Hangmen Also Die
Made during the height of the Nazi occupation of the Czech Republic, Hangmen Also Die represents the only collaboration between a pair of brilliant German exiles: filmmaker Fritz Lang, who produced, directed, and co-wrote the story and screenplay adaptation, and acclaimed leftist playwright Bertolt Brecht, who shared story and adaptation credits with Lang. Brian Donlevy stars as a respected doctor and member of the Czech underground who assassinates the brutal puppet ruler of the Czech Republic. Fleeing the scene of the crime, he stays with a sympathetic family (including patriarch Walter Brennan and daughter Anna Lee), which tries to hide him from the manhunt that has consumed the city. While Hangmen Also Die has been released as part of Kino's Film Noir series, it's not really a film noir at all: It's suffused with a sense of political idealism that would seem to be antithetical to the sort of gloomy fatalism that pervades most noirs. It is, instead, a political thriller, albeit a political thriller that doubles as a sort of valentine to the Czech resistance movement. In a number of ways, the film resembles Lang's earlier classic M: It not only focuses on a city-wide manhunt, but it illustrates the way tragedy can unite a community behind a common goal. And while Hangmen Also Die can never again achieve the immediacy it no doubt held for audiences in 1943, it's still a fascinating, beautifully crafted film.