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Fritz Lang

'Fritz Lang' cover image

Fritz Lang

Genre and Representation in His American Films

Challenging the myth that Fritz Lang's best work ended when he reached Hollywood, Reynold Humphries takes a new look at seventeen of the director's twenty-two American films. Made between 1936 and 1956, these films—Fury, You Only Live Once, You and Me, Man Hunt, Hangmen Also Die, The Ministry of Fear, The Woman in the Window, Scarlet Street, Cloak and Dagger, Secret beyond the Door, House by the River, Rancho Notorious, The Blue Gardenia, The Big Heat, Moonfleet, While the City Sleeps, and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt—broadly validate the insights of auteur theory while emphasizing the importance of the narrative and representational codes peculiar to a given genre.

Humphries examines these films in light of semiotics and psychoanalysis, drawing on Freud's "Wolfman" case and Lacan's theories of "the subject" and "the look" to bring novel solutions to crucial theoretical problems in such areas as the spectator, classical film narrative, and genre. In applying critical theory to Lang's Hollywood-made film noirs, melodramas, Westerns, and spy films, Humphries provocatively complicates auteur theory and revitalizes an unjustly neglected phase in the career of one of cinema's boldest visionaries.