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MANHUNT POOL PARTY AND MR GAY MEXICO 2011
What ARE these visual forms? The following book on Lang's films will try to offer at least a partial answer to this question. Lang's use of geometric forms such as circles, spheres, cylinders, rectangles, polygons and spirals will be highlighted. So will Lang's exploration of architecture. Fritz Lang's films will be placed against their background in prose mystery fiction, spy fiction and science fiction. Lang's approaches to manhunts, scientific detective work, and the ability of police investigation to change the picture of reality will be analyzed. Fritz Lang's liberal, democratic political ideals will be analyzed, and his support for women's rights and women's jobs. Fritz Lang's deep exploration of mass media and means of communication will be discussed. Running imagery in Fritz Lang will be traced: Continuing characters and plot ideas in Lang are explored. Early filmmakers who might have influenced Lang are discussed: There are brief pocket discussions of many of Lang's screenwriters. The book is formatted as a single long web page, to make searching it easier. Just use your browser's search capability, to track down all references to any topic or film in it. Please mail your comments to me at mike mikegrost. Clicking here will bring up mail. I am eager to hear what you think, and how you learned about this site. The Spiders Part I: Like the serial work of Louis Feuillade , it is made up of an irregularly long series of films, each around an hour in length. Lang only made two of the four films he planned in this series: The Spiders are a mysterious gang, who are up to no good throughout the series. Visually, their costumes are influenced by Feuillade: Plot wise, such gangs remind one of the 's prose fiction of Harry Blyth , founder of the Sexton Blake stories. The Spiders show the same hideouts and meetings as Blyth's conspiracies. Just as in Blyth, they have powerful people on their side: The Spiders leave a calling card behind: It is unclear who was the first to use such a device. Packard's The Adventures of Jimmie Dale has his gentleman thief leave behind small gray seals to sign his crimes; the thief is known as The Gray Seal to the press. This device clearly spread, as Sampson pointed out, from Packard to other pulp writers. The opening of the film, showing the noble American adventurer Kay Hoog arriving at his club, reminds one irresistibly of Keaton's Sherlock, Jr. Hoog enters the film in white tie and tails. His clothes, gestures and body postures while taking off his top coat remind one exactly of Keaton's while he makes his entrance as the Great Detective Sherlock, Jr in that film. Soon we're shown Hoog's elaborate mansion; Keaton similarly has his fantasy detective in equally rich surroundings, which in Keaton are delightfully overdone, satirically suggesting the absurdity of such movie traditions of wealth. One wonders if Keaton's film is an actual parody of Lang's. Certainly, the second section of Keaton's Our Hospitality , showing Time Square way back when, is a conscious spoof of D. Lang draws on several movie traditions, as well. The second quarter of The Golden Sea is structured as a Western, with his American hero dressed as a cowboy, riding around on horses, and fighting a lot of other cowboys in the pay of The Spiders. This whole section is enormously enjoyable. It shows the rich invention found throughout The Golden Sea. The treatment of the heroine and the villainess recalls to a degree The Three Musketeers of Alexandre Dumas. An American Hero Lang will be consistently pro-American in his politics throughout his career. The Spiders will not be Lang's only German film with an American at its center. His final film, The 1, Eyes of Dr. Mabuse , will also be a German-made film with an American hero. Similarly, the German-made Spies will have a British hero. When Lang will come to the United States and make films during , he will also be sympathetic to United States and British people, contrasting democratic heroes from the United States and Great Britain with sinister Nazi villains. Lang's politics can be described as largely liberal and democratic throughout his career. Like other liberals, Lang can be scathingly critical about social problems: Lang's politics seem similar to those of another great artist who fled from Nazi Germany to the US: Lang Themes Outdoor scenes of nature are rarer than hen's teeth in many Lang films. Here they occur twice: The tragic ending of the film is set in beautiful outdoor locations, full of plants and water. While this is many directors' natural home, it serves Lang instead as a place of extreme emotion, to be used rarely. Some of Lang's Westerns also have natural scenes, as does American Guerrilla in the Philippines These are often cited as Lang's least typical and least personal films. Many of the jungle scenes in Philippines are as mournful as those in The Spiders. Both films also deal with characters who are trapped behind enemy lines, are in danger of death, and who are looking for ways to escape. Both films have a hero who is a little more mature and more macho tough than those of many Lang movies. Kay Hoog is more confident and capable than many of Lang's later bewildered, persecuted young types. The fact that the hero of The Spiders works at a desk, analyzing documents and sending telegrams, gives him some of the characteristics of Lang's later villains. One thinks of Haghi in Spies, and the father in Metropolis. Like them, he is a competent businessman. Like them, he is in command of high tech communication at his desk, in this case the sending of telegrams. His life centers around his study, like the business offices of Lang's later villains, and not the bedrooms that are the venue of many of Lang's later heroes. He is not at all sinister, like these later villains, but he is capable and accomplished. Points in common between this work and Lang's later films are rarer than one might expect. The high life of the hero at his club in the beginning recalls the milieu lived in by the hero of Spies Architecture One can also see similarities between the architecture of the hero's study in The Spiders, and the room just outside Haghi's office in Spies. Both take up more than one story, both are awesomely large, both have numerous staircases, both have railed walkways on the different levels, looking over the open, central vault. These are two of the best pieces of architecture in Lang. One will later see a similar architecture in the bank where Edward G. Robinson works in Scarlet Street The elevator in the bad guys' headquarters anticipates the more famous one in Metropolis. Visual Style There are more scenes with ambiguously focused staging here than in later Lang works. For example, an early scene at Kay Hoog's club shows the hero talking to people in the foreground, while a rare bottle of wine is poured out and served in the background. The viewer should be watching both to get the full effect. It is like counterpoint in music, with two melodic lines going on at once. It is not clear whether the early date has something to do with this: In any case, the scenes at the club show considerable visual excitement. Most are full of a large number of characters, all doing something, talking, moving, making gestures. These characters' activities all work together to make a visually beautiful whole. They are some of Lang's most beautiful scenes. Lang can have these characters move with startling complexity. In one shot, the characters all start moving downstairs. The flow of the individual characters, and the complex pattern that is shown, is one of Lang's most inventive and delightful scenes. The Spiders Part II: The Diamond Ship is a much less successful film than Part I. Its storytelling is flat, and it is full of Chinatown melodrama and racistly stereotyped villains. This is really objectionable. One toward the beginning is especially notable. It shows an office building whose floor is a maze of cubicle style offices and corridors. This is a fascinating piece of architecture. The cubicles and doors are full of windows, made up of grids of regularly repeating smaller panes. They remind one of the windows in the heroine's house in Spies The shot opens with the lower half containing the maze and the people in it, with the upper half consisting of the tall imposing walls of the office building containing it - sort of a giant vault with a maze at its base. This half and half construction is common in early Lang, with the upper portion of a shot showing pure, monumental architecture, and the lower half showing people and their activity. The camera gradually pans down, however, showing more and more of the maze, and less and less of the office walls. Eventually the maze fills up virtually the entire image. The maze is fascinating.
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