Man Hunt (1941)

Man Hunt (1941), directed by Fritz Lang.

Before the war: just to prove he can do it, a British sportsman works his way to a cliff overlooking Hitler's mountain home and gets the fuhrer in his sights. He's not actually going to shoot him, he claims.

Well, that was foolish. Is the gestapo going to believe that story? Interrogation, torture, faked death but actual escape, bloodhounds, stowaway on a cargo ship and return to London where he is still not safe because nazis are everywhere. More running and hiding, pausing to kill his pursuers now and then.

A romance plot with cockney-speaking Joan Bennett is invented and takes over the middle of the film. Romance/thrillers can be entertaining (see: Hitchcock) but in this case it obstructs and slows down the escape and survival story.

She is obviously meant to be a prostitute. To placate the censors they put an unexplained sewing machine in her apartment so we can pretend she makes an honest living as a seamstress in her home. She's obviously disappointed that he doesn't want to sleep with her. To help him escape at their last meeting she puts on a loud streetwalker act.

Walter Pidgeon is our somewhat light-headed hunter, and George Sanders provides his reliable German/British/nazi villainy. First American film for Roddy McDowall, age 12.

This is the first in a series of anti-nazi films from German emigree Lang. He hated them with a white hot passion. His ex-wife and film partner Thea von Harbou had stayed and become a nazi.

As with Sergeant York (1941), this film was criticized for violations of neutrality and of being too anti-German and pro-British. Congressional hearings were underway when Pearl Harbor caused Congress to do a 180 on what it wanted from Hollywood.

Photographed by Arthur C. Miller. What a great eye for black-and-white he had.

The IMDB shows 16 cast and crew shared with How Green Was My Valley (1941), in production at the same time.

Loosely adapted from the novel Rogue Male which I remember being exciting and well-written. The author does not actually specify Hitler or Germany, instead saying our hero crossed Poland to reach his target, which we can imagine being either Hitler or Stalin. Readers were spoiled for choices of dictators back then.

It was remade for British TV with Peter O'Toole as Rogue Male (1976), a bit closer to the text. In the novel he flees down, down, ever closer to the land, until finally he is hiding in a hole dug in waste farm land.

Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time with an image that is exceptionally fine for a film of that era. Deep blacks.

Film scholar and Lang biographer Patrick McGilligan provides a wry, knowledgeable commentary track.