Kitty (Joan Bennett) and her dodgy boyfriend (Dan Duryea) see an opportunity to cash in when cashier Chris Cross (Edward G. Robinson) takes a fancy to her. A frustrated artist, the pair end up selling Chris’s paintings in Kitty’s name.
In Fritz Lang’s second foray into the noir genre (before it really existed), he seems in a hurry to replicate the success of the previous year’s The Woman in the Window, reassembling the core cast. Robinson again plays a hapless middle aged man who’s easily seduced by the attractive young Bennet, who gets him in a world of trouble.
It effectively builds sympathy for Cross in his uninspiring life as a bank teller. Living with his horrible wife (Margaret Lindsay) beneath the shadow of an imposing painting of her adored dead husband there’s something of the Second Mrs De Winter about him.
But while The Woman in the Window offered double glazings of Langian atmosphere, Scarlet Street never quite matches up. One of Lang’s great strengths is creating a sense of guilt and suspicion for the perpetrator of a crime as the net gradually closes in, but this is never really captured in a story which prefers tragedy to suspense. It’s also back heavy, spending longer on the set up than the pay-off.
Fittingly we reviewed The Woman in the Window as part of our Quiz Call answers series. We heard about this film on University Challenge – but the quality of the films do not reflect the quality of the quiz shows on which they appeared, and while The Woman in the Window exceeds its value as an obscure quiz answer, Scarlet Street, unfortunately, does not.