Fritz Lang may be best known for a grim flick about a serial killer who preys on children. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t know how to bring the sexy. And Scarlet Street, the German director’s best American noir, which plays this Monday at the Heights Theater, finds Fritz at his friskiest. (The movie house is screening a different Lang film every Monday in February.)
First off, there’s the source material. Lang based his film on a pulpy French novel called The Bitch (hot). There’s the premise. An emasculated cashier and amateur artist falls for a heartless streetwalker in Greenwich Village (hotter). And then there’s the toenail-painting scene (hottest), which had to qualify as some pretty racy kink in the pre-foot fetish days of 1945.
Wait. You haven’t heard about the toenail-painting scene?
When Chris Cross (Edward G. Robinson), the wimpy protagonist, eternally browbeaten by his shrew of a wife, demands that the gorgeous Kitty March (Joan Bennet) let him paint her portrait, she tosses him a bottle of nail polish. “You can start right now,” she sneers, placing her foot in his hands. “They’ll be masterpieces.”
Cutting dialogue aside, though, it’s still a Lang film—as noir as a deep-winter night. As Kitty gold-digs the hapless Chris, milking him for the little cash he has, a complex, paranoid murder plot evolves, one that no one will escape in one piece. There will be an ice pick murder, embezzlement, at least one faked death, and, of course, a bleak, psychological spiral into hell for everyone involved—perhaps even the audience.
So, you know, bring a date.
Monday, February 6
Heights Theater, 3951 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 763-788-4992