1945, Movies

Scarlet Street (1945, Fritz Lang)

This is a fascinating film noir with an unconventional plot involving art.


As with so many film noirs, the hero is hapless. But maybe not quite as hapless as he seems. (Though he’s pretty damn hapless.)

It’s funny how it unfolds, with the first misunderstanding about the quality of his work and then the discovery. It’s been a long time since I watched a film noir but I feel like this is a fairly fresh spin on convention, with the original scam being completely worthless and dumb and then luck is what makes the scam work. Then Cross goes along with it, which is even more luck. I like how luck is such an important part of the plot as I think that’s far closer to reality than most crime films. As an aside, the art critic claiming he can tell the gender of the painter by looking at the painting is something.

Generally everyone is pretty decent for the ’40s but I find Dyrea to be overdoing it. He’s so slimey from the get-go it’s hard to believe anyone would trust him with anything. I get that, back then, most people thought villains had to be fairly transparent in their villainy but it hasn’t dated super well. It’s hard to understand why so many people like him.

There are a couple pretty cool shots though it’s hardly the most inventive movie Lang ever made. It does have that classic noir look, though it is bright than many. (Much of the action takes place in normal locations during the day.)

The one other thing that hasn’t dated very well is the manifestation of him being haunted by the deaths. I don’t really find that effective and it goes on way too long.


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