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 6040 times)

1SO

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #50 on: June 20, 2018, 02:06:04 PM »
The first two were. I wanted to rewatch them before seeing 1,000 Eyes. I'd hoped a 2nd viewing would raise my appreciation because I love the idea of a Professor Moriarty figure with his criminal network and no Sherlock Holmes to stop him.
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pixote

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #51 on: June 24, 2018, 05:40:13 PM »


The Testament of Dr. Mabuse  (Fritz Lang, 1933)

Lang's final German film before leaving for Hollywood is not just a sequel to his 1922 epic Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler, with Rudolf Klein-Rogge returning (briefly) as the title villain, but also a spin-off to M, with Otto Wernicke reprising his role as Inspector Lohmann. Had I known that beforehand, I would have been way more eager to see Testament, which, because of its B-movie title, I'd always pictured as something cheap and silly. But it's not that at all. Instead, it's a fitting culmination of Lang's early period, bridging the gap between silents and talkies and between pulp fiction and realism.

On a scene-by-scene basis, Testament is a potpourri of greatness:
  • the opening sequence of in medias res suspense with the wonderfully heightened soundtrack
  • the introduction of Lohmann (and Wernicke's super appealing performance)
  • Mabuse's furious scribblings
  • the scratches in the glass
  • the traffic-light assassination (a moment that seems purely Hitchcockian, but perhaps it's really Fritz who influenced Alfred)
  • Lohmann's trying to convince Hofmeister that he's still on the phone
  • the introduction of a man behind the curtain (which is funny in a film with a character named Baum)
  • Lohmann's not remembering Mabuse's crimes from 1921 (some extremely satisfying self-reflexivity)
  • the visit to the morgue
  • the surprising and confident infusion of the supernatural into a realist aesthetic
  • the silent film character finally finding his voice in death
  • peaking behind the curtain
  • the apartment siege
  • explosion in a flooded room (which is cool enough to forgive to silly setup)
  • Lohmann connecting the dots (almost)
  • the clue of the recorded voice (whic becomes extra interesting given Mabuse's silent-film origins)
  • apocalypse at the chemical factory
  • a furious night-time drive
  • coming full circle
That's enough goodness to fill a 121-minute film and yet, somehow, the movie feels almost an hour longer than it is. I don't really understand why that is. There are few scenes that struck me as extraneous (the Kent/Lilli ones often offering the exception), few individual scenes felt bloated to me, and Lang's creativity always keeps things interesting. So my restlessness is a bit baffling. I heard, though, that the American cut trimmed the film down to a mere 75 minutes but without deleting any scenes, save one or two. I'm not assuming that that version would be better (if it weren't dubbed I'd be tempted to find out), but the 46-minute differential definitely seems to imply a good deal of fat in many of Lang's scenes and thus perhaps explains my restlessness.

I don't want to bury the lede here, though. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is a good film, chock full of great moments, and definitely worth a watch.

Im 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) Langs 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.

I didn't make a connection to Saw, but Arkham Asylum was on my mind throughout, with Mabuse seeming a possible influence on the Joker. I was thinking more of the comics than any particular film, so it surprised me to read this trivia item on IMDb afterwards:

Quote from: IMDB Trivia
The 2008 film The Dark Knight features a version of The Joker inspired by Mabuse. Throughout the film, the character recites monologues promoting chaos & disorder which borrow heavily from Mabuse's own in 1933's The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. Director Christopher Nolan has stated: "I think I made Jonah (Nolan's brother) watch Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse prior to writing the Joker.

Makes sense, really.

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.

I wonder if your struggles with Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler carried over into Testament, which certainly offers more than ★ ★ worth of things to smile about.

Grade: B

pixote
« Last Edit: June 24, 2018, 05:42:41 PM by pixote »
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1SO

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #52 on: June 24, 2018, 09:42:33 PM »
I don't know how far into the Saw franchise you went, but there's one that takes place just after Jigsaw's death where he's set up a mind puzzle on the ensemble from beyond the grave. It's completely ridiculous that he would be planning not one final execution, but an elaborate mousetrap to be sprung after he's gone. That's where the connection to Mabuse comes in. This isn't just F&F dumb fun, it requires you to ask no serious questions because they break down the Rube Goldberg scheme. You could make an equal list of the insanity of events in that Saw film, but that doesn't make them fun or clever. It's the direction, which is really good in Mabuse, that pull entertainment from something that should be more frustrating.

The traffic-light assassination is my favorite scene in any Mabuse film. I love "the silent film character finally finding his voice in death". Something I didn't think about until you wrote it.

I also watched the 121-minute version.
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pixote

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #53 on: June 29, 2018, 10:49:26 PM »
I don't know how far into the Saw franchise you went, but there's one that takes place just after Jigsaw's death where he's set up a mind puzzle on the ensemble from beyond the grave. It's completely ridiculous that he would be planning not one final execution, but an elaborate mousetrap to be sprung after he's gone. That's where the connection to Mabuse comes in. This isn't just F&F dumb fun, it requires you to ask no serious questions because they break down the Rube Goldberg scheme. You could make an equal list of the insanity of events in that Saw film, but that doesn't make them fun or clever. It's the direction, which is really good in Mabuse, that pull entertainment from something that should be more frustrating.

Saw V was the last straw for me.

I love "the silent film character finally finding his voice in death". Something I didn't think about until you wrote it.

I didn't love the DVD commentary, but it included some good analysis on the film's very conscious use of sound. Credit for the above goes there.

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pixote

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #54 on: June 29, 2018, 10:59:58 PM »


Ministry of Fear  (Fritz Lang, 1944)

A silly film but still rather fun. I couldn't escape the feeling that it was Hitchcock-lite (which is probably overgenerous to Hitch) and that Ray Milland was just standing in for Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart. From a suspension of disbelief standpoint, I never quite recovered from the moment when Milland puts his trust in the brother and sister pair played by Carl Esmond and Marjorie Reynolds. It seemed too out of character for him, especially given the circumstances. I'm actually somewhat tempted to read Graham Greene's novel, just to see if the original plot has any fewer holes.

Grade: B-

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1SO

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #55 on: June 30, 2018, 08:38:16 AM »
I couldn't escape the feeling that it was Hitchcock-lite (which is probably overgenerous to Hitch) and that Ray Milland was just standing in for Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart.
That sounds like a slam, but truly there are few thrillers that can compare to Hitchcock with Grant or Stewart. I love Ray Milland and think he's underrated as an actor because he's more lighthearted and game for anything. The step down in quality from Grant to Milland is only as big as the step down from Hitchcock to Lang.


From a suspension of disbelief standpoint, I never quite recovered from the moment when Milland puts his trust in the brother and sister pair played by Carl Esmond and Marjorie Reynolds.
This is where the film shifts from the opening paranoia into a more conventional funhouse thriller. Still not as much a suspension as what happens in the Mabuse films, but those films work on a tone of wild ambition.
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Knocked Out Loaded

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Re: Lang, Fritz
« Reply #56 on: November 19, 2018, 01:42:53 AM »
Metropolis, 80
Clash By Night, 30
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