Stephen Neale is released into WWII England after two years in an asylum, but it doesn't seem so sane outside either. On his way back to London to rejoin civilization, he stumbles across a murderous spy ring and doesn't quite know who to turn to. Written by
Ken Yousten <email@example.com>
Fritz Lang was responsible for a couple of true German originals, including the fantasy "Metropolis" and the early talkie, "M". He was pretty popular. He claims at one point he was invited to Goebel's office and asked to lead the film department at the Ministry of Propaganda. "What could I say? I said, 'I'm tickled pink, Sir.'" He and his family were on the next available transit out of Germany.
He was a prime catch for Hollywood, where he as known for strutting around in riding breeches and boots, a monacle in his eye, shouting instructions through a megaphone. I've never found his American movies actually gripping, although always interesting in some way or other. They are unmistakably Langian if you know what to look for. His thematic use of objects like clocks. Or, here, a nicely done rainy shot of a tailor's shop in London. A scene in which a heavy in a dark room shouts to a gun wielding woman, "You shouldn't shoot your own brother." The heavy then flings open the door to the bright hallway, dashes out and slams the door behind him. A shot immediately rings out and the otherwise dark screen now shows a tiny punctuation point of light from the hallway illuminating the bullet hole in the door. And another scene near the beginning in which Ray Milland invites the other passenger in his train compartment to have a piece of cake. The queer-looking stranger thanks him, takes the cake box, reaches in and slowly begins crumbling the cake in his hand, sifting through it, while Milland stares in amazement.
But it's a pretty unimaginative plot, rather routine, and neither Lang nor the performers bring much extra to it. The narrative is -- I want to say this without seeming to ridicule it. It's "heavy handed?" Maybe that's it. I'm doing the best I can to avoid "Teutonic." A couple of changes in the dialogue and you wouldn't have too much trouble getting rid of Milland and putting Rathbone and Bruce in his place. "Sherlock Holmes and the Cake of Death." Or, with a little more effort, it could become the peg for a Bob Hope comedy. "My Favorite Recipe."
I did like Dan Duryea though, the phony scuzzbag. He fakes being shot once, then gets it the second time while fondling a pair of gigantic scissors. Dan Duryea dies double deaths. Those scissors must have been Lang's idea because he used them more than once as weapons. He seemed to like them. He seems to have liked Duryea too because he used him twice more.
It's not his best American film but it's above average for the genre. And it's worth seeing if only because Lang himself directed it. It's good enough that you're not likely to be bored by it.
35 of 52 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?