Posts Tagged ‘Fritz Lang’

Vier um der Frau (2021)

Dir: Fritz Lang | Cast: Hermann Bottcher, Carola Toelle, Lilli Lohrer, Ludwig Hartau | Germany, Silent, 52′

Now a hundred years old! Despite resurfacing in Brazil in 1987 and now available on YouTube, this dynamic, good-looking little gem by Fritz Lang remains stubbornly overlooked by most film historians, yet is probably as lively as anything Lang ever made, based on a play by Rolf E, Vanloo, and a script by Thea von Harbou.

Like his earlier serial Die Spinnen, Lang’s template at the time was Louis Feuillade’s melodramatic tales of arch criminals transposed to what is presumably contemporary Berlin (although the time it was made is now far closer to Dickens than us), in which morals were loose, most of the characters wear large overcoats and hats signalling their social status (and one of the employees at the local restaurant is a little black kid). The production company plugs itself by making the local cinema prominently on view the Decla-Bioscop; while Teutonic thespians like Rudolf Klein-Rogge play characters with Anglo-Saxon names like ‘Upton’. @Richard Chatten

NOW ON YOUTUBE

Woman in the Window (1944) **** Blu-ray release

Dir: Fritz Lang | Wri: Nunnally Johnson | Cast: Edward G Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey | US Film Noir 107′

One of legendary director Fritz Lang‘s first noir films, The Woman in the Window is also rightfully considered one of the most important examples of the genre, a landmark movie that became one of the initial representations of noir first singled out by French critics after WWII. A triumph for Lang, legendary writer/producer Nunnally Johnson (The Grapes of Wrath), and leading man Edward G. Robinson (shedding his earlier gangster roles to portray a love-struck obsessive), the mysterious melodrama remains a classic American nail-biter.

Johnson’s loose adaptation of J H Wallis’ novel Once Off Guard sees Robinson as Richard Wanley, a successful psychiatrist biding his time while his wife and children are on vacation. Lamenting the loss of his salad days, along with his drinking pals Raymond Massey and Dan Duryea, he is surprised and delighted to be picked up in the street by a foxy femme fatale in the shape of Alice (an alluring Joan Bennett dressed by Vogue illustrator and couturier Muriel King), who bears an uncanny resemblance to the subject of a portrait he had just admired in a gallery window. When Richard and Alice retire to her home, her wealthy, jealous boyfriend intrudes, and is killed after a struggle. Alice convinces Richard to cover up the crime, but as Richard’s district attorney friend (Raymond Massey) investigates and the boyfriend’s bodyguard (Dan Duryea) begins to apply pressure to Richard, the walls begin to close in…

With a darkly drôle climax years ahead of its time, The Woman in the Window is suspenseful film noir at its most seductive, elegantly captured and lit by Milton Krasner (who would go on to win the Oscar for Three Coins in a Fountain in 1955), the thriller also serves as an excellent companion piece to the following year’s Scarlet Street, which reunited Lang with Robinson, Bennett, and Duryea in strikingly similar roles.

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW (Masters of Cinema) | 20 May 2019 

 

 

 

Human Desire (1954) **** Dual Format release

Dir: Fritz Lang | Noir Thriller | US, 1954, 90′

Fritz Lang brings a seething expressionism to this steely hard-boiled Noir. And although Jean Renoir’s 1938 version is better known, Lang’s American remake re-works themes of fear, jealousy and hatred into an equally provocative and suspenseful thriller that translocates the action to a working class New Jersey railroad setting. Loosely based on Emile Zola’s La Bête Humaine, Alfred Hayes script pictures Glenn Ford’s tortured train engineer cum Korean War veteran (Warren) fall for Gloria Grahame’s married femme fatale (Vicki Buckley). Set amidst the bleak monochrome marshalling yards, their doomed love affair is the only spark. Vicki’s abusive alcoholic husband Carl (Broderick Crawford) is fired from his job and blackmails her to stay with him using as his weapon a letter that links her to a jealousy-fuelled murder he committed on a train. He begs Vicki (Gloria Grahame) to speak to John Owens (Grandon Rhodes), an influential businessman. But when her love affair is revealed, it all ends in tears. Oscar-winning cinematographer Burnett Guffey creates a remarkable opening sequence where a train hurtles through the urban landscape. Set to Daniele Amfitheatrof’s rousing score, which primps the highs and lows of the narrative, this is one of the highlights of the mean and moody affair. Meanwhile costumier Jean Louis works his mastery on some seriously well-tailored rigouts. MT

NOW OUT ON DUAL FORMAT RELEASE COURTESY OF EUREKA

 

 

 

Dr Mabuse, der Spieler (1921) DVD/Blu

securedownloadDir.: Fritz Lang; Cast: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Alfred Abel, Aud Egede Nissen, Gertrude Welcker, Bernhard Goetzke, Robert Forster-Larrinaga, Paul Richter;

Deutschland 1921/2, 270 min (2 Parts)

Scripted by Lang and his wife Thea van Harbou together with the author of the original novel Norbert Jacques, this is the first of Lang’s trilogy of Mabuse films. In 1932 he filmed Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse, which was banned a year later by the Nazis, whilst Die tausend Augen des Dr. Mabuse (1960) was Lang’s last feature, produced in Germany after his return from the USA.

Looked at superficially, DR MABUSE DER SPIELER is a sensationalist movie: Dr. Mabuse is is a man with many faces (literally), he slips easily into different identities, he can be an expert of the stock market, lectures about psychoanalysis and is equally at home as an scientist. But all he wants is power and money, and he uses his girl friend, the dancer Cara Carozza, to get to the moneyed Hull, whom he puts under hypnosis and robs him of millions at an illegal gaming club. Later he puts Count Todd under hypnosis, to make him cheat in the same club, than he kidnaps his wife. In the second part of the film, Dr. Mabuse is a psychoanalyst, hounding his rich clients into suicide. In the end, he acts as a magician on  stage, and tries to lure Wenk, his arch enemy and public prosecutor, onto the stage, to hypnotise him too.

Dr. Mabuse is not so much interested in wealth or status, but we wants to denounce the state and all it stands for. He sees himself as a creator, even though his actions are destructive. He is an evil romantic, trying to become the “Übermensch”. He is the star of his own great play, but not interested in power itself, but only in permanent destruction. This way he has to prove himself over and over again, continually finding new ways to show his superiority. He is fascinated by himself, by his status as a super star, inventing permanently a new stage for dramatic appearances. He does not really wear masks, he is one.

Aesthetically DR MABUSE DER SPIELER is somewhere between ‘Dr, Caligari’ and ‘M’, meaning that the expressionism of certain shots is reigned in by an overall feel for realism. The trap doors and theatrical tricks are very much make-believe, but the reality of the Weimar Republic, the fear of total chaos, the poverty and the political rivalry are very much real. It is interesting in this context, that Lang’s wife Thea von Harbou was an early Nazi sympathizer (she would work actively in Nazi Germany, whilst Lang emigrated to the USA), the director himself being somewhat on the left.

The film if often seen as an allegory on the early days of fascism, seeing the Mabuse character as an early incarnation of Hitler, but knowing about the different political leanings of the film’s creators, one wonders how much of this is true. Nevertheless, DR MABUSE THE SPIELER is a monumental work, which entertains and surprises the viewer at every turn – like the enigmatic Mabuse himself, the film is never quite what we think it is. AS

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SPECIAL FEATURES

• New, officially licensed transfer from restored HD materials

• New and improved optional English subtitles with original intertitles

• Exclusive feature-length audio commentary by film-scholar and Lang expert David Kalat

• Three video pieces: an interview with the composer of the restoration score, a discussion of Norbert Jacques, creator of Dr. Mabuse, and an examination of the film’s motifs in the context of German silent cinema

• 32-PAGE BOOKLET featuring vintage reprints of writing by Lang

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