Born in Vienna in 1890, Fritz Lang was brought up in Viennese middle-class comfort by his Roman Catholic father Anton and his Jewish mother Paula Schleisinger who both hoped that young Fritz would become an architect. But like so many middle-class children of the new century, Lang was fascinated by the pulp and fantasy literature of his day, the art world both in and outside Vienna and a potent new form of entertainment that invited artistic scrutiny and craftsmanship, the motion picture. Though the teenaged Lang attended school as his parents wished, he secretly haunted the cafe’s and cabarets of Vienna and intended to become a painter like his idols Klimt and Schile. At aged 21 Lang’s yearning took him to Paris where he lived in Bohemian splendor until the outbreak of W.W.I. Returning to Vienna, Lang enlisted in the Austrian army where he repeatedly saw combat, was wounded at least three times and decorated twice.
It was while on leave recuperating from one of these wounds… read more
Why do so many great movies from the forties end so ungracefully?! Apart from screeching to a slightly unsatisfying halt, this was great. Like a smoothie of thriller, horror, melodrama with some Freudian shenanigans sprinkled on top. It feels like Lang might have suffered some studio tinkering but it seems almost worth it as the results are dream-like and psychologically perverse! Also Miklós Rózsa is wickles.
A misfire, but the combination of Lang's atmospheric cinematography and pseudo -Freudianism (especially when the rooms appear) makes this one of the strangest Hollywood films I've seen in a while. How fitting is it that Joan Bennett starred in Dario Argento's Suspiria in the 70s; watching this it felt like a proto-Giallo that fed the imaginations of Italian genre directors.
Aided immensely by the cinematography of Cortez, Lang's film contains some masterly direction and some beautiful images but on the whole doesn't hold up for me and is one of his minor works. Appearing in her fourth film with Lang, Bennett plays the wife of brooding architect Redgrave who 'collects' rooms in which murders have taken place. She has to uncover the secret behind the one door that always remains locked...
One of the downsides of going to the Rotterdam Film Festival (more on which next week) was having to miss a whole week of Film Forum’s essential
Images of melancholy, void, and terror.