Poll

What's your favorite film by Fritz Lang?

Destiny
0 (0%)
Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler
0 (0%)
Die Nibelungen: Siegfried
0 (0%)
Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge
0 (0%)
Metropolis
15 (48.4%)
Spies
0 (0%)
Woman in the Moon
1 (3.2%)
M
10 (32.3%)
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
0 (0%)
Liliom
0 (0%)
Fury
1 (3.2%)
You Only Live Once
0 (0%)
You and Me
0 (0%)
The Return of Frank James
0 (0%)
Western Union
0 (0%)
Man Hunt
0 (0%)
Moontide
0 (0%)
Hangmen Also Die!
0 (0%)
Ministry of Fear
0 (0%)
The Woman in the Window
0 (0%)
Scarlet Street
1 (3.2%)
Cloak and Dagger
0 (0%)
Secret Beyond the Door
0 (0%)
House by the River
0 (0%)
Rancho Notorious
0 (0%)
Clash by Night
0 (0%)
The Blue Gardenia
0 (0%)
The Big Heat
1 (3.2%)
Human Desire
0 (0%)
Moonfleet
0 (0%)
While the City Sleeps
0 (0%)
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
0 (0%)
The Tiger of Bengal
0 (0%)
The Indian Tomb
0 (0%)
The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse
0 (0%)
haven't seen any
2 (6.5%)
don't like any
0 (0%)
other
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 30

Author Topic: Lang, Fritz  (Read 6043 times)

1SO

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #40 on: June 16, 2018, 10:09:39 PM »
Four Around a Woman  (Fritz Lang, 1921)

Here's a film worthy of many more screenshots than the single one above, which doesn't begin to approach the movie at its photographic best. Made the year before Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler, Four Around a Woman is the superior visual experience, boasting cinematography and editing that feel thoroughly more modern and inventive by comparison.
I love a superior visual experience, but it reads like that won't interest me enough with the film being incomplete. Plus, I didn't remember how long Dr Mabuse The Gambler is, so I already have plenty to watch.
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pixote

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #41 on: June 16, 2018, 10:12:23 PM »
... Lang's direction instantly creates the unease of something being off ... I wish I had watched this alongside Spies, to solidify the similarities in style and Lang's skills from Silent to Noir.

I think I'll make more of an effort to rewatch that now, with the style of Four Around a Woman fresh in my mind.

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pixote

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #42 on: June 17, 2018, 06:12:55 PM »


Woman in the Moon  (Fritz Lang, 1929)

My initial impressions of Lang as a director came I believe from Fury and M, and, despite having seen another dozen of his films since then, I still fall into the trap of thinking of him as a serious-minded, thematically-focused, stereotypically-Germanic director. Woman in the Moon reminds me, once again, that he's equally, if not moreso, a popcorn filmmaker. His surrogate in the film is not that focused and determined leading man (Wolf Helius!) but rather the boy who's obsessed with sci-fi comic books. Lang directs with that same sort of pulp fiction enthusiasm, calling to mind Lucas and Spielberg — or even Besson and Emmerich.

Kanopy's one-line description call the movie an "ambitious spectacle that dramatizes the first lunar expedition" — and that's the movie I was eager to see. It was something of a surprise, then, when the first act (which lasts more than an hour, I think) is such an earth-bound affair concerned with the criminal-mastermind shenanigans typical of so many other of Lang's silent-era films. Viewed out of context, it might be pleasant enough, in a Saturday matinee sort of way (the criminal's slight-of-hand disguise is especially fun), but in context it's like having to sit through three separate Olaf shorts when you're waiting to watch Coco. The real saving grace is that it serves as a showcase for Gerda Maurus, who, in just her second film, delivers a performance of astonishing commitment and purity. Given the film's title, I was was really hoping she'd emerge as the main protagonist, because she's truly captivating. (I guess it's time to revisit Spies.)

The launch sequence represents the film at its best, with the camerawork, editing, and special effects working very well together to create a truly engaging reel of science-fiction spectacle. The effects are by no means perfect, nor of course is the science (I was especially distracted by the understanding of g-forces), but it's fun and entertaining and even thrilling. And, maybe the best part, the launch itself is all-consuming, meaning the script momentarily forgets all its other nonsense about criminal plots, love triangles, the gold in them thar hills, et cetera. It's just a shame that the movie couldn't have started here and found the natural drama in the story of the space trip rather than relying on cliched elements from other genres.

Woman of the Moon has the feel of future summer blockbuster that started as a serious spec script, went through a series of drafts, all heavily influenced by the note of various producers, and morphed into an bloated epic that attempted to please all crowds but end up pleasing few. One producer insisted on a criminal plot because that's what the audience expected from Lang's films; another wanted a romance; a third insisted on a child stowaway so the kids in the audience would have someone to related to; and then some other jerk wanted an old man with his pet mouse on board to cover every demographic. The result is a predictable mess — but one that's still somewhat entertaining, despite the many frustrations along the way. I'd let my guard down near the end, so the film's final surprise worked perfectly on me, ending things on a good narrative note (but a confused moral one). Despite being ultimately let down by the movie, the rock formation in the cave had me curious about a sequel.

Grade: C+

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« Last Edit: June 17, 2018, 06:15:59 PM by pixote »
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1SO

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #43 on: June 18, 2018, 11:50:15 PM »

Woman in the Moon  (1929)

It was something of a surprise, then, when the first act (which lasts more than an hour, I think) is such an earth-bound affair concerned with the criminal-mastermind shenanigans typical of so many other of Lang's silent-era films. Viewed out of context, it might be pleasant enough, in a Saturday matinee sort of way (the criminal's slight-of-hand disguise is especially fun), but in context it's like having to sit through three separate Olaf shorts when you're waiting to watch Coco.
This warning is probably why I enjoyed the first hour so much. On it's own, it's a lot of fun in a similar way to Lang's spy films. Also I watched that disguise shot over and over. Even with the one little edit, it's such a creative magic trick that it's a most enjoyable moment of movie magic than all of this year's CG. Too bad there isn't a gif of it.


The effects are by no means perfect, nor of course is the science (I was especially distracted by the understanding of g-forces), but it's fun and entertaining and even thrilling. And, maybe the best part, the launch itself is all-consuming, meaning the script momentarily forgets all its other nonsense about criminal plots, love triangles, the gold in them thar hills, et cetera. It's just a shame that the movie couldn't have started here and found the natural drama in the story of the space trip rather than relying on cliched elements from other genres.
The lengthy build-up followed by science fiction spectacle where the Science is essentially forced out of the picture reminded me of Armageddon. Once the film got into space, I only cared about the epic Art Direction. The story becomes a mix of Swiss Family Robinson and Treasure of the Sierra Madre and I started missing all the intrigue back on Earth, which was more believable by comparison.


Woman of the Moon has the feel of future summer blockbuster that started as a serious spec script, went through a series of drafts, all heavily influenced by the note of various producers, and morphed into an bloated epic that attempted to please all crowds but end up pleasing few. One producer insisted on a criminal plot because that's what the audience expected from Lang's films; another wanted a romance; a third insisted on a child stowaway so the kids in the audience would have someone to related to; and then some other jerk wanted an old man with his pet mouse on board to cover every demographic. The result is a predictable mess — but one that's still somewhat entertaining, despite the many frustrations along the way. I'd let my guard down near the end, so the film's final surprise worked perfectly on me, ending things on a good narrative note (but a confused moral one). Despite being ultimately let down by the movie, the rock formation in the cave had me curious about a sequel.
This is so spot on and much better stated than the thoughts swimming in my head, it negated my needing to write a review.
RATING: ★ ★ ½
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pixote

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #44 on: June 19, 2018, 12:51:23 PM »
Once the film got into space, I only cared about the epic Art Direction. The story becomes a mix of Swiss Family Robinson and Treasure of the Sierra Madre and I started missing all the intrigue back on Earth, which was more believable by comparison.

Yeah, it was so frustrating to me that landed on the moon and the characters had almost zero reaction to that moment. No awe or wonder or joy. Instead, the story is immediately dominated by Hans' crazed jealousy of Wolf's tenderness towards his fiancée; a old man's failing sanity; and a villain's really abstract and nonsensical plan to get all the gold for himself (or whatever). None of the conflict is rooted in the fact that they're the first people on the moon!!! It kills me.

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #45 on: June 19, 2018, 01:09:13 PM »
I would love to get your list of Fritz Lang hits and misses, particularly after he came to Hollywood. I would also recommend 1938's You and Me, which is one of those rare titles where roujin and I are equal admirers.

I took you up on this recommendation back in December. Guess now's a good time to post a review.











































You and Me  (Fritz Lang, 1938)

Paramount tries to do an early-30s warner bros picture and the result is the weird bastardization you might expect. Halfway thorough the film, I paused to make sure that it was really a 1938 movie. It has the awkward, sloppy feel of a film made between 1933-1935, hints of a pre-code sensibility (Sylvia Sidney in the shower; newlyweds being encouraged to make all the noise they want their first night together), and Lang's Brechtian-inspired used of Kurt Weill's music, which also called to mind 1933 for me (that's when Threepenny Opera was filmed). The sum of all these parts is a failure — as Lang seemed to agree — but an interesting failure. I'm reminded a bit of The Petrified Forest, a film whose awkwardness I seem to find more endearing than most. You and Me presents the opposite case. The didacticism of the crime-doesn't-pay story is embarrassing, and the narrative is frustrating in its contrivances. Half the story hinges on a dumb secret, the needlessness of which is never adequately explained away; and half hinges on the peer pressure of ex-cons to remain cons, as part of their chummy brotherhood. Lang called the jailhouse nostalgia dumb, and I whole-heartedly agree. The tonal variances of the film didn't always work for me either, especially the tendency to undercut darker moments with screwball humor, like Hymer's antics when Harry Carey confronts all the ex-cons in the final act.

Despite all these reservations, the film contains a number of very good moments, especially in the first act. The opening musical number, with its mix of spoken word and song and it's rather cartoonish message (Chuck Jones should have appropriated it at some point) had me very eager to find out what kind of movie this was going to be; and the torch song that makes possible the romance between Raft and Sidney worked really well. I also really loved the warmth that Vera Gordon brought to the film as the most kind-hearted landlady in cinema history; I wish she'd been a more prolific film actress in the sound era. I struggled much more to appreciate Raft's performance. He's great when he gets to grit his teeth and stare daggers, but whenever he has to play sincere he just comes across as hokey to me.

For more enthusiastic reviews of this film, please see roujin and 1SO earlier in this thread.

Grade: C

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« Last Edit: June 19, 2018, 04:21:50 PM by pixote »
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1SO

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #46 on: June 19, 2018, 03:15:52 PM »
Funny, because of the cast I assumed it was Warner Bros. Columbia would've been my 2nd guess. It's a film I always think about watching again but haven't made time to do it yet. I don't remember your problems with the narrative and crime angle and the jailhouse nostalgia is one of my favorite moments. I also seem to have the opposite view of Raft from you. His tough guy routine is what I find hokey, especially compared to anything by Bogart (except for Petrified Forest). The sincerity here is what makes it one of my favorite performances from him.
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1SO

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #47 on: June 20, 2018, 08:21:20 AM »

Updated Rankings


Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)
★ ★ ½
Running 270 minutes and episodic this was like a Netflix binge-watch. There’s plenty of visual flourish, but not much variety and that numbing sameness smothers the glory of Lang’s technique. It took me three days to get all the way through this and even then I could no longer enjoy things my eyes and brain were telling me I should be smiling about.


The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
★ ★ ½
I’m curious to know if the people who turned Saw into a franchise were influenced by this. The seemingly insane and locked up Mabuse is a side character, yet his influence is everywhere and his underground cult of criminals is vast. He has supernatural abilities that remove all logic, but (unlike Saw) Lang’s direction battles the ridiculous plot to a draw. If it tried to make sense it would be more insultingly stupid. Lang lets the all-powerful Mabuse unshackle his creativity.


Tiger of Bengal and The Indian Tomb (1959)
Both ★ ★
This epic adventure, set in India but filmed with an International cast in racist makeup. Told in two parts, it’s such an unexpected move from Lang’s usual thrillers that I wasn’t sure if he was forced to make these after his Hollywood career dried up. I found an interview where Lang said he wanted to get away from genre and make a big film for a worldwide audience.

My favorite question the interviewer asks is, “Did you shoot it seriously?” which sounds sarcastic but makes sense if you’ve seen the films. They’re not campy, but they do a poor job enriching the story with the culture. While I don’t know what was happening in International cinema at the time, I can’t tell what audience Lang was hoping to entice. While clearly not the work of an amateur, there’s little here to stir the blood. (I mean in terms of creative filmmaking. Debra Paget’s dancing costumes shocked me with how little material went into them


The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960)
★ ★ ½
While it opens with a recreation of one of Mabuse’s most famous executions, (which is how the cops get on his trail), this isn’t more of the same. Lang grounds the story in reality this time, making for a less exciting time even though Mabuse’s identity is also a mystery to solve. There’s also the modern touch of surveillance, which is mostly used to good effect.
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pixote

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #48 on: June 20, 2018, 11:25:25 AM »
I remembered Marjorie Reynolds (Holiday Inn) but forgot Dan Duryea is in this because the role seems too brief for him ...

Duryea was challenged enough to try to maintain that accent for his three minutes. Any more would have been disastrous.

Told in two parts, it’s such an unexpected move from Lang’s usual thrillers that I wasn’t sure if he was forced to make these after his Hollywood career dried up.

I haven't seen it, but my understanding that he had always wanted to adapt von Harbou's novel, and their divorce and her loyalty to the Nazi regime did nothing to change that. Lang was mad that film adaptations were made in the late 30s without him, just like he was mad that other filmmakers were putting their stamp on Dr. Mabuse. I don't know that these films represents a departure for Lang so much as a bringing of his career full circle. But again, I haven't seen them.

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Re: Director's Best: Fritz Lang
« Reply #49 on: June 20, 2018, 01:51:56 PM »
I like this more than Lang's Mabuse moves, which often stretched credibility in their plotting.

Were the Mabuse films rewatches for you?

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