Watching Lang

Chronological assessment of a selection of Lang's work.
Ordered from high to low.
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1.
M (1931)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt. (117 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 9/10
The benchmark by which I rated Lang's movies was M, which I had seen before and gave a 9/10. On re-watch M still is a strong movie and I found it a satisfying experience. While it could be argued that it could have been more accurate or how it introduces the various opinion positions a little too easy, it does make its point effectively and well. Somehow it is just as actual today, and perhaps even more so with discussions dominating media whenever the discussion comes up. M provides an interesting point of view of the criminal versus the outspoken mass, ultimately showing how very grey and difficult a discussion this is.
Cinematically, Lang is very refined here. Lang is very comfortable in his first talkie, although there are certain moments when all sound mutes. Somehow, though perhaps unintended, this does the movie favours and works to emphasise what is happening. The final half hour is cinematic gold.
While still a 9/10 I am moving M slightly down. Still top 100, just a little less high than it was. ” - sledgehammer86
 
2.
Metropolis (1927)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences. (153 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 8/10
Metropolis on second watch got better. When I first saw it I admired it for its vision, inventiveness and visuals, but also found it a bit boring. I can say now that I genuinely like a lot of it. Its vision is stellar, creating a visual world that perhaps the modern world is already ahead of but looks so imaginative and original. The designs evoke human characteristics such as the overheated machine in one of the early scenes. The production is huge, with large amounts of extras, beautifully directed, almost choreographed. Of course, the subject is as relevant as ever today.

Perhaps an atypical movie for Lang, who usually worked in the crime, thriller genre, but it is quintessential Lang. Lang morphes his visuals according to the scenes' emotions. Anger, fury and danger make for black rooms and shadows. ” - sledgehammer86
 
3.
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A new crime wave grips the city and all clues seem to lead to the nefarious Dr. Mabuse, even though he has been imprisoned in a mental asylum for nearly a decade. (122 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 8/10
Lang's final German movie (excepting his 1960 final movie) before he fled to America. This is really Lang flaunting everything he has learned up until this point. Lang's earlier Dr. Mabuse, die Spieler was a good portrait of the mastermind criminal Dr. Mabuse. But this work, eleven years later, fully realises what he only got close to in the first Dr. Mabuse: serving up a totally enigmatic mastermind criminal setting up a dense maze of criminal undertakings.

And indeed, the plot to Testament is dazzling and unpredictable. Crazy and over-the-top in a way, but also tongue-in-cheek and self-aware, keeping everything aboard. Reusing the character of Inspector Lohmann from M works: Lohmann is of the same annoying, but symphatic nature as Dalziel (from Dalziel & Pascoe).

Was sound still a little noticeable as a first in M, here Lang uses the new medium to full effect, using various room/environmental sounds to enhance atmosphere.
There are a number of iconic visuals and ideas here, which I am sure I have seen in many other later movies (Psycho, any of the SPECTRE-led James Bonds and Lynch's Mulholland Drive come to mind immediately). ” - sledgehammer86
 
4.
Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge (1924)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
After Siegfried's dead, Kriemhild marries Etzel, the King of the Huns. She gives birth to a child, and invites her brothers for a party... (129 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 8/10
Right from the start of the second part of Die Nibelungen it becomes clear Siegfried showed us the polished side of the coin and now the tainted side of the coin is revealed. Comparing Siegfried and Kriemhilds Rache is somewhat like comparing The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (not so much in quality, because TH and LOTR are much further apart in quality). Siegfried, just like The Hobbit, is lighter and relatively joyful (there is of course enough drama). Kriemhilds Rache is darker and more intense. I definitely enjoyed Kriemhilds Rache best out of the two.
Kriemhilds Rache is not only thematically darker, but also visually, a little more in the classic Lang style.
The performance of Kriemhild changes significantly inbetween the movies and is more powerful here. Etzel is played by the same actor who played Dr. Mabuse and is virtually unrecognisable here, which is largely to the make-up but also due to his range in acting.
This surely must have been a definite influence on Kurosawa's Ran. ” - sledgehammer86
 
5.
Woman in the Moon (1929)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A tenacious scientist blasts off for the moon in hopes of riches that may be found there. (156 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 8/10
Seeing the production logo at the beginning, I feared, as the same production company's quality control put that non-fitting MIDI track under Spione and ruined it with it. Then I heard the first MIDI notes and nearly turned the movie off. I am glad I did not: 1. this was a great movie, 2. while MIDI, at least the composer managed to come up with a score that fit the scenes.

Frau im Mond is not perfect. It is too long for one thing, and takes its time before it really gets going. But it is also passionate. And a little cute even when we see the rocket designs and animations.
Despite its length, Frau im Mond stays interesting as it moves from genre to genre: from drama to crime to romance, then to a majestic rocket launch, then to a claustrophobic journey, then to an action/sci-fi thriller on the moon.
The rocket launch and its build up were well-done and felt majestic. Using miniature models, somehow it worked very well, even with aerial shots over the miniatures.
The moon desert and rocks looked surprisingly good, better than some of those '60s sci-fi B-movies. Lang gets the best out of his sets with vivid blacks and whites. Especially the cave looks splendid, and looks fittingly Lang.
The romance story is perhaps the heart of the movie. It feels honest, and understated enough. ” - sledgehammer86
 
6.
Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (1924)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Siegfried, son of King Sigmund, hears of the beautiful sister of Gunter, King of Worms, Kriemhild. On his way to Worms... (97 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 8/10
The restored print looks stunning, especially with its golden dye that is not present in many older versions (I read..).
This first installment of Die Nibelungen, based on the German myth (on which Wagner also based part of his Nibelungen) is considerably epic for its time. Sure, the dragon puppet is easily defeated, because in 1924 it was hard to make a dragon move quickly. But still, this is a large scale dragon, with every part of its body moving (a bit), and when fire comes out of its mouth it does look great.
The fantasy vibe it has going for the first full hour is convincing. Once Brunhild has been conquered and the story moves to the castle there is a slight drop of interest. But still, a big accomplishment for its time. ” - sledgehammer86
 
7.
Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Arch-criminal Dr. Mabuse sets out to make a fortune and run Berlin. Detective Wenk sets out to stop him. (242 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 7/10
This should actually be two entries, as originally it was played as two movies shortly after one another. Dr. Mabuse is definitely the movie where the classic Lang style is established completely, with dark visuals and a plot that is exciting but far more challenging than the Hollywood productions of the time.
Dr. Mabuse distinguishes itself by the (for its time) unusually clever plot, with many turns and surprises and a general intellect. I found many parallels to things that would be seen during James Bond movies. The character of Dr. Mabuse is enigmatic enough to make him an interesting arch-enemy.
While not necessarily dialogue (intertitle)-shy Lang works very visually to get across plot advances. This works marvelous at points. There are a number of great scenes in Dr. Mabuse, such as the stock exchange scene, the first card cheating game, the seance, the imagined Dr. Mabuses haunting the Count, the theatre scene, where one can sit back and enjoy how Lang twists the plot and surprises. But here I also found a weakness. There were several things exclusively communicated by visuals, not by aiding text slides, such as Dr. Mabuse trying to hypnose the inspector. When two-and-a-half-hours later a text slide mentioned this it was of course a bit too late. There were other instances where I thought Lang's visuals were evocative and atmospheric, but perhaps not getting across entirely what was happening. At nearly four hours it was sometimes hard to pay attention when getting lost on some crucial details that seemed to be not communicated properly.
Dr. Mabuse makes for recommended viewing, for its cleverness and spun-out advanced plot, but is also somewhat frustating at points, trampling over its own feet a little. ” - sledgehammer86
 
8.
The Woman in the Window (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
When a conservative middle-aged professor engages in a minor dalliance with a femme fatale, he is plunged into a nightmarish quicksand of blackmail and murder. (107 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 7/10
Another stylish noirish movie that very much feels like a Hitchcock. Lang may be less of an oddball than in his German period, but the movies he makes during this period are watchable and enjoyable suspenseful thrillers. ” - sledgehammer86
 
9.
Destiny (1921)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
When a woman's fiancé disappears, Death gives her three chances to save him from his fate. (114 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 7/10
Lang is on the doorsteps of greatness here, near finding his style, in a very decent movie that was Alfred Hitchcocks favourite.
There is a stunning scene here where the woman ascends long stairs with Death to arrive in a room of candles representing the lifes of those on earth. The candle room scene is quite haunting. The rest of the movie, while more than decent, is not able to touch this scene. ” - sledgehammer86
 
10.
Ministry of Fear (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Stephen Neale has just been released from an asylum during World War 2 in England when he stumbles on a deadly Nazi spy plot by accident, and tries to stop it. (86 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 7/10
If I had not known I would have said without hesitation this was a Hitchcock movie. In story, acting and visuals it has everything in common with earlier Hitchcock. It must have been an influence on Hitchcock (...searching, yes: Google confirms this), but perhaps Hitchcock (who was becoming a well-known name having made Rebecca and Shadow of a Doubt) was an influence on Lang as well...
Again, this is solid, like everything Lang seems to do.
The visuals are consistently good. Stunning visual highlights are missing, but this is consistently of a high visual level. ” - sledgehammer86
 
11.
The Big Heat (1953)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Tough cop Dave Bannion takes on a politically powerful crime syndicate. (90 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 7/10
This comes out as the best of Lang's American period on IMDB. It certainly contains the best-written script of his American movies. Visually it is good too, but these later Langs miss a little edge that I still see in Ministry of Fear for example. ” - sledgehammer86
 
12.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A novelist aided by his future father-in-law conspires to frame himself in the murder of a stripper as part of an effort to ban capital punishment. (80 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 7/10
A little far-fetched perhaps, but the set-up of the plot is interesting and got my attention right away. ” - sledgehammer86
 
13.
Fury (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
When a wrongly accused prisoner barely survives a lynch mob attack and is presumed dead, he vindictively decides to fake his death and frame the Mob for his murder. (92 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 7/10
The start of Lang's first American movie worried me. Suddenly everything seemed to be a lot more generic, American Hollywood, smaltzy soundtrack and all, despite the stylish film noir visuals. Halfway through it got better, darker and more vengeful. It is a step down expressively from his German expressionist period, still decent though, and his most straight-forward and streamlined feature yet. ” - sledgehammer86
 
14.
The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Reporter Peter Barter gets murdered while driving to his tv station. Commisioner Kras gets a phone call... (103 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 7/10
A rather weird mix of American and German style Lang. This is a little more edgy and unique than all of his American movies, but while going for experimentation this also feels a little diffuse. Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse had a dazzling quality to its unpredictable plot, there is less of the effect here. While not a highlight of his career, Lang ends his career with a movie that is nonetheless decent. ” - sledgehammer86
 
15.
Scarlet Street (1945)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
When a man in mid-life crisis befriends a young woman, her venal fiancé persuades her to con him out of the fortune they mistakenly assume he possesses. (103 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 7/10
Somehow even the movies I put near the bottom of this list seem to score a 7/10. Lang has undeniably made a lot of solid movies (although I have skipped his less scoring offers, but even his lowest scoring movie on IMDB is still 6.2!). Scarlet Street starts out a little as a copy of The Woman in the Window, with three same actors and a similar plot, but quickly becomes a plot of its own. I found the final 15 minutes the best, with an intense scene and a sad but beautiful end. ” - sledgehammer86
 
16.
Die Spinnen, 1. Teil - Der Goldene See (1919)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Kay Hoog finds a message that indicates that some Incas are still alive, but the secret organisation "Die Spinnen" wants the Incas' gold.... (81 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 7/10
This is actually quite cool: an adventure movie with a hero confronted with a shady organisation called 'Die Spinnen'. This is highly reminiscent of both Indiana Jones and James Bond (SPECTRE in particular). I would take this any day over some of the weaker installments (Crystal Skull, Die Another Day) of those two series. ” - sledgehammer86
 
17.
You Only Live Once (1937)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
The public defender's secretary and an ex-convict get married and try to make a life together, but a series of disasters sends their lives spiraling out of control. (86 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 6/10
Like Fury, this has a more generic American vibe to it, which is to me less interesting than his earlier inventive style. Similar to Fury, it gets more interesting along the line, with some distinctive Langese shots in there. While solid, it does not stand out as much. ” - sledgehammer86
 
18.
Spies (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
The mastermind behind a ubiquitous spy operation learns of a dangerous romance between a Russian lady in his employ and a dashing agent from the government's secret service. (178 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 6/10
This was an extremely difficult movie to judge. When it was restored somewhere in 2004 (which is great), some idiot decided to record a MIDI soundtrack for it, not even using MIDI as a mere means to then use good plugins for the sounds, but just the 1 megabyte General MIDI soundbank! Musically, lots of it felt like random piano noodling. I feel a lot of the tension and darkness of the movie did not transfer therefore as the music was just too annoying. Sound off did not work for me either.

On to the movie as that is what this review should be about: since starting my Lang marathon every movie felt like a step upward, where Lang was broadening his technique and vision. Spione was made after the financial disaster of Metropolis and is a smaller production. While it feels solid, it does bring less new things than any of the previous Lang movies. It is highly reminiscent of James Bond movies (see also Die Spinnen), but of course some thirty years earlier. There is a great train scene as well as a great ending.
I am having trouble judging this accurately due to the soundtrack, but giving it the benefit of the doubt I would say 7/10. ” - sledgehammer86
 
19.
Die Spinnen, 2. Teil - Das Brillantenschiff (1920)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Kay Hoog wants to stop the organisation "Die Spinnen" to get a certain diamond, that will give the owning woman the crown of Asia... (104 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 6/10
See my review for first part of Die Spinnen. This continues the story. It is a little less concise and clear perhaps, making the first part the best of the two. ” - sledgehammer86
 
20.
While the City Sleeps (1956)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A serial killer has been killing beautiful women in New York, and the new owner of a media company offers a high ranking job to the 1st administrator who can get the earliest scoops on the case. (100 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 6/10
A mixed bag. I like some of it, as it has a dirty city feel to it. But I like the newspaper angle from which this story about a killer in the city is told less. ” - sledgehammer86
 
21.
Clash by Night (1952)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Mae Doyle comes back to her hometown a cynical woman. Her brother Joe fears that his love, fish cannery worker Peggy, may wind up like Mae. Mae marries Jerry and has a baby; she is happy but restless, drawn to Jerry's friend Earl. (105 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ 6/10
I don't know if this marital drama was the right fit for Lang. In a way it feels more dated than most of his movies before, although he does bring some grit and rawness to it. Not a bad movie, but the least interesting thing I have seen of Lang yet. ” - sledgehammer86