Tag Archives: Fritz Lang

The Set of 400: #243 – My Favorite Robot Clone

Today! Because someone has to stay at the machine!

Metropolis (1927)

Directed by Fritz Lang

Starring Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Frohlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Fritz Rasp, Theodor Loos, Heinrich George

The oldest film on the list, the only silent made during the silent era, another rare foreign movie, and the grandaddy of all science fiction films, Metropolis was divisive in its day among critics – mostly due to its excessive length and somewhat heavy handed adaptation by Thea von Harbou from her own novel – and remains divisive to this day, mostly inside my marriage. Audiences and critics alike over the years came around to its complete masterpiece status; the wife, not so much.

A futuristic society (by 1927 terms) that looks not unlike modern day Manhattan (albeit with more sky trains) features a stark division in classes, with those above ground the lords of the city, and those below manning the machines that keep it running. The growing discontent with this set up leads a prophet of sorts to emerge, in the form of Brigitte Helm’s Maria, who preaches of the coming of a mediator to settle differences between the classes – the Brain and the Hands. The Brains, for the most part, are not excited about this prospect.

Still a pretty cool design, 90+ years later

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The Set of 400: #247 – My Favorite Scheingericht

Today! Because I have no control over this, this evil thing inside of me, the fire, the voices, the torment –

(1931)

Directed by Fritz Lang

Starring Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut, Paul Kemp, Georg John, Gustaf Grundgens, Theo Lingen, Fritz Odemar

The shortest title on the list, and quite possibly the greatest movie ever made, is far from a cuddly story. A German city is beset by a whistling child murderer, and loses its collective mind with fear. The movie follows the town’s descent into paranoia and vengeance, hunting this faceless killer, as the police and the town’s other criminal elements concoct their own strategies to ferret him out.

The wonderfully gloomy atmosphere, highlighted by the dark, dank streets and perpetual shadows, adds to the almost unbearable tension of the pace, as society verges on collapse through mutual distrust and frustration. But then, when the plot feels like it has to spiral off in a different direction lest risk the movie boiling over, the targeted manhunt commences. Peter Lorre will never get the due he deserves as an actor, and never is he better than as the soft, baby faced killer, driven by his ugly, confused desires and desperation to escape the howling mob. Lorre would become famous stateside for his roles as weasel-y con man and lowlifes in Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and Arsenic and Old Lace, but he was capable of much more, including this almost pitiable monstrosity, Hans Beckert. Old time radio fan that I am, if you want some really great Lorre performances, seek out his Mystery in the Air anthology series from the late ’40s, sponsored by Camel cigarettes!

Many are available on YouTube, or wherever you listen to quality radio programming of seven decades ago!

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