A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Man Hunt (Fritz Lang, 1941)

Walter Pidgeon spent much of his movie career at MGM, playing prince consort to Greer Garson: He was Mr. Miniver, Mr. Parkington, and M. Curie -- they made nine films together, if you count their cameos as themselves in The Youngest Profession (Edward Buzzell, 1943). So it's interesting to see him on his own in a 20th Century-Fox film, playing an action hero, the big-game hunter Alan Thorndike, who nearly assassinates Hitler, is beaten by the Gestapo, is pushed off a cliff and survives, escapes to a seaport where he boards a freighter for England, eludes his relentless pursuers, goes to ground in a cave, survives by killing his chief antagonist, and at the film's end parachutes into Germany, presumably to start it all over again. In fact, Pidgeon is a little too starchy for the role, which was better suited to someone like Errol Flynn or Tyrone Power, and he's upstaged (as who wasn't?) by George Sanders as the villain. Joan Bennett gives a nice performance as Jerry Stokes, the cockney "seamstress" (read: prostitute) who helps Thorndike escape. There's an entertaining scene in which Jerry encounters Thorndike's snooty sister-in-law, Lady Riseborough (Heather Thatcher). Roddy McDowall makes his American film debut as the cabin boy Vaner. This was the first of four films Bennett made with Fritz Lang as director, and they remain probably the highlights of her long career. Although Lang's American films never reached the heights of the ones he made in Germany, such as M (1931) and Metropolis (1927), he had a sure hand with the kind of suspense on display in Man Hunt. Dudley Nichols did the screenplay based on Geoffrey Household's novel Rogue Male.

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