films seen
13/46
average score
1.54*
nationality
Austria - 85 years old
status
R.I.P. (1890 - 1976)
more info

German Expressionist director who made a name for himself in the 1920s. He later moved to the US where he would go on to direct more generic genre films. A cinematic heavyweight, but hardly my favorite of his era.

Movies


Die Nibelungen: Siegfried

1924 / 143m - Germany
Fantasy, Adventure
3.0*/5.0*
Die Nibelungen: Siegfried poster

Fritz Lang's German period is by far his best and most artistic. I've seen a fair few German films from that era, but I still get amazed whenever I notice how stylish and fantastical these films are, especially for their age (Die Nibelungen is almost a century old now). Siegfried is no exception.

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Die Nibelungen is a classic fantasy story/fairy tale, with dragons, kings and quite a bit of backstabbing. Siegfried is a fearless knight who kills a dragon and the dwarf king on his way to the castle of King Gunther. There he is allowed to marry Gunther's sister, but only if Siegfried promises to hand over the treasures he earned.

The golden/sepia cinematography is lovely, the fantastical elements look pretty solid, and the story isn't too serious. The length and somewhat slower and more repetitive middle part is the only thing keeping me from giving a higher score. I'm looking forward to catching Long's other part now.


Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge

Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache
1924 / 129m - Germany
Fantasy, Adventure
2.0*/5.0*
Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge poster

More proof that Fritz Lang made his best films in Germany, during the 1920s. The scope and creativity of these films are unmatched for their time, and they're a far stretch from the more generic genre work Lang would deliver once he moved to the US. Kriemheld's Revenge isn't quite as good as Siegfried, but it's an interesting enough film.

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After Siegfried's dead, Kriemhild is determined to take revenge on Hagen, his executor. Her brothers side with Hagen, so Kriemhild is forced to come up with a more cunning plan. She marries the King of the Huns and tries to manipulate him to get rid of Hagen for her and her brothers.

130 minutes is a bit too long for a silent film, even though it is pretty epic. There are some very impressive scenes (the fires, in particular, look spectacular), and the styling of the film is well ahead of its time, it's just that the plot is a little simple and the pacing is a tad slow. Worth a watch though.

Destiny

Der Müde Tod
1921 / 98m - Germany
Fantasy
2.0*/5.0*
Destiny poster

Germany, the 1920s. They were a promising time for cinema. Fritz Lang was one of the prime directors of that era, Destiny was one of his very first films. It's a bona fide genre film, with strong fantasy elements and some minor horror crossovers. It's mostly just very visual and expressive cinema.

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When a woman sees Death taking away her husband, she is adamant about getting him back. She goes to a doctor and kills herself with poison so Death will appear before her. She strikes a deal with him. There are three candles representing the lives of three men. If she can save any of them, Death will bring her husband back from the death.

So this is basically a multi-cultural fantasy anthology, with several stories combined into a wraparound segment. The fantasy elements are fun, the pacing is slick and there's plenty of variation here. Death is also a pretty cool character. The age and limited technical capabilities don't work in the film's favor, but other than that, a decent classic.


Scarlet Street

1945 / 102m - USA
Thriller, Crime
1.5*/5.0*
Scarlet Street poster

Another Lang noir. There's a bit of a disconnect in my brain between the Lang making silent epics like Metropolis, and the Lang making noirs in the US. A film like Scarlet Street certainly feels a lot less special, it's a typical genre flick that does little to set itself apart from its peers. That said, it's far from the worst noir I've seen.

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Chris is trapped in a loveless marriage, his nagging wife drives him up the wall. To escape from his dreary life, Chris like to paint. Through his paintings he meets Kitty, a young woman who loves Chris' work. Their budding romance stirs something in Chris, what he doesn't know is that Kitty is involved with a younger man, planning to scam Chris.

I've been watching quite a few classic noirs and the setup rarely deviates. There's a lot of empty dialogue, slightly too much drama that finds little support from the basic characters, and a more tense ending, usually involving murder in a rainy setting. That's pretty much what you can expect from Scarlet Street.

You Only Live Once

1937 / 86m - USA
Thriller, Crime
1.5*/5.0*
You Only Live Once poster

One of Fritz Lang's early USA films. His move to the US drove him to the noir genre, a disappointing switch that made the latter half of his career a lot less appealing. You Only Live Once falls prey to the pitfalls most 30s films faced: exaggerated performances mixed with an overabundance of dialogue.

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After sitting out three convictions in jail, Taylor decides to better his life. When he gets together with Joan he makes a real effort, but an unlucky coincidence turns him into the lead suspect of a bank robbery. He is jailed once again, and apart from Joan nobody believes in his innocence. All Taylor cares about is to be reunited with the woman he loves.

The performances are overstated, the plot is pretty simplistic and the endless chatter is distracting. The final third gets a bit more visual, with some moodier moments, but the black-and-white cinematography isn't distinguished enough to make a real difference. It's all just very generic.

Fury

1936 / 92m - USA
Thriller, Crime
1.5*/5.0*
Fury poster

After seeing Lang's Dr. Mabuse earlier this week, his American film-noir work does start to make a bit more sense to me. There's still somewhat of a disconnect, as they are films with very different vibes, but at least I understand now that his fascination with crime cinema has always been there.

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Joe Wilson is a regular guy, trying to make an honest buck as he tries to fund his wedding with Katherine, the girl of his dreams. His life is suddenly disrupted when he is jailed on suspicion of kidnapping. Wilson is innocent, but the people of the town are certain he's the culprit and an angry mob lights a fire to the jail where he is locked up.

Lang's Fury is a pretty moralistic tale that's a bit too unsubtle and heavy-handed to make a real impression. The performances are mediocre, the plot not too convincing and the styling pretty average. The pacing is decent though and the finale is slightly better than the rest of it, but I think I prefer Lang's German films.

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse
1933 / 122m - Germany
Mystery, Thriller
1.5*/5.0*
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse poster

A film that felt surprisingly modern, though for once it's not really meant as a 100% compliment. Mabuse isn't unlike a bunch of police thrillers from the 90s, with the cops chasing the case of a mysterious serial killer. I think I would've preferred a full-on German Expressionist film, but with the introduction of sound that era was clearly dying.

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Mabuse is a master criminal. He is locked up in an institution, though his doctors were never able to figure out what exactly went on inside is head. When the police are confronted with a series of murders that happened exactly as Mabuse wrote them down, they are stumped and start an investigation.

Lang didn't forget his learnings from 20s silent cinema, but the introduction of sound puts more focus on the narrative, which ultimately made it a more tedious affair, certainly at 120 minutes. The case is quite interesting and the pacing is decent, it's just that the execution is rather basic. But if you like these kinds of police thrillers, then this is well ahead of its time.

M

M - Eine Stadt Sucht einen Mörder
1931 / 99m - Germany
Thriller, Crime
1.5*/5.0*
M poster

Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler

Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler
1922 / 268m - Germany
Thriller, Crime
1.5*/5.0*
Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler poster

Fritz Lang going all out. In this almost 5-hour lasting epic, Lang tried to cram in everything he figured would fit in a crime flick. The result is pretty bloated of course, and in dire need of an editor, but one has to commend Lang on creating one of the earliest blueprint of rise and fall crime cinema.

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The titular Dr. Mabuse is a criminal mastermind (and he sure looks the part too). He has his eyes set on the Berlin underworld, most notably the gambling scene. The law is hot on his tail though, Norbert von Wenk won't rest until he has Mabuse locked up behind bars. Safe to say, that's going to require some effort.

Though the pacing isn't too bad, the plot and characters are pretty simplistic. There's certainly not enough material to fill more than 4 hours of film, I wouldn't be surprised if some shorter cuts were a bit easier to sit through. On the other hand, it's not quite as boring as I feared, so at least this wasn't a complete bust. Recommended if you like 20s German cinema and big crime epics, it's not really for me though.


While the City Sleeps

1956 / 100m - USA
Thriller, Crime
1.0*/5.0*
While the City Sleeps poster

One of Fritz Lang's final films. Lang isn't my favorite 20s German director, but he certainly was a man with talent and vision. A lot of that went missing when he moved to America, where he ended up doing mediocre genre fluff. Point in case, this generic film-noir, which feels much older than it is.

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A serial killer is targeting young women in New York, the son of a media mogul who just took over his father's empire sees it as an opportunity to grow his business. He pressures his three senior executives into getting him scoops, promising them a high-ranking function when they succeed.

The static camera work and the basic black-and-white cinematography make it look like a film from the 40s. The plot is rather generic, the characters are one-dimensional and dreary, and the runtime is too long. I'm sure genre fans will find proper filler here, for me, there's just not enough appeal in these films.

The Big Heat

1953 / 89m - USA
Thriller, Crime
1.0*/5.0*
The Big Heat poster

Fritz Lang goes noir. This is only my third Lang film, so it was a bit disheartening to see he went from directing sprawling mood pieces to dialogue-based narratives. I'm not a big noir fan, too many needless dialogues, twist-based narratives and samey characters. Lang's film did nothing to change that perception.

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On the contrary, The Big Heat is a pretty standard noir flick. When a respected police man kills himself, there are no clues as to why he did it. Inspector Dave Bannion is put on the case and it's no surprise that he discovers it isn't just a regular suicide. A typical noir plot in other words.

The films rarely goes beyond living rooms and bars, people jabber on endlessly and from time to time someone gets killed. The performances are terribly wooden though, the atmosphere is very minimal and I really didn't care for any of the twists. At least the film was rather short, but with nothing there to keep my attention, that didn't offer much consolation.

The Woman in the Window

1944 / 107m - USA
Thriller, Crime
1.0*/5.0*
The Woman in the Window poster

Just last week I watched Lang's first Nibelungen, the contrast couldn't be any bigger. Instead of an imaginative, visual spectacle, The Woman in the Window is a very typical noir, including a crummy murder scene, simplistic characters and lots (and I mean, LOTS) of dialogue. What a waste of talent.

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Richard is a somewhat unassuming professor, who has been warned not to mingle with femme fatales. When he does, against his own better judgement, a scuffle leads to a murder and the professor is in deep trouble. He suddenly finds himself in a very different world, one where blackmail is the norm.

The performances are pretty weak, the story is just a copy/paste job from a million other noirs, the film is way too long for what is just a very basic plot. No doubt noir fans will find a lot to love here, as the film doesn't really deviate from the genre norm, but I think I could probably do with a little noir timeout right about now.

Metropolis

1927 / 153m - Germany
Sci-fi
1.0*/5.0*
Metropolis poster