Scarlet Street (1945)

You’re a fairly nondescript middle-aged man who’s racked up 25 years as a bank cashier, with a ghastly wife who keeps comparing you unfavourably to her late first husband. All you’ve got in life to save you is your painting… and that not unattractive brunette you met in the street one night after her boyfriend (pimp?) attacked her. This could be a comedy (of slightly sour flavour, perhaps), but it’s not, and so the situation isn’t going to end well once you realise just how badly you’ve been had and by the end of the film you will have none of the above. Allmovie’s characterisation of the film as “bleak” kind of says it all; Scarlet Street remarkably low on redeeming social value and sympathetic characters. Robinson’s cashier isn’t the warmest of personalities, Dan Duryea’s boyfriend is a suitably vile bit of work and Bennett’s girlfriend, while not the prime mover, is happy enough to benefit from the actions of both. It’s the final act, though, where the film goes somewhere interesting, in that a killer literally gets away with murder and the wrong man is executed for the crime he didn’t commit. Wonder how the Hays office people coped with that notion. Shame the film takes quite so long to reach its fascinatingly hopeless conclusion, though.

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