was pretty damn grainy, which actually helped make the shadows all the more menacing. The dialogue is top notch and pure noir wisecracking. "What's going on, Lazy Legs?" What I couldn't stand was the pacing, everything just dragged on forever. I found myself being entertained by the characters talking while simultaneously wondering when the scene was going to end.

The ending was not what I was expecting, which is both good and bad. Characters got their comeuppance and it actually makes sense for the characters and the world they inhabit, and even had a nice little ironic twist. The problem was that it dragged on too long. The movie had about 6 endings.

Overall I enjoyed Scarlet Street, it had great acting, sharp dialogue, an interesting story and masterful cinematography, it just dragged on for far too long. I'd give it a nice 34 out of 48. Recommended for the noir buffs out there but I don't know if I'd watch it again.

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