Fritz Lang had guessed it: cinema is a complex art that has enormous unexpressed potential. In just a century of life, what man was able to do with it was to reduce it to a freak commercial phenomenon. A circus animal locked in the cage to be released only when the paying audience has to entertain.
Fritz Lang, like other fundamental directors in the history of cinema, has tried to fight this trend and to reveal the greatness of the cinematographic medium. Also, and perhaps even more, from within Hollywood, that the circus had invented it. And he was one of the main inspirers of all the great masters that cinema would have in the following years.
Don’t miss the homage that Jean Luc Godard wanted to pay him, convinced that Fritz Lang was “the cinema”, entrusting him with the role of himself in the legendary film “Contempt”. An iconic character who represents all the classic cinema from which modernity was born.
The Early Years
Fritz Lang born in Vienna on December 5, 1890, his father was an architect, his mother had Jewish descent. His brother was called … ironically … Adolf. His father tries to make him an architect but Fritz is not thrilled by his father’s lifestyle, is interested in painting and moves to the Academy of Graphic Arts. He also reads many books and is interested in literature.
In 1912 he begins to travel incessantly, living above all in Paris, where he too paints on the streets and gets to know the cinema. It was exactly what he was looking for: to animate his paintings, to give movement to his pictorial creations.
Fritz Lang at War
Called back to the ranks of the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I, Fritz Lang fights on the front lines and is wounded multiple times. Awarded medals for valor and no longer deemed fit to fight, in 1918 he took advantage of his hospitalization to write the script for Marriage to the Eccentrics Club and others. But when he goes to see the film at the cinema he won’t even find his name in the credits and he won’t like the film at all. Perhaps it is precisely that episode that will make him decide to redeem himself and become a film director, to create himself the visual language of the films that he had in mind. Meanwhile he also acts in the theater to earn something in a difficult period for everyone.
The First Films
Many films are made in Berlin and he finally manages to get the job to make his first film as a director, Halbblut , which found himself shooting in the midst of episodes of Spartacist armed revolt.
he Then follows in 1919 a second film, Der Herr der Liebe. Both films have been lost. Instead, the following films have come to us: The spiders (the lake of gold), Harakiri and the second part of I spiders: The ship of diamonds.
Spiders are a success, but Lang is disappointed with the production which prevented him from making two films he was very fond of: The Indian Tomb and Doctor Caligari’s Cabinet which was instead entrusted to the last moment to Robert Wiene . So he goes in search of another production company that allows him to grow more.
Melies and most of the other film pioneers had already ended up selling sodas at station kiosks when Fritz Lang started to have success with his films.
His first film was called Destiny (1921), a macabre ballad inspired by German folk tales. Two lovers meet death in the vicinity of a cemetery where the souls of the deceased come back to life. Great success with critics and audiences, recognized as an expressionist masterpiece, full of innovative shots and lighting, gave Lang the reputation of a very talented director.
This was followed by the great success of The Nibelungs (1924), a saga about the history of the German people divided into two parts: Siegfried’s death and Crimild’s revenge. Mythical tale with the visual and architectural grandeur typical of the Metropolis director, shot on a huge budget.
The director’s last silent film is instead A Woman on the Moon (1929), certainly influenced by the short film by Meliès, is a journey of a group of people to discover the lunar soil that becomes an apologue on greed and lust for wealth.
Fritz Lang Summoned by Goebbels
Famous director in Germany Fritz Lang, during the rise of Nazism, was summoned in 1933 by the propaganda minister Goebbels and thought he was doomed. His film The Testament of Doctor Mabuse has just been released and the director has put in the mouth of the protagonist Mabuse, a crazy psychopath who wants to dominate the world with his hypnotic powers, hate slogans uttered by Hitler himself.
Doctor Mabuse is a 1922 film that represented one of the pinnacles of German expressionism. The protagonist is a mad doctor who enriches himself by falsifying money or influencing the stock market with his powers. And it seems like a metaphor for Germany during the Weimar Republic, just as Mabuse looks like Hitler.
Receiving an invitation to appear in the Propaganda Ministry from Goebbels himself could have terrified any man in Germany at the time. It meant going to talk with the evil in person. It could have meant a death sentence.
Fritz Lang in the Minister’s Office
A bare and austere office that could have been that of an ordinary employee, Lang, while Goebbels talks to him with kindness and admiration towards him, looks at the clock out the window, sweats cold, his legs are shaking. He fears that the fear of him will betray him. He can’t wait to be out of that office and go to the bank to withdraw all of his savings to escape Germany.
While Lang fears he won’t make it and be doomed, Goebbels starts talking to him about his and Hitler’s admiration for his work and proposes them to become The Supervisor of National Socialist Cinema. He doesn’t even mention Dr. Mabuse’s insinuating phrases. Instead, he offers him the most important position ever for a director in Nazi Germany: he would decide which films should be made and which ones should not be made. Hitler had not seen in him an enemy but a great personality to convert to the values of National Socialism and enlist in his party.
Lang hides his fear, pretends to be quiet, but continues to dribble sweat. He accepts the job and greets the minister by hurrying to the bank to collect his savings. But he finds it already closed. By now everything is clear from his mind: his future in Germany no longer exists. He is in grave danger. The minister’s proposal meant a definitive crossroads: either stay with us, or you’re done.
That same evening the director takes all the savings he had at home and leaves Germany to go to Paris.
Life and Cinema Experiences
Up until that point, Lang had made films that mirrored his dramatic experiences during the First World War. Small odd jobs to survive, sometimes spying on behalf of the secret service police, fighting in the trenches in the First World War. Wounded several times, he was able to write several scripts during his convalescence, and reached great success in Germany and Europe with the Nibelungen saga. Thanks to the success of that film he was able to make the blockbuster that consecrated him in the history of films, Metropolis.
Fritz Lang in Hollywood
The director moved to Hollywood in the United States in 1934 and became a US citizen in 1939. He Begins to work for the MGM studio making many successful films, with relative artistic autonomy foreseen in the contracts.
Social themed films are Fury (1936), You only live (1937) and once and You and me (1938). Stories of marginalized characters who are no longer able to integrate into society. He then shoots two westerns: The Return of Frank James (1940) and Western Union (1941). Films related to the political context follow, such as Man Hunt, Hangmen Also Die!, Ministry of Fear, Cloak and Dagger.
Fritz Lang and Noir
In the 1940s he became the forerunner of the noir genre: The Woman In The Window , Scarlet Street , Secret beyond the Door and House by the River. The following decade continues to shoot melodramas, suspense films and film noir: Clash By Night (1952), Human Desire, (1954), The Blue Gardenia and The Big Heat (1953), While The City Sleeps and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
Back to Europe
All films that tell the world of mass media that are gaining more and more importance in modern society. Back in Europe Lang feels nostalgia for his roots and decides to return to Germany in the late 1950s and there he makes two adventure films set in India, The Tiger of Eschnapur (1958) and The Indian sepulcher (1960), which achieved good success with the public.
The latest film is The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960), a sort of testament film with which he confronts in key contemporary with the mythical character of Dr. Mabuse created many years earlier. His dystopian vision of a totalitarian dictatorship abandons the violence and oppression of the Nazi era and meets Orwell’s vision of “technological surveillance”. For sixteen long years he didn’t accomplish anything, until he died on August 2, 1976 in his Beverly Hills home.
In all of his films the themes of Destiny recur, his characters are always fighting against fate. His films, even the most commercial and entertaining ones, are nightmares steeped in ominous omens and violence, anguish and death. He has stated several times that they are characters that he found in the deepest dark side of him, with whom he was able to establish an extraordinary relationship of empathy.
Fritz Lang Films
“Destiny” (Der Müde Tod) is a silent film from 1921 directed by Fritz Lang. This cinematic masterpiece showcases the director’s mastery in creating an engaging story through a blend of drama, fantasy, and suspense.
The plot revolves around a young woman who desperately tries to save her beloved from the clutches of Death itself. In a surreal world, Death offers the woman three chances to rescue her loved one from a tragic fate, but with each attempt, the situation becomes increasingly complex. The film explores universal themes such as love, death, and the struggle against adversity.
Fritz Lang’s cinematography in this film is extraordinary, with his use of light and shadow creating a dark and evocative atmosphere. The story is rich in symbolism and allegory, offering multiple interpretations.
“Destiny” is a masterpiece of German expressionist cinema that has influenced numerous filmmakers in the years that followed. Its ability to blend fantastical elements with a profound reflection on the human condition makes it a work of great artistic and cultural value.
Dr. Mabuse (1922)
“Dr. Mabuse” is a silent film from 1922 directed by Fritz Lang. This German psychological thriller, also known as “Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler” in German, is one of the early significant works by director Lang. The film is based on characters created by writer Norbert Jacques.
Plot: The film revolves around the mysterious Dr. Mabuse, a brilliant criminal and hypnotist who uses his mental powers to commit a series of spectacular crimes. Mabuse is a master of mental manipulation and disguise, making him a particularly elusive adversary for the police. Detective Hofmeister is determined to capture Mabuse and thwart his plans of destruction. Throughout the film, the audience is immersed in a dark and surreal world of deception, madness, and mind games.
The film is known for its dark atmosphere and innovative use of cinematic techniques of the time. Lang employs selective focus, the use of mirrors, and visual effects to create a sense of paranoia and instability. Rudolf Klein-Rogge’s portrayal of Dr. Mabuse is extraordinary, bringing to life a complex and ambiguous character.
“Dr. Mabuse” is a classic of German expressionist cinema and was a significant contribution to the development of the psychological thriller genre. The film has influenced numerous filmmakers and remains a highly relevant work in the history of cinema.
The Nibelungs (1924)
“The Nibelungs” is a silent film from 1924 directed by Fritz Lang. This epic German film is based on the medieval epic poem “The Song of the Nibelungs” and represents one of the early significant works by director Lang.
Plot: “The Nibelungs” is an epic tale of forbidden love, betrayal, and revenge set in a fantastical and mythological world. The story focuses on the adventures of Siegfried, a hero who conquers the kingdom of Burgundy and the heart of Kriemhild, the princess of Burgundy. However, greed for power and jealousy will lead to a tragic fate for all the characters involved. The film blends elements of Germanic mythology with drama and action, creating a historical epic with great emotional impact.
“The Nibelungs” is known for its elaborate set design, detailed costumes, and spectacular battle scenes. Lang created an extraordinary visual world that captures the essence of the original epic poem. The film was a major success at the time and helped establish Lang’s reputation as a talented director.
The story of the Nibelungs is one of the most famous sagas in European literature, and Lang’s cinematic adaptation captures its epicness and tragedy in an impressive way.
“Metropolis” is a cinematic masterpiece directed by Fritz Lang in 1927. This German film is an icon of avant-garde cinema and science fiction, with clear influences in the realm of expressionism.
Plot: “Metropolis” is set in a dystopian future where society is divided between the wealthy capitalists who live in the luxurious city of Metropolis and the exploited workers who live underground, operating the machines that keep the city running. The story follows the young son of a wealthy industrialist, Freder, who discovers the harsh living conditions of the workers and falls in love with Maria, a young activist. When Freder’s father, Joh Fredersen, learns of the workers’ rebellion plans led by Maria, he takes a series of actions to suppress the revolt, including the use of a humanoid robot.
“Metropolis” is renowned for its technical innovations and extraordinary set design, featuring a futuristic representation of the city that has become an icon of the genre. The film explores themes of class, power, and alienation and remains a milestone in the history of cinema.
The idea for the film became when he took a trip to New York and understood what the urban and social future of the West was. The dystopian city of Metropolis, subject to strict social rules, is inspired by New York. A city where men are transformed into machines and machines become human. The theme of the automaton taking power over men many years before 2001 A Space Odyssey.
One of the most grandiose colossals of the time that strangely manages to impress even today more than the great contemporary blockbusters. Because the Metropolis images have something great that goes beyond the budget, the costumes, the extras and the special effects. It is the grandeur of Lang’s vision and his figurative genius that embodies our fears of a chilling future. A future that, in part, was then realized. A spectacular visual symphony where in the basement the proletarian world suffers and loses its humanity while the dance parties and entertainment continue on the upper floors.
Catastrophic failure, with an ambiguous interpretation of the revolt of the working class, which seems to be at the mercy of itself without a guide, Metropolis was not well received by the public or critics of the time. To remedy the commercial failure, several versions of different durations were made. But it took decades for people to understand the greatness of this film.
“Spies” is a silent film from 1928 directed by Fritz Lang. This is another significant contribution by the German director to the action and espionage film genre.
Plot: The film follows the story of Haghi, a wealthy banker who is actually a dangerous international spy. Haghi is involved in a series of international intrigues and operates a network of spies working for him. However, his path crosses with that of a young and charming spy, Sonya, who is determined to expose Haghi and his spy network. This sets off a series of high-speed chases, betrayals, and suspense.
“Spies” is known for its breathtaking action sequences, including an epic subway chase scene that has become an icon of action cinema. The film is a notable example of Fritz Lang’s visual style and creative use of staging.
This silent espionage thriller is a significant work in the landscape of German silent cinema and offers an exciting experience of international intrigue, suspense, and action.
Women in the Moon (1929)
“Woman in the Moon” is a silent film from 1929 directed by Fritz Lang, also known as “Frau im Mond” in German. This is a pioneering science fiction film that explores the theme of lunar exploration, anticipating many of the scientific concepts that would later be developed in the context of space exploration.
Plot: The plot follows the journey of a group of scientists and adventurers who seek to reach the Moon. The main protagonist is the rocket engineer Dr. Wolf Helius, who works with a group of people to realize his dream of exploring the Moon. However, there are secrets and rivalries within the group, and the journey to the Moon will not be without dangers and complications.
The film is known for its accurate technical representation of the details of space exploration, including the stages of rocket preparation, launch, and lunar landing. Fritz Lang collaborated with the renowned scientist Hermann Oberth to ensure a scientifically accurate portrayal of space travel.
“Woman in the Moon” is also famous for introducing the concept of the countdown before the launch of a rocket, which later became a common practice in the space age. The film combines elements of science fiction, adventure, and human drama, creating an engaging and visionary story.
“M” is a German film from 1931 directed by Fritz Lang. This is a notable film from the era of German silent cinema, also known as “M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder” in German.
Plot: The film is set in the city of Düsseldorf, where a mysterious serial killer, Hans Beckert, portrayed by Peter Lorre, terrorizes the population, primarily targeting children. The police are on high alert, and the pressure on the community to capture the criminal is palpable. However, when the police fail to catch the killer, organized crime decides to intervene. Criminal gangs begin to hunt down the culprit to protect their interests and restore a sense of order in the city.
The film addresses dark and complex themes, including the psychology of the criminal, morality, and the ethics of summary justice. Peter Lorre’s performance in the role of Beckert is exceptional and contributes to creating a deep ambivalent sympathy for the character.
“M” is a masterpiece of German expressionist cinema and is known for its innovative use of sound, even though it was made during a time when sound cinema was emerging. The film remains a classic of world cinema and an important contribution to the psychological thriller genre.
M is Fritz Lang’s first sound film and is the one he has had the opportunity to shoot with greater freedom. Perhaps the film where his vision, his characters, his favorite themes are affirmed with greater authenticity.
It is a frantic and ruthless manhunt in a German city dominated by an evil and sick atmosphere, without humanity. Although the protagonist is a killer of children, he does not appear more evil than the criminal organizations and the police who are hunting him.
The killer will actually turn out to be a banal person, like so many others. Much more terrifying than him seems the court that judges him in the extraordinary final scene, a Kafkaesque court filmed with impressive expressionist shots, where a crowd is ready to lynch the monster played by Peter Lorre, who begs for forgiveness in a heartbreaking final monologue: blame it is not his, he says, but of a diabolical possession which induces him to commit crimes.
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
“The Testament of Dr. Mabuse” is a 1933 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is the sequel to the 1922 film “Dr. Mabuse” and represents another significant chapter in the filmography of the German director.
Plot: The film begins with Dr. Mabuse, the brilliant criminal and hypnotist from the previous film, confined to a mental institution. However, Mabuse manages to communicate with the outside world through mysterious and hypnotic writings. His evil plans involve a series of crimes, including robberies and bombings. Meanwhile, a detective tries to uncover Mabuse’s identity and stop him.
“The Testament of Dr. Mabuse” is known for its dark atmosphere and creative use of staging by Fritz Lang. The film explores themes of madness, mind control, and the destructive power of the human mind. Rudolf Klein-Rogge’s performance as Mabuse is once again extraordinary.
The film was well-received by critics and serves as a commentary on the political and social instability of the period between the two world wars in Germany. It is a faithful continuation of the character of Mabuse, presenting his malevolent power in a modern context and addressing the fears and anxieties of society at the time.
“Liliom” is a 1934 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a cinematic adaptation of the stage play “Liliom” by Hungarian writer Ferenc Molnár.
Plot: The film tells the story of Liliom, a young rascal and carnival barker who works at an amusement park and circus. Liliom has a relationship with Julie, a woman who works at the park, but their life is marked by poverty and hardship. When Julie becomes pregnant, Liliom decides to commit a robbery to try to secure a better future for her and their child. However, the robbery doesn’t go as planned, and Liliom finds himself in a desperate situation.
The film explores themes of love, redemption, and sacrifice. After his tragic death, Liliom is sent to a place resembling Purgatory, where he has the opportunity to redeem himself and earn a better place in the afterlife through an act of heroic love.
“Liliom” is known for its touching narrative and emotional performances by the cast. Fritz Lang, known for his genre films, provides a more intimate and sentimental story here. The film is an example of how Lang could tackle different themes in his cinematic career.
“Fury” is a 1936 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is an important work by the German director, addressing significant social and political themes of the time.
Plot: The film follows the story of an ordinary man, Ingmar, played by Spencer Tracy, who lives in a small European village. Ingmar is a quiet and respected man, but when his son is unjustly arrested and later dies in prison, Ingmar becomes a determined man seeking justice. His quest for justice leads him to become a leader in a protest movement against injustice and oppression. His struggle puts him in conflict with local authorities and endangers his family.
“Fury” explores themes of oppression, resistance, and the power of peaceful protest. The film also reflects the tumultuous political climate of 1930s Europe, with the rise of Nazism and growing authoritarianism.
Spencer Tracy’s performance in the role of Ingmar is remarkable, and the film is an example of how Fritz Lang addressed social and political themes through cinema. “Fury” remains a work of great relevance in Lang’s filmography and offers a profound reflection on the struggle for justice in a turbulent world.
You Only Live Once (1937)
“You Only Live Once” is a 1937 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a German courtroom drama that explores the theme of legal injustice and the struggle to prove a man’s innocence.
Plot: The film follows the story of Hans Beckert, portrayed by Hans Albers, an ordinary man who is arrested and accused of a murder he claims he did not commit. Despite his protests of innocence, Beckert is wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. His family and friends are determined to prove his innocence and join together in the fight to find evidence that can exonerate him. Meanwhile, Beckert tries to survive in prison and maintain his dignity despite the hardships.
“You Only Live Once” addresses themes of miscarriage of justice, legal corruption, and the quest for truth. The film offers a critical reflection on justice and the fragility of the legal system.
Hans Albers’ performance in the role of Beckert is remarkable, and the film is an example of Fritz Lang’s talent in directing intense human dramas. The director uses the film to explore the nuances of human psychology and morality in the context of injustice. “You Only Live Once” is a significant work in Lang’s filmography and remains a powerful story of justice and determination.
You and Me (1938)
“You and Me” is a 1938 film directed by Fritz Lang. This American film is a departure from Lang’s earlier German works and is notable for its unique blend of genres.
Plot: The film tells the story of Mr. Morris, played by George Raft, who runs a department store’s music department and Miss Johnson, portrayed by Sylvia Sidney, a woman with a troubled past. Both characters have secrets and hidden backgrounds, and they form an unlikely romantic connection. However, when their criminal pasts catch up with them, they are forced to confront their past mistakes and make difficult choices.
“You and Me” is known for its innovative mixture of elements from various genres, including drama, romance, musical, and even a touch of surrealism. It features musical numbers that are seamlessly woven into the narrative, adding to the film’s unique atmosphere.
Fritz Lang’s direction brings a sense of tension and moral complexity to the story, and the film ultimately explores themes of redemption and the possibility of finding love and forgiveness despite one’s past. “You and Me” is a departure from Lang’s earlier works, and it showcases his versatility as a director in the Hollywood studio system.
The Return of Frank James (1940)
“The Return of Frank James” is a 1940 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a western that serves as a sequel to the 1939 film “Jesse James” and is based on the lives of the notorious outlaws Jesse and Frank James.
Plot: The film tells the story of Frank James, portrayed by Henry Fonda, the legendary outlaw and brother of Jesse James. After Jesse’s death, Frank tries to lead a peaceful life away from crime and violence. However, when his brother is killed by a man named Bob Ford, Frank decides to seek justice. He embarks on a mission to track down Ford and bring him to face the law.
The story addresses themes of revenge, justice, and redemption. Frank James is depicted as a man tormented by his brother’s death and the need to make the culprit pay. Throughout the film, a conflict emerges between the desire for revenge and the desire for legal justice.
“The Return of Frank James” is a well-crafted western with a memorable performance by Henry Fonda in the lead role. The film continues the narrative of the James brothers’ story and offers an exploration of complex moral dilemmas.
Western Union (1941)
“Western Union” is a 1941 film directed by Fritz Lang. It is a western that combines elements of adventure, drama, and intrigue.
Plot: The film is set during the era of the construction of the first transcontinental telegraph line in the United States, connecting the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast. The protagonist, Vance Shaw, portrayed by Randolph Scott, is a former outlaw who decides to seek a new life by working for Western Union, the company responsible for building the telegraph line.
However, his decision to change his life clashes with his dark past and the tensions between the laborers constructing the line and the Native Americans who oppose the project. Vance must face personal challenges and risk his life to ensure the success of Western Union.
The film explores themes of redemption, cultural conflicts, and the role of technology in the conquest of the American West. Fritz Lang, known for his sophisticated direction, delivers an engaging narrative set in a fascinating historical context.
Man Hunt (1941)
“Man Hunt” is a 1941 film directed by Fritz Lang. It is a wartime espionage thriller set during World War II.
Plot: The film follows the story of Alan Thorndike, portrayed by Walter Pidgeon, a British hunter who finds himself in Berlin just before the outbreak of World War II. During a hunt in the German woods, Thorndike encounters Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and attempts to assassinate him but fails to complete the mission. He is captured by the Gestapo but manages to escape.
Thus begins a manhunt as Thorndike tries to make his way back home to England while being pursued by Nazi agents. Throughout the film, he encounters various individuals who either help or hinder him in his journey to evade arrest.
“Man Hunt” is a gripping thriller that explores themes of espionage, resistance, and the fight against Nazism. The film captures the tense and perilous atmosphere of wartime Europe and is known for its expert direction by Fritz Lang.
Hangmen Also Die (1943)
“Hangmen Also Die!” is a 1943 film directed by Fritz Lang and co-produced with the Italian director Giuseppe De Santis. This film is a notable example of anti-Nazi cinema and was made during World War II.
Plot: The film’s plot is set in Prague during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. It follows the story of a Czechoslovak resistance group that attempts to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, one of the top Nazi officials and a key architect of the “Final Solution.” Heydrich is nicknamed “The Hangman of Prague” for his brutal oppression of the Czechoslovak people.
The film focuses on the planning and execution of the assassination attempt against Heydrich by the resistance members. The story explores the challenges, risks, and consequences of this bold act of resistance against the Nazi regime.
“Hangmen Also Die!” is known for its strong anti-Nazi message and its courageous depiction of the Czechoslovak people’s struggle against Nazi occupation. The film was made during a wartime period and stands as an important historical and cinematic document.
Ministry of Fear (1944)
“Ministry of Fear” is a 1944 film directed by Fritz Lang. It is a psychological thriller based on the novel of the same name by Graham Greene.
Plot: The story revolves around Stephen Neale, portrayed by Ray Milland, a man recently discharged from a mental institution. During a visit to a charity fair, Neale wins a cake in a lottery and discovers that a secret message is hidden inside the cake. This plunges him into a web of espionage, intrigue, and murder.
Neale becomes entangled with a group of mysterious individuals, including an enigmatic woman played by Marjorie Reynolds and a British agent portrayed by Alan Napier. He must face perilous situations while trying to uncover the truth behind the cryptic message and who is responsible for his difficult predicament.
The film is known for its atmosphere of suspense and mystery, characteristic of film noir. Fritz Lang provides skillful direction, creating a dark and tension-filled atmosphere. “Ministry of Fear” is an intriguing psychological thriller that questions reality and identity in a context of espionage and paranoia.
The Woman in the Window (1944)
“The Woman in the Window” is a 1944 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a well-known film noir thriller featuring a complex plot and a talented cast.
Plot: The film follows the story of Professor Richard Wanley, portrayed by Edward G. Robinson, a respected academic and member of a literary club. One day, while in the city on his own, Wanley is drawn to a portrait of a woman in an art gallery window. He decides to visit the portrait and becomes involved in a series of events that lead him to an encounter with the woman in the portrait, Alice Reed, played by Joan Bennett.
After a night of drinking and conversation with Alice, Wanley finds himself embroiled in a murder situation. The plot further complicates as Wanley and Alice attempt to cover up the murder and evade police investigation.
“The Woman in the Window” is known for its intricate web of suspense and mystery. Fritz Lang creates mounting tension as the protagonist becomes increasingly entangled in a web of lies and deception. The film is a classic example of the noir genre and offers a deep exploration of the consequences of our actions.
Scarlet Street (1945)
“Scarlet Street” is a 1945 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a well-known film noir that features a complex plot and a talented cast.
Plot: The film follows the story of Christopher Cross, portrayed by Edward G. Robinson, a middle-aged clerk who is dissatisfied with his monotonous life. One evening, Cross encounters a mysterious woman named Kitty March, played by Joan Bennett, who convinces him to believe she is an art connoisseur and deceives him into thinking he is a talented painter. Cross, infatuated with Kitty, decides to give her his savings to fund her “artistic career.”
As Cross continues to financially support Kitty and work on paintings for her, he discovers that the woman is in a relationship with a younger man, Johnny, portrayed by Dan Duryea. The plot further complicates when a murder occurs, and Cross becomes entangled in a web of deceit, betrayal, and blackmail.
“Scarlet Street” is known for its dark noir tone and Edward G. Robinson’s extraordinary performance in the lead role. The film offers a profound reflection on the degradation of morality and disillusionment and is considered one of Fritz Lang’s masterpieces in the noir genre.
Cloak and Dagger (1946)
“Cloak and Dagger” is a 1946 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a wartime espionage thriller set during World War II.
Plot: The film follows the story of a university professor, Alvah Jesper, portrayed by Gary Cooper, who is recruited by the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) for a secret mission in Italy during World War II. His mission is to locate and destroy a secret Nazi laboratory producing chemical weapons.
Jesper infiltrates behind enemy lines and works with an Italian resistance agent, Gina, played by Lilli Palmer, to carry out the mission. Throughout the film, they face various dangers and challenges as they seek to complete their vital task.
“Cloak and Dagger” is known for its realistic portrayal of the world of espionage during the war and offers a gripping and tense narrative. Fritz Lang, famous for his directing skills in the noir and thriller genres, provides a gritty and authentic look at the lives of secret agents during the conflict.
Secret Beyond the Door (1948)
“Secret Beyond the Door” is a 1948 film directed by Fritz Lang. It is a psychological thriller with elements of mystery and suspense.
Plot: The film follows the story of Celia, portrayed by Joan Bennett, a young woman who marries an architect named Mark Lamphere, played by Michael Redgrave. Celia begins to suspect that her husband is hiding dark secrets, particularly regarding a locked room in their house.
As Celia tries to uncover the truth behind the mysterious room and the peculiarities of Mark’s behavior, she becomes embroiled in a series of unsettling and menacing events. The plot unfolds as a psychological thriller in which the protagonist desperately seeks to understand what lies behind that closed door.
“Secret Beyond the Door” is known for its atmosphere of suspense and Joan Bennett’s performance as Celia. The film addresses themes of paranoia, obsession, and the darker aspects of the human mind. Fritz Lang’s direction contributes to creating an intense and suspenseful atmosphere.
House by the River (1950)
“House by the River” is a 1950 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a dramatic thriller based on a novel by A.P. Herbert.
Plot: The film is set in the early 20th century and follows the story of Stephen Byrne, portrayed by Louis Hayward, a mystery novelist who accidentally kills a young maid in his house by the river. To cover up his crime, Stephen involves his brother John, played by Lee Bowman, in disposing of the body.
As the plot unfolds, tensions between the two brothers emerge as they try to hide the terrible secret. The situation becomes even more complicated when the maid’s body is discovered, leading to a police investigation.
“House by the River” is known for its dark and intense portrayal of a crime and its consequences. Fritz Lang creates a tense and dramatic atmosphere as he explores themes of guilt, remorse, and justice. The film offers a haunting perspective on the human psychology when faced with a terrible mistake.
American Guerrilla in the Philippines (1950)
“American Guerrilla in the Philippines” is a 1950 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a war film based on real events during World War II.
Plot: The film tells the story of an American aviator named Ensign Chuck Palmer, portrayed by Tyrone Power, who, after being shot down during an air raid over the Japanese-occupied Philippines, finds himself stranded behind enemy lines. Palmer joins a group of Filipino guerrillas who are fighting against the Japanese occupation and begins to fight alongside them.
The plot follows the challenges and dangers faced by Palmer and the guerrillas as they resist Japanese occupation and hope for a future with allied support. Throughout the film, love stories and human relationships develop between Palmer and the Filipinos.
“American Guerrilla in the Philippines” is based on real events and provides a perspective on the Filipino resistance struggle against the Japanese during World War II. The film is known for its action scenes and for depicting a lesser-known part of wartime history.
Rancho Notorious (1952)
“Rancho Notorious” is a 1952 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a western with elements of noir that features a plot of revenge and mystery.
Plot: The film follows the story of Vern Haskell, portrayed by Arthur Kennedy, a man whose fiancée was killed during a robbery. Determined to find the culprit and avenge her death, Vern sets out to track down the criminal and discovers that he has fled to a place called “Chuck-a-Luck,” a ranch run by the beautiful Altar Keane, played by Marlene Dietrich.
Vern infiltrates Chuck-a-Luck under a false name and begins to investigate among the ranch’s employees in search of the culprit. Throughout the film, an intricate web of lies, betrayals, and vendettas emerges as Vern gets closer to the truth.
“Rancho Notorious” is known for its dark atmosphere and Marlene Dietrich’s performance. The film combines elements of the western genre with those of film noir, creating a gripping and mysterious tale of revenge.
Clash by Night (1952)
“Clash by Night” is a 1952 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a romantic drama with elements of film noir.
Plot: The film follows the story of Mae Doyle, portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck, a woman who returns to her coastal hometown after a failed marriage. Mae starts working at a fish cannery run by Jerry D’Amato, played by Marilyn Monroe. Mae marries Jerry to secure a stable future, but she soon realizes that their marriage is unsatisfying.
The plot further complicates when Mae falls in love with Earl Pfeiffer, portrayed by Robert Ryan, an unstable and troubled man. Mae finds herself entangled in a love triangle that tests her choices and priorities.
“Clash by Night” explores themes of complex relationships, dissatisfaction, and inner conflicts. The film is known for its performances and Fritz Lang’s direction, which creates an intense and emotionally charged atmosphere.
The Blue Gardenia (1953)
“The Blue Gardenia” is a 1953 film directed by Fritz Lang. It is a noir thriller featuring a plot of mystery and suspense.
Plot: The film follows the story of Norah Larkin, portrayed by Anne Baxter, a young woman working as a switchboard operator. After a night out with a colleague, Norah wakes up at her home with no recollection of what happened during the night. She discovers from the newspapers that a man has been murdered and fears that she may be involved in the crime.
The plot unfolds as Norah desperately tries to uncover the truth about the murder and her potential involvement. During her investigations, she becomes entangled with a journalist played by Richard Conte and a detective played by Raymond Burr.
“The Blue Gardenia” is known for its dark noir tone and its depiction of Norah’s paranoia and anxiety as she tries to untangle herself from her predicament. The film provides a haunting perspective on the consequences of a night of excess.
The Big Heat (1953)
“The Big Heat” is a 1953 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a well-known film noir featuring a plot of mystery and tension.
Plot: The story is set in a small town and follows detective Dave Bannion, portrayed by Glenn Ford, as he investigates the mysterious death of a colleague. His investigations lead him to uncover a network of corruption within the police department and local power players.
During his quest for the truth, Bannion clashes with a dangerous gangster named Mike Lagana, played by Alexander Scourby, and his manipulative and dangerous girlfriend, Debby Marsh, portrayed by Gloria Grahame. The plot unfolds as an intricate web of intrigue and revenge.
“The Big Heat” is known for its dark atmosphere and its raw depiction of the darker side of law and order. The film is considered a masterpiece of the noir genre and offers a profound reflection on corruption and morality.
Human Desire (1954)
“Human Desire” is a 1954 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a dramatic noir based on a novel by Émile Zola.
Plot: The film follows the story of Jeff Warren, portrayed by Glenn Ford, a war veteran who returns to his life as a railroad worker. He becomes embroiled in a series of events when he encounters Carl Buckley, played by Broderick Crawford, a railroad foreman, and Carl’s wife Vicki, portrayed by Gloria Grahame.
When Jeff discovers that Vicki is involved in a dangerous affair with a influential man, the plot further complicates. Jeff finds himself caught in a spiral of betrayals, murders, and intrigues as he navigates through the complex web of relationships.
“Human Desire” is known for its dark noir tone and intense performances by the cast. The film explores themes of desire, jealousy, and morality, offering a compelling perspective on the consequences of human actions.
“Moonfleet” is a 1955 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is an adventure film set in the 18th century, based on a novel by J. Meade Falkner.
Plot: The story is set in the coastal town of Moonfleet and follows the adventures of a young orphan named John Mohune, portrayed by Jon Whiteley. John arrives in Moonfleet to search for his uncle, Jeremy Fox, played by Stewart Granger. He discovers that his uncle is involved in smuggling activities and that the town is a den of thieves and smugglers.
John becomes embroiled in the adventures and dangers of Moonfleet as he seeks to uncover the secret of an ancient hidden diamond. Throughout the film, a special relationship between John and Jeremy emerges as they face challenges and adventure together.
“Moonfleet” is known for its period setting and adventurous spirit. The film offers a story of friendship, courage, and mystery in a captivating historical backdrop.
While the City Sleeps (1956)
“While the City Sleeps” is a 1956 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a dramatic noir with elements of a thriller.
Plot: The film follows the story of Ed Beaumont, portrayed by Dana Andrews, a journalist who works for a powerful newspaper editor, Walter Kyne, played by Vincent Price. When Kyne becomes involved in a murder, Beaumont decides to cover it up to protect him.
The plot further complicates when Beaumont becomes a key witness in a trial against a powerful gangster, Nick Varna, portrayed by George Sanders. Beaumont finds himself caught in a dangerous power play between the world of journalism and the world of crime.
“While the City Sleeps” is known for its intricate plot and the performances of the actors. The film explores themes of corruption, power, and morality in a big city. Fritz Lang’s direction creates a dark and tense atmosphere that contributes to the noir atmosphere of the film.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)
“Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” is a 1956 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a legal thriller with elements of suspense.
Plot: The film follows the story of Tom Garrett, portrayed by Dana Andrews, a journalist who is against the death penalty and wants to prove how easy it is to convict an innocent man. To do so, Garrett plans to frame himself for murder with the help of a friend, and then be arrested and put on trial.
However, things take an unexpected turn when Garrett’s friend dies in an accident before Garrett can reveal his part of the plan. Garrett finds himself in a desperate situation as he tries to prove his innocence and expose the corrupt legal system.
“Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” explores the theme of justice and the quest for truth at all costs. The film offers a compelling perspective on the legal system and the consequences of an individual’s actions.
The Tiger of Eschnapur (1959)
“The Tiger of Eschnapur” is a 1959 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is an adventurous film set in India.
Plot: The film follows the story of Harald Berger, portrayed by Paul Hubschmid, a German architect who is invited to work in India for the prince of Eschnapur. Once in India, Harald falls in love with Seetha, played by Debra Paget, a temple dancer. However, their love is hindered by traditions and the prince’s opposition.
The plot unfolds with court intrigues, betrayals, and adventures as Harald and Seetha try to overcome the challenges that threaten their relationship. The film also explores the theme of cultural tensions between the West and the East.
“The Tiger of Eschnapur” is known for its evocative set design and exotic setting in India. The film is the first part of a diptych, followed by “The Indian Tomb,” both directed by Fritz Lang.
The Indian Tomb (1959)
“The Indian Tomb” is a 1959 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is the second part of a diptych, preceded by “The Tiger of Eschnapur,” both set in India.
Plot: The film continues the story of Harald Berger, portrayed by Paul Hubschmid, and Seetha, played by Debra Paget, as they search for a legendary place, the “Indian Tomb,” where a great treasure is said to be hidden. During their adventure, they face deadly dangers, intrigues, and obstacles as they strive to reach their goal.
The plot develops with further tensions and obstacles among the characters as they pursue the treasure and struggle to survive. The film also explores themes of greed, passion, and the quest for ancient secrets.
“The Indian Tomb” maintains the exotic setting in India and the adventurous atmosphere of its predecessor. Both films are known for their evocative set design and Fritz Lang’s direction.
The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960)
“The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse” is a 1960 film directed by Fritz Lang. This is a psychological thriller and a sequel to some of the previous Mabuse films directed by the same director.
Plot: The film follows the investigations of Inspector Karl Lohmann, portrayed by Gert Fröbe, who is trying to unmask Dr. Mabuse, a psychopathic criminal genius. Mabuse has managed to communicate telepathically with his accomplices and influence their actions from behind the bars of a criminal asylum.
The plot unfolds with complex intrigues, plot twists, and suspense as Lohmann desperately tries to stop Mabuse before he can carry out his evil plans.
“The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse” is known for its unsettling atmosphere and the portrayal of absolute evil embodied in the character of Mabuse. The film is an example of Fritz Lang’s talent in creating gripping psychological thrillers.