Hangmen Also Die

dir. Fritz Lang

TIFF Cinematheque - Hollywood Classics

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Fritz Lang and Bertolt Brecht collaborated on this tense WWII thriller based on the real-life assassination of SS number-two man and "Butcher of Prague" Reinhard Heydrich.


Something of an event: Fritz Lang's wartime thriller returns in a newly restored version that includes a crucial sequence long missing from the film; though it lasts little more than a minute, it changes the tone of the ending and its sense of incident. Bertolt Brecht's immensely suspenseful screenplay (the playwright's only script for Hollywood) deals with the true story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Nazi overseer of Prague and number-two man in the SS, by members of the Czech resistance. (The story of the "Butcher of Prague" was also made into a film by Douglas Sirk as Hitler's Madman, and has new currency with the recent publication of Laurent Binet's novel HHhH.) While the wounded assassin (Brian Donlevy) attempts to escape his jackbooted pursuers, a local Quisling (Gene Lockhart) masterminds a plan whereby four hundred Czech civilians are held under threat of death should the killer not be caught. With Lang's typical plot twists building to a grotesquely satisfying turn of events, Hangmen Also Die remains a superbly achieved account of patriotic solidarity in the face of brutal oppression. "Frequently reveals Mr. Lang as a master of concentrated suspense" (The New York Times).