Hang Time


Displaced Prussians Fritz Lang and Bertolt Brecht manufactured this shrill 1943 five-course meal of Hollywood propaganda as nearly a parody of the new form—and yet the Langian physicality is tense and sublime, and the patriotic keening is offset by an explosion of crisscrossing motivations and moral compromise. The story fictionalizes the 1942 assassination in Prague of Nazi bigwig Reinhard Heydrich, which happens before the film begins; Brian Donlevy’s fugitive gunman avoids capture and eventually accepts shelter from a rebel Czech family, led by father Walter Brennan. From there, Donlevy becomes just one figure in an expanding, complex cast, each with their own m.o. and point of view: Brennan’s reprisal prisoner, Anna Lee’s conflicted daughter, Dennis O’Keefe’s jealous fiancé, Alexander Granach’s beery gestapo, Gene Lockhart’s sweaty collaborator, etc. The two-and-a-quarter-hour film has the iconic thrust of a silent; the pro-sacrifice resistance cant has an oddly jihadist tenor today. No supps, but it’s being boxed with four other beautiful noirs, including Behind Locked Doors (1948), Budd Boetticher’s jittery forecast of Shock Corridor, and Anthony Mann’s lean and mean Railroaded (1947).