Aside from the direction by Fritz Lang, I didn’t have much initial interest in watching this film. Edward G. Robinson isn’t really a draw for me, and I didn’t recall any previous encounters with co-stars Joan Bennett (Suspiria) or Dan Duryea. Imagine my surprise to discover that this twisty tale of love and deception is one of the most consistently enjoyable classic films I’ve ever seen.Buy Scarlet Street (Special Edition) Blu-ray
Robinson plays Christopher Cross, a meek cashier nearing the end of his humble career, saddled with an old battle-axe wife at home, and a laughingstock to the younger employees at his company. His only source of joy is his painting hobby, until he comes to the aid of a young damsel-in-distress during a street altercation and falls under her spell. Bennett’s damsel, Kitty, is actually a conniving social climber, willingly stuck in an abusive relationship with Duryea’s hustler character, Johnny, while they try to figure out any path to riches.
The setup is obvious, but the way it plays out is entirely fascinating. Christopher loves Kitty, Kitty loves Johnny, and Johnny loves money. When Christopher rents an apartment for the seemingly destitute Kitty, while also using it as a painting studio and a way to stay in her orbit, Johnny decides to try to get a few bucks for some of Christopher’s unique and seemingly worthless paintings. When those paintings generate sizzling critical reception, the dastardly duo decide to present Kitty as the painter, initiating a profitable scam on the art cognoscenti for a debut gallery show and massive sales. Christopher eventually discovers the con, catapulting the story to an astounding finale that has to be seen to be believed.
Robinson is great as the downtrodden schlub who may have some hidden backbone. Bennett is an impressive femme fatale, except that she looks so strikingly similar to modern actress Debra Messing that I kept doing double takes all through the film. Duryea is suitably slimy, with his Johnny a smooth-talking dandy on a collision course with comeuppance. Anchoring it all is Lang’s masterful direction, laser-focused on the superb plot by Dudley Nichols.
The Blu-ray features a brand new HDR/Dolby Vision master from a 16-bit 4K scan of the 35mm nitrate composite fine grain, fully enhancing the stunning interplay of deep blacks and brilliant whites in Milton Krasner’s impeccable cinematography. Two different audio commentary tracks are supplied by film historians, and a photo gallery rounds out the disc, including images of deleted scenes. While the film is in the public domain and widely available on various streaming platforms in lesser quality, including the *shudder* colorized version currently on Prime, this fantastic film is fully worth picking up the new and exclusive remaster on either 4K/Blu-ray combo pack or standalone Blu-ray.