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L Entries
  Elsa Lanchester
  Martin Landau
  Fritz Lang
  Robert Lansing
  Glen A. Larson
  Jack Larson
  Jennifer Lawrence
  Christopher Lee
  Mark Lenard
  John Lennon
  John Lithgow
  June Lockhart
  Robert Longo
  Peter Lorre
  Eugene Lourie
  George Lucas
  Bela Lugosi
  William Lundigan
 
LANG, FRITZ
(1890–1976). German director and writer.

IMDB credits Adolf Hitler had many sins to answer for. One of the lesser ones was destroying the marriage and creative partnership of Thea VON HARBOU and Fritz Lang, who fled from Germany to escape Nazi repression while his ex-wife stayed behind to script pro-Nazi films. And, while some of the films he went on to make in America and elsewhere have been praised, he never again created any films to match his amazing achievements with von Harbou. Certainly, as I argue in her entry, von Harbou contributed more to those films' success than is generally acknowledged, but it might be more accurate to say that Lang's and von Harbou's disparate talents were uniquely complementary—von Harbou's naïveté and Lang's sophistication, von Harbou's ability to generate ideas and Lang's skills in developing them, von Harbou's stories filled with flaws and Lang's energetic and inspired efforts to mask them.

During the 1920s, Lang and von Harbou collaborated on five silent films that arguably launched four different subgenres of fantastic films. The most famous of these, of course, is Metropolis (1927), for decades the definitive futuristic dystopia, offering a visual flair and audacity that has made it Lang's most celebrated film and has led to regular revivals with new soundtracks. Indeed, while its ultimately illogical story might seem a betrayal of the very principles of science fiction, Lang compensates by creating such an imaginative and meticulously developed future world as to provide the film with an overpowering aura of conviction.

But I also admire Woman in the Moon (1929), not fully appreciated, I think, because it was once available only in a severely truncated form; viewed today, however, it stands as the progenitor of what I termed the spacesuit film, a realistic depiction of a journey to the Moon that, once one endures a lengthy prologue on Earth, can still evoke awe and a genuine sense of wonder. And its thesis that the conquest of space would be driven primarily by greed—not an interest in exploring the unknown or attaining a military advantage—now seems prescient, since the American government has largely turned the manned space program over to profit-hungry entrepreneurs. His two films based on Wagner's Ring cycle—Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (1924) and Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge (1924)—are best known today for the first film's magnificent dragon, often observed in isolated clips, but they can be viewed as anticipations of the films now regarded as heroic fantasy, later perfected by Ray HARRYHAUSEN and his successors. And while their imagined scientific innovations are modest, Lang's Mabuse films—Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922) and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)—now look like early technothrillers, with a brilliant, manipulative villain who would fit perfectly well into a James Bond film.

While a temporary resident of France, Lang directed a sentimental fantasy, Lilliom (1934), but when he then went to work for American studios, it appears that he was content to direct whatever films he was assigned to direct, all of them realistic dramas, and while they are always competent and occasionally inspired, it is difficult to discern any pattern of personal vision in them. It is telling that, during this period, he was credited only twice as a screenwriter, probably hesitant to rely upon his imperfect English. Only late in his career, first sojourning in India and then returning to Germany, did he once again seem to making the movies that he chose to make. As if paying tribute to his now-deceased ex-wife and former muse, he adapted one of von Harbou's novels as two colorful adventure films set in India—Tiger of Bengal (1958) and The Indian Tomb (1959)—and he returned one more time to the memorable character they created, Dr. Mabuse, in the enjoyable thriller The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960). At the age of seventy, he then retired, perhaps both proud and chagrined that his greatest achievements occurred during his first decade as a film director.

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