Lang, Fritz

Tagged: Film | People

(1890-1976) Austrian film-maker who, after trouble with the Nazis, left Germany for France in 1933 and emigrated to the USA in 1934. He was originally trained as an architect but preferred the graphic arts; during the years before World War One he supported himself as a cartoonist and caricaturist. He turned to writing after being wounded during the conflict, producing several popular thrillers and fantasy romances. After 1918 he entered the German film industry and began directing a series of lavish melodramas, such as Die Spinnen (1919; vt The Spiders), many of which were sf-related, involving Lost Races, Technology-driven plots to take over the world, etc. In this vein was the first Dr Mabuse film, Dr Mabuse, der Spieler (1922; vt Dr Mabuse, the Gambler, 1927), followed almost a decade later by its direct sequel, Das Testament des Dr Mabuse (1933; vt The Last Will of Dr Mabuse, 1943). In 1923-1924 he made a majestic six-hour fantasy, based directly on the myth rather than on Wagner: Die Nibelungen (released as two separate films, Siegfrieds Tod [vt Siegfried] and Kriemhilds Rache [vt Krimhild's Revenge]). Like all Lang's German films, this was cowritten with his wife, Thea von Harbou. In 1925 he started work on another epic, his first explicitly sf film, Metropolis (1926); it is deservedly the most celebrated of all sf films of the silent period. Von Harbou novelized the script as Metropolis (1926; trans anon 1927). Lang's other major sf film was Die Frau im Mond (1929; vt The Girl in the Moon); von Harbou's novelization, Frau im Mond (1928; trans Baroness von Hutten as The Girl in the Moon 1930; cut vt The Rocket to the Moon; From the Novel, The Girl in the Moon 1930) was published in Germany before the film was released.

Lang's German films of the 1930s included the famous murder movie M (1931), which introduced Peter Lorre. He directed twenty-four films during his decades in America (1936-1956), mostly low-budget though often impressive thrillers, such as Fury (1936), You Only Live Once (1937) and The Big Heat (1953). The nearest thing to another sf film he ever directed was his last film, made back in Germany, Die Tausend Augen des Dr Mabuse (1960; vt The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse; vt The Diabolical Dr Mabuse). The influence of Lang's harsh, expressive style on genre cinema, especially on thrillers, psychological thrillers and sf films, has been incalculable. He was a master at depicting the compulsiveness and the politics of power, and most film critics regard him as a great director. [PN/JB]

see also: Cinema; Cities; Comics; Germany; Rockets.

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