“I made my films with a kind of sleepwalking security,” says Fritz Lang. “I did things which I thought were right. Period.” Thus begins this fascinating interview with the great Austrian-born director.
The interview was conducted by William Friedkin, director of The French Connection and The Exorcist, in February of 1975, a little more than a year before Lang’s death. Lang talks about his early life as a runaway. (“Any decent human being should run away from home.”), his entry into theatre and film as a young man, his German masterpieces Metropolis and M, and a chilling encounter in 1933 with the Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels that provoked him to flee Germany the same day.
The story of Lang’s escape has all the elements of a cinematic thriller, but biographers have cast doubt on its veracity, citing passport records which indicate that Lang left Germany some time after the meeting with Goebbels, and that he returned on brief trips several times that year. But the anecdote, along with Lang’s reflections on his life and on the nature of fate, provide a fascinating look into the great filmmaker’s character.
The conversation above, which runs 50 minutes, was edited down from a much longer set of interviews. According to the Torino Film Festival website, Friedkin originally intended to use the Lang material for a documentary on horror cinema, to be called A Safe Darkness, but there is no discussion of the horror genre in this version.
As an extra bonus from our collection of Free Movies Online, we present the film Lang most wanted to be remembered for, M. (See below.) The film was made in 1931, and was the first by Lang to incorporate sound. Peter Lorre makes his screen debut as a man guilty of unspeakable crimes. In its introduction to the film, the Criterion Collection writes: “In his harrowing masterwork M, Fritz Lang merges trenchant social commentary with chilling suspense, creating a panorama of private madness and public hysteria that to this day remains the blueprint for the psychological thriller.”
M, by Fritz Lang: