Category Archives: Fritz Lang

Blu-Ray News #287: The Thousand Eyes Of Dr. Mabuse (1960).

Directed by Fritz Lang
Starring Peter van Eyck, Dawn Addams, Gert Fröbe, Werner Peters, Wolfgang Preiss, Andrea Checchi, Howard Vernon

The Thousand Eyes Of Dr. Mabuse (1960) was the great Fritz Lang’s last film, made after his return to Germany. The picture revives/revisits the sinister villain of his earlier Dr. Mabuse The Gambler (1922) and The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (1933). It’s so cool that Lang was able to circle back to Mabuse, since the themes in these things were obviously close to him. (His 1952 Western Rancho Notorious features a variation on the network of criminals idea found in the Mabuse pictures.)

Thousand Eyes would spawn a series of Mabuse films from the same producer, Artur Brauner. Some of those sequels are pretty good — especially the one Hugo Fregonese did (1964’s The Secret Of Dr. Mabuse), but Mr. Lang is sorely missed.

Eureka Entertainment, the folks who gave us those beautiful Blu-Rays of Lang’s two-part “Indian Epic” a while back, has announced an extras-laden Blu-Ray of The Thousand Eyes Of Dr. Mabuse for May. Along with commentaries and interviews, it will feature the original German track and the Lang-approved English dub — and an alternate ending.

As a huge Fritz Lang fan, I can’t wait to get my eyes (all four of ’em) on Eureka’s The Thousand Eyes Of Dr. Mabuse. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1960, DVD/Blu-ray News, Eureka Entertainment, Fritz Lang

Blu-Ray Review: Moonfleet (1955).

Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced by John Houseman
Screen Play by Jan Lustig & Margaret Fitts
Based on the novel by J. Meade Falkner
Director Of Photography: Robert Planck
Film Editor: Albert Akst
Music by Miklos Rozsa

Cast: Stewart Granger (Jeremy Fox.), Jon Whiteley (John Mohune), George Sanders (Lord Greenwood), Joan Greenwood (Lady Greenwood), Viveca Lindfors (Mrs. Minton), Liliane Montevecchi (Gypsy), Jack Elam (Damen)

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Fritz Lang’s Moonfleet (1955) is a movie people seem to delight in tearing down. It helps that it’s a long way from Lang’s best work — there’s plenty to criticize. But me, I’ll take Lang’s bad over About Anybody Else’s good. And there’s a lot for movie nuts to appreciate here.

If Disney had asked Fritz Lang to direct Treasure Island (1950), you might’ve ended up with something like Moonfleet. There’s a young boy. There are smugglers instead of pirates. And there are lots and lots of opportunities for the kind of deep, dark, moody scenes Lang excelled at.

The story suits Lang so well it’s hard to believe he was brought in as a director-for-hire just a few weeks before the cameras rolled. You see, MGM hated Lang. Fury (1936), his first film for the studio — his first American film period, had been a big hit. But they hated him so much they didn’t work with him again until Moonfleet. They gave him a paltry budget, a script he wasn’t allowed to fine-tune and no approval of the final cut. Lang was not the dictatorial artist here, he was an employee, plain and simple.

Lang was never loved in Hollywood. From studio heads to actors to crew members, few people worked with him more than once.

George Sanders (far right) made three movies with Fritz Lang.

Lang: “In Moonfleet we tried to create a period film entirely in the studio; we shot everything there, even the exteriors.”

Along with being assigned a set-bound period picture with very little time to prepare for it, Lang was handed CinemaScope as part of the package. The director was not a fan of the process, and as Moonfleet shows, it threw a monkey wrench into Lang’s style. ‘Scope pictures at the time relied on longer takes and fewer closeups, giving Lang a helluva time when it came to his usual way of cutting, and types of shots, to create rhythm and suspense. He’d never make another ‘Scope picture.

John Mohune, an orphan (Jon Whitely), arrives in the village of Moonfleet looking for Jeremy Fox (Stewart Granger), an old flame of his deceased mother. Fox is a gentleman wrapped up with a group of smugglers (one of them is Jack Elam!) — and with little time, aptitude or interest, for caring for a young boy. But the search for a hidden diamond brings them together — and makes them the targets of pirates, soldiers and the greedy, crooked Lord and Lady Greenwood (George Sanders and Joan Greenwood). Sanders comes off like his Nazi creep in Man Hunt (1941), just with a wig.

There are some terrific scenes here and there, particularly the ones set in the church graveyard and tombs. Lang keeps the picture planted in the boy’s point of view, much in the way William Cameron Menzies did with Jimmy Hunt in Invaders From Mars (1953), and it works well. It’s probably why I liked this so much as a kid (when I didn’t know, or care, who Fritz Lang was). After all, to a young boy, what’s cooler that pirates and thieves and skeletons? Some lazy editing — the last 10 minutes must’ve been cut at four o’clock on a Friday afternoon — makes it quite obvious that Lang wasn’t able to see his movie across the finish line. But when it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s not good, well, it’s still good.

Warner Archive has done Lang and DP Robert Planck a great service with their new Blu-Ray of Moonfleet. We can now appreciate the somber color palette (the Eastmancolor looks quite good), the glorious painted backdrops and the sheer enormity of some of the MGM sound stages. Maybe that makes this more of a treat for those who want to look at how the movie was made rather than just watch it. But what’s wrong with that? Lang’s movies have always appealed more to us Film Geeks anyway.

Highly recommended. (Remember, it has Jack Elam as a pirate.)

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Filed under 1955, Fritz Lang, George Sanders, MGM, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #263: House By The River (1950).

Directed by Fritz Lang
Starring Louis Hayward, Lee Bowman, Jane Wyatt

Another great filmmaker heads to Republic Pictures after getting the shaft by the majors — and knocks one out of the park.

Like Orson Welles and John Ford, Fritz Lang found Republic a friendlier place to make movies than the major studios had been. His House By The River (1950) is a terrific period noir/melodrama with incredible cinematography by Edward J. Cronjager. It should be stunning on Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber (we’ve seen Kino’s beautiful transfers of Republic pictures). Coming in January 2020.

I’m a huge fan of Lang’s Hollywood movies and it’s great to see some of his more obscure pictures, like this one and Moonfleet (1955), make their way to Blu-Ray. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1950, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fritz Lang, Kino Lorber, Republic Pictures

Blu-Rays News #256: Fritz Lang’s Indian Epic (1959).

The great Fritz Lang returned to Germany to put together two adventure films — The Tiger Of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb (both 1959), got special permission from the Maharana to shoot at Indian locations previously off-limits, and in the end, AIP edited them both down to a single 95-minute thing called Journey To The Lost City (1959) — and had censor trouble thanks to Debra Paget’s barely-there costumes. The original pictures, which were impossible to see for years, are unbelievably cool. (Keep in mind that if Fritz Lang made a movie out of the phone book, I’d be the first one in line.)

Film Movement Classics is bringing The Tiger Of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb to Blu-Ray — with theatrical screenings at NYC’s Film Forum in late September 27. Highly, highly recommended.

By the way, the Warner Archive Blu-Ray of Lang’s Moonfleet (1955) is gorgeous.

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Filed under 1959, AIP, Debra Paget, DVD/Blu-ray News, Film Movement, Fritz Lang

Blu-Ray News #253: Moonfleet (1955).

Directed by Fritz Lang
Starring Stewart Granger, George Sanders, Joan Greenwood, Viveca Lindfors, John Hoyt, Jack Elam

Fritz Lang makes a pirate movie at MGM, in CinemaScope — and puts Jack Elam in it! That should be enough to sell you on Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray of Moonfleet (1955).

Shot almost entirely in the studio (and Lang’s only ‘Scope film), Moonfleet is a really incredible thing to look at. Lang and cinematographer Robert Planck use color and lighting (or lack of it) to create mood. They gypped MGM out of the big bright color pirate extravaganza they were hoping for — but made a movie perfect for Blu-Ray. I’m so excited to see this again, looking better than I’d ever imagined would be possible. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1955, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fritz Lang, George Sanders, MGM, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #212: Human Desire (1954).

Directed by Fritz Lang
Starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford, Edgar Buchanan, Peggy Maley

Human Desire (1954) is small-town noir as only the great Fritz Lang could do it — and Eureka is bringing it to Blu-Ray in all its B&W widescreen glory.

Glenn Ford’s a train engineer who gets involved in murder, blackmail and about every kind of seediness you can think of — all thanks to Fate and Gloria Grahame. Lang and DP Burnett Guffey come up with some stunning visuals, especially around the railroad yard. And while it’s not the seedy masterpiece The Big Heat (1953) is— which first brought Lang, Ford and Grahame together — it shows how Lang’s stylistics can elevate substandard material. (There were all kinds of problems with thing as it came together.)

Lang in high-definition is always a treat. Can’t wait for this.

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Filed under 1954, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fritz Lang, Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame

Blu-Ray News #171: Ministry Of Fear (1944).

Directed by Fritz Lang
Starring Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds, Carl Esmond, Hillary Brooke, Percy Waram, Dan Duryea, Alan Napier

There’s something subversive about Fritz Lang’s movies. Maybe subversive isn’t quite the word. As brilliant as they are, and as polished as they might seem, there’s a B Movie vibe running through a lot of them. Stuff like Western Union (1941), Rancho Notorious (1952) and The Big Heat (1953) are like Republic or Monogram pictures with a much bigger budget, while The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (1933) feels like an art-house Republic serial. (Goebbels had Mabuse banned in Nazi Germany, so it’s got that going for it. Of course, we can thank the Nazis for sending Lang our way in the first place.)

Ministry Of Fear (1944) finds Lang in fine form, turning Graham Greene’s novel into a noir-ish study in paranoia. Ray Milland leaves the nuthouse and is plunged right in the middle of a web of Nazi intrigue. This is the kind of stuff Lang was so good at, offering up one cool sequence after another. I love his American films!

Along with Milland, this one’s got a few of my favorites in it: Dan Duryea (king of the bad guys), Hillary Brooke (who was great on The Abbott & Costello Show) and Alan Napier (Alfred on the Batman TV show).

Anyway, Ministry Of Fear is making its way to Blu-Ray from Powerhouse in the UK in August. Henry Sharp’s cinematography deserves the boost in definition.

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Filed under Dan Duryea, DVD/Blu-ray News, Frank Ferguson, Fritz Lang, Hillary Brooke, Ray Milland

DVD/Blu-Ray News #162: The Woman In The Window (1944).

Directed by Fritz Lang
Starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey, Edmund Breon, Dan Duryea

After seeing Man Hunt (1941) in high school, I figured that if Fritz Lang did it, it was in my best interest to watch it. One of the first movies I tracked down after this realization was The Woman In The Window (1944). It proved my theory.

Mild-mannered professor Edward G. Robinson sees a painting in a store window, then notices that the beautiful woman in the painting (Joan Bennett) is standing next to him. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, Robinson is in a helluva mess and Lang has you completely tangled up in knots.

Kino Lorber is bringing this noir-y masterpiece to Blu-Ray in June. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under Dan Duryea, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fritz Lang, Kino Lorber