Watch Scarlet Street, Fritz Lang’s Censored Noir Film, Starring the Great Edward G. Robinson (1945)


A mil­que­toast cashier. A schem­ing pros­ti­tute. Her even hard­er-schem­ing boyfriend. The mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of art. A faked death. A sud­den, very real, mur­der. All of these hard noir ele­ments find their way into Scar­let Street, Fritz Lang’s ini­tial­ly dis­missed but sev­er­al times re-eval­u­at­ed 1945 crime pic­ture. We remem­ber the Aus­tri­an auteur, and right­ly so, for such immor­tal pieces of ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry Euro­pean cin­e­ma as Metrop­o­lis, M, and the Dr. Mabuse tril­o­gy.

But from the mid-thir­ties onward, Lang direct­ed Eng­lish-lan­guage films pro­lif­i­cal­ly, often using nov­els as source mate­r­i­al. You can watch Scar­let Street, a work from that peri­od which has drawn more and more cinephilic atten­tion since its release, free online. Star­ring Edward G. Robin­son as a cloth­ing-store clerk and hap­less part-time painter along­side Joan Ben­nett as his work­ing-girl object of frus­trat­ed desire, the film appeared as the sec­ond adap­ta­tion of Georges de La Fouchardière’s book La Chi­enne, the first hav­ing come from Jean Renoir.

“An uncom­pro­mis­ing sub­ver­sive remake,” crit­ic Den­nis Schwartz calls Scar­let Street, “with a par­tic­u­lar­ly acute Amer­i­can accent.” In Cin­e­ma Jour­nal, Matthew Bern­stein called it “dense, well-struc­tured film noir.” But the pic­ture came in for a crit­i­cal drub­bing at first: the New York Times’ Bosley Crowther called it “a slug­gish and man­u­fac­tured tale,” and Time bemoaned its “painful­ly obvi­ous sto­ry.” But what­ev­er the argu­ments about the movie’s artis­tic mer­it, it clear­ly touched a nerve with the New York State Cen­sor Board, who banned it on grounds that it “would tend to cor­rupt morals.“ ‘ The city cen­sor of Atlanta cit­ed “the sor­did life it por­trayed, the treat­ment of illic­it love, [and] the fail­ure of the char­ac­ters to receive ortho­dox pun­ish­ment from the police,” call­ing it “licen­tious, pro­fane, obscure and con­trary to the good order of the com­mu­ni­ty.” Does Scar­let Street retain its pow­er to shock? Did Lang craft it with a com­plex­i­ty and ele­gance not obvi­ous to Amer­i­can audi­ences of the mid-for­ties? Click play and find out for your­self.

Scar­let Street appears in our col­lec­tion of Free Film Noir Movies and our larg­er col­lec­tion of 500 Free Movies Online

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch The Hitch-Hik­er by Ida Lupino (the Only Female Direc­tor of a 1950s Noir Film)

Orson Welles’ The Stranger: Watch The Full Movie Online

Watch D.O.A., Rudolph Maté’s “Inno­v­a­tive and Down­right Twist­ed” Noir Film (1950)

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Comments (3)
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  • Jon says:

    The embed­ded video at top of the post is not appear­ing in Safari or Google Chrome.
    Run­ning Yosimite on mac mini.
    Error: oper­a­tion timed out

  • Mike says:

    Wow!!! This is great. I love these old movies. Thank You so much for this. I’m shar­ing the link with every­one I know.

  • Carl Russo says:

    You real­ly need­ed to men­tion the smarmy, slimy per­for­mance of Dan Duryea, with the best line, “It’s only black­mail, baby, when you’re dumb enough to get caught.”

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