Saturday, 30 April 2011

HANGMEN ALSO DIE (1943)



Made the same year as Douglas Sirk's HITLER'S MADMAN which was based on the same events, Fritz Lang's HANGMEN ALSO DIE is one of the great director's most undervalued films. The film may be a blatant piece of wartime propoganda but this drama of paranoia, nazis and betrayal harkens back to the director's DR.MABUSE films. Brian Donlevy plays the assassin of Reichsprotekor Heydrich who escapes detection by accidently implicating the family of a famous professor. Hostages are taken, tortured and exccuted and the professor's daughter, at first willing to betray Donlevy is slowly convinced to help the resistance by turning the tables on an informer. The film depicts dramatically the decisions people had to make in such circumstances very convincingly. The use of studio exteriors, stark (typically Langian) shadows - particularly in the interrogation scenes at Gestapo headquarters - gives the film a strong expressionistic feel. Performances are strong with Donlevy, Anna Lee, Walter Brennan, Dennis O'keefe and Alexander Granach all turning in excellent work. Eagle eyed viewers will spot the great Dwight Frye in an uncredited performance as a hostage. Co-wriien by Berthold Brecht. Rating ****

2 comments:

Autumnforest said...

That looks and sound visually gorgeous. Sometimes, I love a movie just for the way it's filmed and not the content, but this sounds like a win/win.

Weaverman said...

While not as continually striking as some Lang films - and some have criticised it on those grounds, I feel that they are very obviously musunderstanding Lang's method which is to present the Czech society as an ordinary world intruded on by the nazi invaders.
When we enter the nazi world with the interrogations and torture the film becomes visually nightmarish. This is also reflected in the underplaying of the actors playing czechs (i.e. ordinary people) and the overplaying of the actors portraying nazis (i.e. monsters)