A Rare Interview with Fritz Lang and His 1931 Masterpiece of Suspense, M

“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:

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