Thea Von Harbou

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Metropolis Review


Essential
Cinema history is full of stories about films shamefully hacked by studios and censors. And it still happens today. So this restored version of Lang's masterpiece is something to celebrate, both for its bravura filmmaking and the fact that this almost-complete version exists at all.

In a futuristic city where workers toil underground, the privileged class lives in modern splendour, enjoying its Son's Club and Eternal Gardens. But when Freder (Frohlich), son of the city's master Joh (Abel), goes underground in search of the beautiful Maria (Helm), he discovers the dark truth firsthand.

Back home, he challenges his father to create a more just system, then he teams up with a dismissed factory manager (Loos) to help launch a rebellion.

Continue reading: Metropolis Review

Metropolis (1927) Review


Extraordinary
Cinema history doesn't get much more relevant than the original Metropolis, Fritz Lang's masterwork, a grandiose and jaw-dropping epic that would look impressive for 2004 -- and which looks impossible for 1927, when it was originally produced. In 2026, the rich live in a majestic metropolis. The workers are sequestered underground in a sweltering pit that keeps everything humming above. From the lofty above-ground world to the nether regions goes one of the Thinkers. First he's searching for a girl (of course), but eventually he joins the workers in revolt. Classic, impressive, and an absolute you-must-watch-this-film experience for anyone who claims to be a movie buff.

M Review


Essential
Critic David Thomson called him "the squat, wild-eyed spirit of ruined Europe, shyly prowling in and out of Warner Brothers shadows, muttering fiercely to himself." The Peter Lorre thus described was the Hollywood character actor familiar to Americans for his buggy looks of astonishment and his singular, rasping speech. But the wild-eyed spirit Thomson writes of first exhibited itself in Germany, before Lorre and director Fritz Lang fled that country's Nazis, in the 1931 Lang masterpiece M.

The "M" stands for "murderer" in either language, and the film is loosely based on the actual case of a Düsseldorf child killer named Peter Kurten. (His name was later borrowed for Copycat.) The plot of M echoes the fascination with shadowy syndicates and underworld figures that Lang exhibited in earlier films such as the Dr. Mabuse pieces and Spies: When a police dragnet for the child murderer upsets normal criminal activities, the criminals themselves organize and track the suspect down, labeling him, without his being aware of it, with a chalk "M" on the back of his coat.

Continue reading: M Review

Spies Review


Essential
"Throughout the world... strange events transpire." Thus reads the title card at the opening of Fritz Lang's great 1928 thriller Spies. Proof that the card is true arrives immediately afterward onscreen: we watch as a gloved hand removes a cache of official documents from a safe in the French Embassy in Shanghai. The documents are then whisked away by a cackling agent on motorcycle, and news of their theft is beamed from radio towers around the world. Next the Minister of Trade, riding in an open coupe, is fired upon from a passing vehicle, and we learn from a headline that he's died from his wounds. "What force is at play here?" another intertitle reads. And what could they hope to attain?

The answer, in Spies, is arrived at so pleasurably that it puts all but the very best of the cloak and dagger genre to shame. The plot follows the efforts of a handsome undercover agent named only No. 326 (Willy Fritsch) to prevent a treaty with the Japanese from leaving his homeland (Germany, one assumes, although it's never specified) despite the efforts of an evil mastermind named Haghi (the wonderful Rudolf Klein-Rogge) to see that it does. A secret agent, as we all know, leads a life of danger, and so it is that No. 326 is distracted in his efforts by the beautiful Sonia (Gerda Maurus), herself a spy in Haghi's employ. No. 326 falls in love with Sonia; will he learn the truth in time? Sonia may have fallen in love with No. 326; has she? And, if so, will she follow her heart or her oath to see the treaty across the frontier?

Continue reading: Spies Review

The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse Review


Good
Fritz Lang's The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is the second of the director's three films featuring the popular criminal mastermind and hypnotist. And like its predecessor (Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler), Testament has profound historical significance for students of Lang's work and German history. But where Lang's first Mabuse film screams Weimar decadence and cinematic expressionism, Testament answers with resigned prescience about the coming of National Socialism.

Testament was the last film Lang made before the expanding Nazi regime forced him to flee Germany, bringing to a close the most creatively productive phase of his career. Lang's escape to America, and Nazi censors' decision to ban the film as a "threat to law and order and public safety," make it a milestone of art at odds with the ideology of the regime.

Continue reading: The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse Review

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Metropolis Movie Review

Metropolis Movie Review

Cinema history is full of stories about films shamefully hacked by studios and censors. And...

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