Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang – The Blue Gardenia (1953)

by Steve-O of Film Noir of the Week
After getting a Dear John letter from her boyfriend overseas, a young girl goes out on a blind date with a heel. She blacks out after drinking half-a-dozen mixed drinks but remembers fighting off the man with a poker. She goes into a panic when a police manhunt begins for her. A Los Angeles reporter tracks the mystery woman down before the police can get to her. But is she innocent? Read More »

Fritz Lang – The Woman in the Window (1944)

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Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window (1944) is a riveting melodrama that’s only improved with age. Edward G. Robinson delivers a memorable performance as an everyday Joe who suddenly finds himself entangled in a murder, but Lang’s sense of adventure is the real draw. One shot in particular – a single-take transitional moment near the end of the film – simply has to be seen to be believed. Look for Robinson leaning forward in a leather chair during what appears to be the picture’s tragic climax, then watch what happens next….and good luck determining how Lang did it. Read More »

Fritz Lang – Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler – Ein Bild der Zeit (1922)

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One of the legendary epics of the silent cinema – and the first part of a trilogy that Fritz Lang developed up to the very end of his career – Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler. [Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler.] is a masterpiece of conspiracy that, even as it precedes the mind – blowing Spione from the close of Lang’s silent cycle, constructs its own dark labyrinth from the base materials of human fear and paranoia. Rudolf Klein – Rogge plays Dr. Mabuse, the criminal mastermind whose nefarious machinations provide the cover for – or describe the result of – the economic upheaval and social bacchanalia at the heart of Weimar – era Berlin. Read More »

Fritz Lang – M [Universum, 80th Anniversary Edition] (1931)

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The horror of the faces: That is the overwhelming image that remains from a recent viewing of the restored version of “M,” Fritz Lang’s famous 1931 film about a child murderer in Germany. In my memory it was a film that centered on the killer, the creepy little Franz Becker, played by Peter Lorre. But Becker has relatively limited screen time, and only one consequential speech–although it’s a haunting one. Most of the film is devoted to the search for Becker, by both the police and the underworld, and many of these scenes are played in closeup. In searching for words to describe the faces of the actors, I fall hopelessly upon “piglike.” Read More »

Fritz Lang – Scarlet Street (1945)

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Bleak.. grim… uncompromising… masterpiece… these are the words usually batted around about the film Fritz Lang considered his best American title. And the film lives up to these accolades without excuses. Endlessly rewatchable, the film finds Lang’s mise en scene at its most precise, its most crystalline. The film flows like the rainwater down a polished glass… easy and languid here, pausing there to plump up and gather weight… letting go there with velocity, until Chris Cross (Robinson) eventually finds his bottom in inevitable oblivion. Banned in several states, the ending of Scarlet Street may be the grimmest of all “Golden Age” Hollywood films– and most amazing that it passed the censors. Joan Bennett’s Kitty, and Dan Duryea’s Johnny may be the most vicious characters ever sketched onscreen in a 1940’s melodrama.. and the murder at its climax may be the most shocking, despite the absence of blood and gore. Read More »

Fritz Lang – While the City Sleeps (1956)

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While the City Sleeps (1954) was Fritz Lang’s last fully successful film, one of a pair of movies that he made with independent producer Bert E. Friedlob (the other was Beyond a Reasonable Doubt). Additionally, it has proved to be one of his more enduring successes over the decades, due to the combination of its virtues as a thriller and also as a snapshot of American mores circa 1954. It may not be as respected as, say, M (1931) or Fury (1936), but it might be the Lang film that Americans of the baby-boom generation know best, through countless television showings in the 1960s and ’70s, and like most for its sinister subtext. Strangely enough, While the City Sleeps was not a story that Lang that set out to tell — producer Bert E. Friedlob rejected several of the director’s proposed subjects and imposed the story on Lang, as he had already bought the rights to Charles Einstein’s novel The Bloody Spur. That book was based on the criminal career of William Heirens, who had terrorized that city with a string of burglaries, sexual assaults, and murders during the mid-’40s. Heirens was identified as the “Lipstick Killer” when he left a message, scrawled in lipstick, at one of his crime scenes, asking the police to stop him. He was later caught, and he confessed and was given a life sentence (which he was still serving as of 2003). Read More »

Fritz Lang – Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)

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Crusading publisher Austin Spenser (Sidney Blackmer) wants to prove a point about the insufficiency of circumstantial evidence. Spencer talks his prospective son-in-law Tom Garrett (Dana Andrews) into participating in a hoax, the better to expose the alleged ineptitude of conviction-happy DA (Philip Bourneuf). Tom will plant clues indicating that he is the murderer of a nightclub dancer, then stand trial for murder; just as the jury reaches its inevitable guilty verdict, Spencer will step forth to reveal the set-up and humiliate the DA. Somewhat surprisingly, Tom eagerly agrees to this subterfuge. Unfortunately, an unforeseen event renders their perfectly formed scheme useless. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt was the last American film of director Fritz Lang. Read More »