If you are in the first year or two of a relationship, there are a few important questions you should be asking yourself:
“Is she really into me?” or “If he’s not into me, what is motivating him to stick around?”
There are plenty of less-than-equal relationships out there. It becomes a real problem, however, when you are in one and you’re the last to know.
Fritz Lang’s “Scarlet Street” is a forgotten classic. It is an extremely entertaining film noir. And it teaches a brutal lesson about exploitative relationships. Namely, it is partially your fault if you are in one. And there could be serious consequences for your bad decisions.
Edward G. Robinson is brilliant as Christopher Cross, a milquetoast bank clerk who is celebrating 25 years with the company. His rich boss leaves the anniversary party early to slip away with his young mistress. Chris is jealous.
On the drunken walk home, Chris makes his dreams come true. He saves a beautiful woman named Kitty from a street thug. And he falls in love on the spot.
Kitty is indifferent to Chris’s love letters. But her slimy pimp boyfriend Johnny sees an opportunity. Johnny pressures Kitty to start dating Chris, and squeeze as much money out of him as she can.
As the plot develops, the lies get bigger. Chris starts stealing money and prepares to leave his wife.
Director Fritz Lang makes it clear that this is going to end poorly. But the actual conclusion is much more horrible than you’re expecting. “Scarlet Street” was banned in Milwaukee, Atlanta, and New York.
If you ask Chris Cross, he’s the victim in this story. But from a certain perspective, he’s the ultimate villain.
It isn’t just the thievery and adultery. His biggest crime is that he refuses to take his head out of his behind long enough to see what’s happening. Chris should recognize how improbable it is that a hot young woman would choose him. He should consider that Kitty asks him for money every time he stops by. And he should notice that she instinctively recoils every time he moves in for a kiss.
Kitty (Joan Bennett) is even more complex and surprising. The usual film noir leading lady is powerful, mysterious, and sultry. Kitty is nothing like this. She’s effortlessly beautiful but insecure, simple, and clueless.
Kitty is a lazy young woman who wants one thing in life, to be Johnny’s adoring housewife. She can’t see how doubly improbable this is. First, Johnny clearly doesn’t love her back. Second, Johnny never makes money on his own; he views everyone he meets as a potential prostitute to be exploited.
In the end, Chris and Kitty are victims of the same crime: failing to pay attention to what is going on in their own personal lives.
“Scarlet Street” is a first-rate film with an important practical message. If your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t all that into you, you should break it off immediately. The longer a bogus relationship continues, the uglier things can get.
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