Sunday, April 14, 2019

While the City Sleeps


(All images are iPhone photos taken of frames of the film playing off the Warner Blu-ray of the film.)

The title of Fritz Lang's second-to-last American film not only suggests the midnight killer but also the night-shift of the newspaper/TV office whose craven figures jump to break details on the menacing killer story as soon as quick. —

"Item 7 — You're a mama's boy." This address from the TV by Dana Andrews in his best Orson Welles, as the killer watches in PJs, certainly constitutes one of the most wrecking and complicated mixed-up portrayals ever "committed" to film in this messy '56 when it needed to most be so. Fritz Lang had one shoulder over the velvet shoulder-padding, and he wanted to examine youth-horror crime more if he could literally see, and get the insurance through to do so, throughout the '60s. Slick PJs-Johnny doesn't know if he's a boy or he's a girl, like in "Sheila Take a Bow", that Smiths song.

Creepy-crawly business in the second-half about whether the husbands' and wives' affairs' can be rationalized... Lang goes back to this thing about dialogue dukings-out in living rooms, as, big, drama! And yet — the characters don't recognize these rooms as the rocket-chambers of Frau im Mond.

The whole office goes sex sick. "Put Nancy's picture in the paper." Why bother? She storms out on Mobley/Andrews and the Lipstick Killer's already ready to pounce! "The final insolence. Broad DAYLIGHT!" Daytime during work-hours in NYC apartments with bleaching sun! White terror wallpaint, white terror curtain gaps! Then the climax —

Terror re: a tunneled train. You might ask yourself: 'Where have I seen this before?' Unsure myself, but audiences first saw it here: While the City Sleeps.

... — And yet 15 minutes still to go. In this final act we're clued to the skullduggery in the politics of ink-and-print, Ida Lupino making her final gesture, a tonality closer to Milestone's The Front Page than Hawks' His Girl Friday.


Previous pieces on Fritz Lang at Cinemasparagus:

Der müde Tod [1921]

Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod [1924]

Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache [1924]

Spione [1928]

Frau im Mond. [1929]

M [1931]

Human Desire [1954]


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