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On May 27, 1942 the Nazi Reichsprotector of Bohemia/Moravia, the "Hangman" Reinhard Heydrich, died from the bullets of unidentified resistance fighters. Hangmen Also Die is the story of Heydrich's assassination in fictionalized form. It was Bertolt Brecht's only comparatively successful Hollywood project; the money he received allowed him to write "The Visions of Simone Marchand", "Schwyk in the Second World War" and his adaptation of Webster's "The Duchess of Malfi". Hanns Eisler won an Academy Award for his musical score. Written by
J.Arnold Free <email@example.com>
Fabulous for the time--right smack in the middle of it all
Hangmen Also Die! (1943)
The best part of this movie is knowing it was made right in the middle of the war, not in some recreation of the events. It's a little hyperbolic, for sure, but really well acted (both the Nazis and the Czechs), and it ends up being a battle of wits and tricks between the two sides.
Fritz Lang was a refuge from Nazi Europe and made this in Hollywood, with an expected sensibility for the cruelties and barbarism of the occupying nasties. And they probably were this nasty--worse, in truth, though less comically so, as the movie sometimes pushes it a bit. Still, really enjoyable, in all. Yet, somehow, it was long. The twists from one scene to another started to sound familiar, and the tension was sustained rather than invigorated, if that makes any sense.
Brian Donlevy is the leading good guy here, and he's always a little less than compelling, though he is not in most of the scenes so I suppose that's fine. The double-crosser was played by Gene Lockhart, whose presence grows as the movie gets on, and by the end he's really pretty amazing (far beyond the caricature of, say, the judge he played in "Miracle on 34th Street"). Walter Brennan makes an appearance, recognizable mostly by his voice. Two of the Nazi higher-ups were terrific, both the Pilsner guzzling brute and the slightly comical but scary gestapo head.
Lang is no fool, and he makes this movie not only a pleasure, but an important tool to remind viewers to be involved, to realize that you can fight oppression, even Nazi oppression, with enough wits and sacrifice.
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