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Saturday, November 27, 2010

MAN HUNT (1941)

This Fritz Lang thriller is on the short roll-call of tough anti-Nazi films made in Hollywood before Pearl Harbor. It’s also rates as the first Stateside release from Lang that looks & feels like a real Fritz Lang film. FURY/’36 and YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE/’37 may well be better movies, but if you turn the sound off anywhere in MAN HUNT, you’ll find yourself in the visual world of his stupendous DR. MABUSE films. Walter Pidgeon plays a British sportsman who gets Hitler in his sights, but doesn’t shoot. He’s then chased all the way back to London where he gets help from his diplomat brother and from Joan Bennett in a breakthru perf as a good-natured tart. She’s ravishingly shot to look a bit like Vivien Leigh and her scenes with Pidgeon show a rare tenderness from Lang. They balance out the showdown between Pidgeon & George Sander’s Nazi which is unusually gruesome. You don’t see the ghastly end, but you’ll feel it! Dudley Nichols' script doesn’t quite carry you past the jumps in logic & plot (Hitchcock’s 39 STEPS is the obvious model), but Lang has such control on all the technical elements, and creates such a compelling noir look of geometric intrigue (great teamwork from lenser Arthur Miller & designer Richard Day) that you’ll enjoy the ride even when things don’t add up. Watch for a great scene-stealing turn by the young Roddy McDowall right before he (and half the cast & crew) started production on John Ford’s HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY.

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