Hangmen Also Die!


Action / Drama / Film-Noir / Thriller / War


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October 09, 2014 at 06:41 AM



Walter Brennan as Prof. Stephen Novotny
Anna Lee as Masha Novotny
Gene Lockhart as Emil Czaka
Lionel Stander as Banya
720p 1080p
930.16 MB
23.976 fps
2hr 14 min
P/S 1 / 9
1.96 GB
23.976 fps
2hr 14 min
P/S 5 / 5

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Righty-Sock ([email protected]) 7 / 10

A tribute to the oppressed who dared to fight Nazi brutality...

'Hangmen Also Die' takes as its story, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, a German Nazi official, head of the security police, chief deputy to the head of the Schutzstaffel, Heinrich Himmler, who organized mass exterminations of European Jews during the opening years of World War II... and also the subsequent retaliatory devastation of Lidice, a Czech mining village…

With his usual skill, Lang weaves a tale of gripping suspense: the Gestapo's efforts to find the assassin; the workings of the Czech resistance fighters; and the traitor who is finally hoisted on his own petard…

The film is an indictment of Nazi brutality and a tribute to the oppressed who dared to fight it…

Reviewed by mbuchwal 10 / 10

A Devastating Blow Against the Nazi War Machine

Made at the height of WWII not long after the events upon which it is based took place, "Hangmen Also Die" is a testament to the patriotic spirit of the Czechoslovakian people under the most dire conditions imaginable. After the Nazis have invaded and conquered the country, a brave resistance fighter assassinates the brutal leader of the German occupation forces, SS leader Reinhard Heydrich, who, like Klaus Barbie, was a ruthless butcher of the innocent. Heydrich subjugated the Czech people by murdering, torturing and enslaving hordes of non-combatant civilians.

Just before the Nazi tyrant is shot, he threatens to end a factory slowdown by the murder of hundreds of Czech workers. It is this threat that precipitates the assassination. The desperate killer of Heydrich, member of an underground Czech resistance group, narrowly escapes capture with the assistance of civilians who suffer the consequences immediately afterwards when many are taken hostage by the Nazis, with the threat of imminent death hanging over their heads if the assassin is not turned over to the Gestapo.

At the center of the tense drama is Nasha Novotny, flawlessly played by Anna Lee, as the daughter of a distinguished university professor and patriot, portrayed by character actor Walter Brennan. Nasha is instrumental in aiding Brian Donlevy (as Dr. Svoboda, the assassin with ice water in his veins) to escape his bloodthirsty Gestapo pursuers. But when Nasha's own father is picked up by the Gestapo, she is forced to question her loyalty to the resistance, begins to regard the man she has saved as a deadly threat to her family and nearly turns traitor to save her father's life. Expatriate German director Fritz Lang and his scenarists show great sympathy in portraying this all too human failing. In a few simple touches they go far beyond stereotype in showing how the recalcitrant patriot overcomes her strong personal misgivings to rejoin the heroic struggle against the Nazis.

"Hangmen" is not a movie for the mechanically minded. Its craft is the art of understatement. Many of the events dramatically most important to the story -- such as the assassination -- are not depicted or happen off-screen. Whole sections of the plot line are there only by inference. This is particularly true at the end of the film, when the entire conspiracy to frame up an enemy collaborator is only hinted at before it is sprung as a surprise upon the audience, as on the unwitting villain. How did the underground resistance fighters arrange to fabricate so deadly a case against a traitor? We can only guess, but may hardly object to the ironic way in which the informant meets his end.

Fritz Lang has a well known reputation as a leader of the noir school of film maker. Yet, in spite of its horrifying premise, the movie is neither bleak nor pessimistic but a straightforward affirmation of the struggle against tyranny. Unlike many of his less gifted followers, Lang is no mere stylist but is just as much concerned with the historic and moral significance of his story as the artful way in which he presents it. To those who might object that the Nazis are portrayed as stereotyped bad men, the answer is that the Nazis were precisely what the film shows them to be: ugly brutish travesties of human beings. And who would know that better than Fritz Lang and his excellent scenarist Bertolt Brecht? Both of them had lived in Germany under the Nazis and escaped to the United States to strike a devastating propaganda blow against the enemy.

Reviewed by Varlaam 8 / 10

Gripping in its intensity

In 1942, the Czech underground assassinates Reinhard Heydrich, the governor of Bohemia-Moravia. Heydrich's assassin tries to escape capture.

This is based on a true story of course -- it's a well-known episode of World War II. Czech commandos were brought in from Britain on a mission with a slim chance of survival for the selfless agents. They unfortunately met a
sad end after being betrayed by a fellow Czech. The history is described very well in books such as Callum MacDonald's "The Killing of SS Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich".

In 1943, when this film was made, were the full details of the actual events widely available in the USA? I'm not sure, but it seems unlikely.

The story as presented here is the tale of what happens one day when a girl goes out to buy vegetables for supper, and when a taxi driver lets his finicky engine idle. Perhaps this plot was fabricated for want of any other alternative, but its sheer ordinariness adds to its immediacy.

The reptilian Heydrich was one of the architects of Hitler's Final Solution. It's no coincidence that the plan to assassinate him was code-named "Anthropoid".

Hans Heinrich von Twardowski plays him briefly at the beginning of the drama. He's cold-blooded, vicious, rabid ... and a little effeminate. That aspect seems questionable. In 1943, there were at least as many reasons for knowing what his character represented as there were occupied countries in Europe. This particular embellishment seems to add little or nothing to the suspense.

(Twardowski himself was a German exile in Hollywood. If you can read German and have a look at the titles of the films he made in 1928 and 1929, you can probably hazard a guess as to why he was forced to leave Hitler's Germany.)

Brian Donlevy plays the assassin. It's not by chance that this character is named Dr. Svoboda. Svoboda is a common name, but it also happens to be the Czech word for "freedom".

I always find Donlevy effective, particularly so in "The Great McGinty" (1940) for Preston Sturges, but he does have a certain B actor limitation on access to his character's inner thoughts. He doesn't quite have the hunted quality of someone facing certain capture and torture. A perspiring lip might have helped.

Better is Alexander Granach as the Gestapo man Gruber, a Bob Hoskins sort of person, only sinister. He's ruthless, cunning, perfect in the part.

Walter Brennan appears as a Czech professor arrested and held as a hostage. Prof. Walter Brennan, that's right! He's very good. Considering the typecasting he must have been fighting against, he's excellent in fact.

My moderate criticism of some of the performances notwithstanding, the suspense in the story was of the nail-biting kind, I felt. I wouldn't have wanted to watch this in 1943 -- it's just too bleak, too disturbing. When hostages are being held by the Gestapo, it's a lose-lose situation all around. All possible outcomes are disastrous.

I guess the filmmakers felt -- knew -- that this would be more than a contemporary audience could really handle in the middle of wartime. Hence the film has an uplifting, artificial, fantasy ending which arrives like a deus ex machina.

That's certainly a drawback for viewers now, but I can't fault anyone. The context of the times couldn't have allowed any other solution.

Fritz Lang directed this return to Mitteleuropa, the scene of his youth and early classic films. He runs the show like a police procedural, making it all too real. He allows himself a couple of his great shots which I will allow you to discover for yourself.

In real life, the actual Czech assassins -- Josef Gabcik and Jan Kubis, plus their look-out man, Josef Valcik -- were all killed in battle at their hiding place in the Karel Boromejsky Church in Prague on June 18, 1942.

Heydrich's state funeral had been held earlier in Berlin on June 9. The Nazis had Siegfried's Funeral March from Wagner's "Gotterdammerung" played for the occasion, probably with extra added bombast.

That's the sort of heroic farewell that the martyred Czechs should have received.

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