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Release Date(s)1945 (February 28, 2012)
Studio(s)Universal (Kino Lorber)
In the late years of World War II while working in Hollywood, the famed German director Fritz Lang produced a couple of similarly-contrived films noir starring Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett entitled The Woman in the Window and Scarlet Street. Scarlet Street is the better of the two, with Robinson really shining against type as a meek man whose life experience in the film is well removed from the mean streets of the gangster Robinson so often inhabited.
He plays mild-mannered book-keeper Chris who, impressed that his boss seems to have a mistress, senses a similar opportunity for himself when he chances upon a young woman Kitty (Bennett) who is being mistreated by her boyfriend Johnny (Dan Duryea). Chris is too naïve to realize the real streetwalker/pimp situation that he's run into. The couple takes advantage of Chris, specifically, his painting efforts on the side, and the result is a shocking crime of passion that delivers a fascinating denouement for the film that makes for one of the most surprising classic films of the era. Fritz Lang at times claimed Scarlet Street to be his favourite film and it's easy to see why. It's certainly a high-watermark for film noir in areas of plot complexity, noirish fatality, and look. The script is by Dudley Nichols, based on the French novel "La Chienne" ("The Bitch") previously filmed by Jean Renoir in 1931. Scarlet Street is now available on a 1.37:1 Blu-ray from Kino Lorber under its Kino Classics line. It was mastered in HD from a 35mm negative preserved by the Library of Congress. From what appears to be a pretty good source product, the results highlight a very nicely-detailed grayscale that show off some very deep blacks too. The image sharpness is leagues above any of the numerous old standard DVDs out there. Facial features and clothing and set textures all fare well. A few speckles and minor scratches intrude, but they are never an issue. The disc offers an LPCM lossless mono mix that delivers all dialogue clearly. I did note one or two minor examples of hiss, but it was never an issue either. There is no subtitling offered. The release provides a superior audio commentary by film historian David Kalat and a publicity gallery. Recommended.