Friday, November 4, 2016

5 Films: Fritz Lang

M Movie PosterBy Kenny Howell

Today, we move on to another great filmmaker, maybe one of the best of all time, Fritz Lang. Here are his five best films.

5. The Big Heat (1953) - Glenn Ford plays a cop on a mission to take down a crime syndicate with its hands in the police department in this slick Lang thriller.

4. Siegfried (1924) - One of Fritz Lang’s early masterpieces. It is the first part of a two-part, five hour production of the 13th century Norse epic. Early depiction of what fantasy can be in cinema with elaborate sets and jaw dropping visuals.

3. Scarlet Street (1945) - An extremely underrated movie from Lang. Edward G. Robinson made a career out of playing tough guys, but he shows his range in this film as a man that gets trampled on by everyone around him. Robinson plays Christopher Cross, a man who has just celebrated his 25th year as a cashier. When he saves a young woman, Kitty, from an abusive boyfriend, he strikes up a relationship her. Problem is that he leads her to believe he is a famous painter. Kitty and her boyfriend take advantage of the nice man’s lie and sell his work as if it was Kitty’s. Cross has quite the gift, so Kitty becomes a star. This leads the movie to its terrific, inevitable conclusion. Robinson is just about perfect in this role, perfectly capturing a man who just wants to be wanted, whether it be by a woman, or the art crowd.
2. Metropolis (1927) - Another gorgeous early work by Lang, this one a landmark film about a futuristic city that is divided along class lines. The son of one of the city's leaders falls in love with a lower class girl, which pushes things out of control. The sets are stunning, and probably set the standard for many years to come of what the future looks like in cinema. 

1. M (1931) - In the early days of sound, there weren’t many great movies out there because filmmakers were still trying to perfect the new medium. Also, in light of the depression, filmmakers made more escapist fare, keeping people’s minds off their troubles at home. This one embraced the use of sound and wasn’t afraid to take on a tough subject. It stars Peter Lorre as a child murderer, and is based the Dusseldorff child murders. Lang uses the whistling of the murderer to tell the audience when he is about to do his awful deeds. Lang builds tension this way, something directors still use effectively today. The real reason that this film is magnificent is how it handles Lorre’s character. Even today, murderers are often seen as pure evil, but Lang and Lorre portray this character as deeply troubled. He is “caught” by a group of criminals, and his “trial” is in front of these criminals. His confession is of a man who wants to stop doing these things, but can’t. He can’t control his dark impulses, and it is destroying him. Lorre is perfectly cast as the killer. His idiosyncratic ticks work well for a man that can’t come to grips with the horrible things that he does.

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