Monday, February 25, 2013

Two Fritz Lang Film Noirs

1944's The Woman in the Window and the following year's Scarlet Street, are two of Fritz Lang's early film noirs, both very dark tales of passion and murder, and both featuring the same main cast.

The Woman In The Window

The first, The Woman in the Window stars Edward G. Robinson as Richard Wanley a timid, middle-aged psychology professor who yearns for the adventurousness of youth. After his wife and children leave for a vacation, Wanley spends a quiet night of drinking at a social club with friends, which happen to be the district attorney and a doctor. Before entering the club with his friends, he finds himself admiring a painting of a beautiful woman in a storefront window. He and his friends talk about the beautiful woman in the painting and joke about being old and stodgy.

The Woman In The Window

Later, while leaving the club, he once again stops to admire the painting when he is then surprised to meet the subject of the painting herself, Alice Reed, played by Joan Bennett. Wanley agrees to get a drink with Alice, thinking that he will have something fun to share with his friends the next evening but he soon finds himself at her home. Not long after that, her lover comes in, furious and violent. Wanley ends up killing him, and he and Alice work out a plan to cover up the murder.


The Woman In The Window

A lot of the movie shows Wanley trying to live with his guilt and trying to cover his tracks, as his own friends, the District Attorney, and the doctor, investigate the case and come ever closer to finding the culprit. At the same time, a blackmailer, played by Dan Duryea, is tormenting Alice with his knowledge of what really went down.


The Woman In The Window

Their efforts to cover up the murder, twists and turns and the whole thing builds toward a beautifully dark, ironic conclusion. Or at least it would have, had the strict guidelines of the Hayes Code accepted the original ending, which they did not, so Lang tacked on a crappy little scene, in my opinion, that negates pretty much everything that went on before. I thought the ending was very disappointing, but if you just turn off the movie a little bit early, you'll get a story that feels true.




Scarlet Street


Fritz Lang's very next film, Scarlet Street, explores some of the same themes of midlife restlessness, and of the nature of guilt. It essentially has the same cast as the previous movie and this time around, Robinson plays Christopher Cross, a timid, middle aged bank cashier in a loveless marriage whose true passion is painting. At a celebration honoring his long years with the bank, he jealously watches his boss leave the party with a young mistress. Walking home that night, he witnesses what he believes to be a mugging. Running off the mugger, he takes the victim, Kitty, played by Bennett, for a drink. Smitten with her, he tells her about his aspirations as a painter.

Scarlet Street

Kitty, in actuality, is the girlfriend of the mugger, Johnny, played by Duryea. Knowing little about the arts, Kitty believes Cross is actually a successful, but modest painter, not just a hobbyist. Together, Kitty and Johnny work up a scheme to bleed Christopher dry, with Kitty acting as a muse for his paintings and Johnny selling them. It all leads to, you guessed it, a murder, and then guilt. I won't spoil the outcome, though.


Scarlet Street

Of the two, I liked the second film better. The Woman in the Window almost felt like a trial run for what ultimately became Scarlet Street. The Scarlet Street characters were more three dimensional, the plot more fully formed, and the sad ending was not compromised. And, even though no blood is shown, the murder scene in Scarlet Street is still really brutal and effective. I was glad to see Lang sneak this one past the Hayes Code.

If you're in the mood for a good Film Noir double feature, you could do worse than these two movies. They play great as companion pieces to each other, and seeing Edward G. Robinson playing against the type he's come to be synonymous with is really fun. And Joan Bennett never disappoints, in my opinion.


The End






16 comments:

  1. Joan Bennett never disappoints, I completely agree. I don't believe I've seen either of these films, but would happily watch either one anytime (I'm a big film noir fan). Thanks for the great review, dear lady.

    Have a beautiful Monday,
    ♥ Jessica

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    1. You should give them a try. My husband preferred the first one over the second and in a lot of ways, so did I. Normally I prefer to have a happy feel good ending, but in this case to me, it just didnt feel right. It was still a great movie, though.

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  2. I think Dan Duryea was a great actor that hasn't gotten the recognition he deserves. It's sad that because of his slight frame, he typically played sleazeballs. Though he played them quite well. :D

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    1. I agree, he did a terrific job in both of these films.

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  3. They have Scarlet Street on YouTube. I'm going to tune in. Looks like a great movie to see. Thanks for letting me know. I love checking out the details and fashion in these old flicks. I know sometimes the story lines aren't the best but the other elements make them worth watching.

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    1. Sometimes I will just sit and watch an entire movie with the sound turned off just to see the hair and wardrobe without distractions. lol.

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  4. I hate films/shows that are anti-climatic. I don't know if you have watched America Horror Story:Asylum but that was the case. It left the hubby and I feeling dissatisfied. I still like the show but feel like the writers didn't know how to end it well.

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    1. We watched it the first season hoping it would be worth watching, but just never really got into it. My daughter in law has watched both seasons tho and really liked it.

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    2. My husband was completely confused on the first season and couldn't catch up or keep up with what was happening. Of course, it doesn't help that he was watching YouTube videos.

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    3. It was pretty hard to follow what was going on, and then its a totally different story the second season. Im too old for that, my brain cant keep up. HA!

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  5. Ohhhhhh never saw these and now I have to! How intriguing!! Thank you for this post mama! xox

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    1. They're both on netflix. If you get a chance to watch them, let me know what you think.

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  6. Oh I love old movies!Would u like to follow each other on gfc and fb? Kisses from Norway!

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  7. Thanks for these movie reviews. I bet the costumes are fabulous as well! I watch TCM on the treadmill in the morning and have got some great hat fashion tips from classic movies.

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