Two of German director Fritz Lang’s films have been released to DVD and blu ray by Kino Lorber. They are his final two silent movies.
“Spies” (Released March 22, 1928)
Lang’s films often dealt with the concept of a villain plotting world domination, pre-dating the Third Reich. In fact, some of his films were later banned from occupied countries from 1933-1945. “Spies” was made just after Lang’s acknowledged masterpiece “Metropolis.” It features frequent Lang actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge as a criminal mastermind whose spy operation is attempting to secure a Japanese peace treaty. His operation is infiltrated by a handsome, courageous secret service agent posing as a vagrant However, the mastermind realizes the agent is a spy, so he has a beautiful Russian woman to thwart the agent’s efforts. She ends up falling in love with him and turning against the spy ring.
Kino Lorber’s beautiful restoration of this brilliant film allows us to see every detail of Lang’s visual composition. His scenes, while part of a flowing narrative, often stood out as classic creations unto themselves. The opening few minutes feature theft, murder, and frantic reaction from the law, who always seems to be two steps behind each crime. The pace of this movie is especially brisk, and the narrative is immediately compelling. Klein-Rogge had appeared in the earlier Lang feature “Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler” (1922) and this film has some similarities in plot structure to many of the dramatic concept in that film. There are also aspects of “Spies” that might have informed some ideas in the much later James Bond series.
The film used for this blu ray released was restored in 2004 by the F.W. Murnau Stiftung. The primary source was a nitrate print from the Národní filmový archiv in Prague, supplemented by prints from Vienna, Australia, and Paris. Laboratory work was performed by L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna. The film’s 35mm master negative was used as the foundation for this restoration. The film runs 150 minutes and features musical accompaniment by Neil Brand. DVD extras include a documentary and the original German trailer.
“Woman in the Moon” (Released October 15, 1929)
Because of the deserved attention garnered by “Metropolis,” when Fritz Lang revisited the science-fiction genre for “Woman in the Moon,” his final silent film, it has not been given the same recognition. In fact, “Woman in the Moon” is quite a good film, and deals with a lunar flight from an astrophysical perspective quite intelligently. Lang’s wife, Thea von Harbou, wrote a novel, “The Rocket to the Moon” and Lang had her turn the book into a screenplay, which he directed. It was the first film to present rocket travel, including a mult-stage rocket
As is typical for Lang films, “Woman in the Moon” does have spies, romance, and intrigue, but what is most fascinating is its attempts to explore the concept of moon travel with as much grounding in scientific realism as possible, and not as a fantasy subject. Technical consultants were very much a part of this film’s creation.
This film was restored in 2000 by the Murnau Stiftung using the original camera negatives pereserved by the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv in Berlin. The 35mm master duplicate print was used as the foundation for this restoration.