- LANG, Fritz
- (1890-1976)Austrian film-maker who, after trouble with the Nazis, left Germany for France in 1933 and emigrated to the USA in 1934. He was originally trained as an architect but preferred the graphic arts; during the years before WWI he supported himself as a cartoonist and caricaturist. He turned to writing after being wounded during WWI, producing several popular thrillers and fantasy romances. After WWI ended he entered the German film industry and began directing a series of lavish melodramas, such as Die Spinnen (1919; vt The Spiders), many of which were sf-related, involving lost races (LOST WORLDS), technology-driven plots to take over the world, etc. In this vein was the first Dr Mabuse film, DR MABUSE, DER SPIELER (1922; vt Dr Mabuse, the Gambler). In 1923-4 he made amajestic 6hr fantasy, based directly on the myth rather than on Wagner: Die Nibelungen (released as 2 separate films, Siegfrieds [Tod vt Siegfried] and Kriemhilds [Rache vt Krimhild's Revenge]). Like all FL's German films, this was cowritten with his wife, Thea VON HARBOU. In 1925 he started work on another epic, his first real sf film, METROPOLIS (1926); it is deservedly the most celebrated of all sf films of the silentperiod. Von Harbau novelized the script as Metropolis * (1926; trans anon 1927 UK). FL's other major sf film was Die FRAU IM MOND (1929; vt The Girlin the Moon); von Harbou's novelization, Frau im Mond * (1928; trans Baroness von Hutten as The Girl in the Moon 1930 UK; cut vt The Rocket tothe Moon; From the Novel, The Girl in the Moon 1930 US) was published in Germany before the film was released.FL's German films of the 1930sincluded the famous murder movie M (1931), which introduced Peter Lorre, and Das Testament des Dr Mabuse (1933; vt The Testament of Dr Mabuse). The latter, parts of which were interpreted as anti-Nazi, involved the master criminal operating through hypnotic powers and even undergoing a form of REINCARNATION, transferring his mind into the body of the director of thelunatic asylum in which he had been locked up at the end of the previous film.FL directed 22 films during his first 25 years in the USA, mostly low-budget though often impressive thrillers, such as Fury (1936), You Only Live Once (1937) and The Big Heat (1953). The nearest thing toanother sf film he ever directed was his last film, made back in Germany, Die TAUSEND AUGEN DES DR MABUSE (1960; vt The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse;vt The Diabolical Dr Mabuse). The influence of FL's harsh, expressive style on genre cinema, especially on thrillers, psychological thrillers and sf films, has been incalculable. He was a master at depicting the compulsiveness and the politics of power, and most film critics regard him as a great director.PN/JBFurther reading: The Cinema of Fritz Lang (1969 US) by Paul M. Jensen; Fritz Lang (1976 UK) by Lotte Eisner; Fritz Lang: The Image \& The Look (1981 US) by Stephen Jenkins.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.