Director: Fritz Lang
Cast involved: Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy and Mel Ferrer
I lieb you, I lieb you! Now lieb me alone
No one was expecting a rootin’ tootin’ happy-time frolic with Fritz Lang’s name on the credits. Yet, below myriad layers of cynicism and despair is arguably one of the director’s liveliest works.
Not markedly different in tone from the sinister noir thrillers he’d been making in Hollywood since the mid thirties, it sees western stalwart Arthur Kennedy dedicating his life to tracking down the man who slotted his missus-to-be and uncovering a secretive den of thieves in the process.
Matters stray off the reservation when amorous sparks begin to fly between Kennedy and madame-turned-crime boss Dietrich (who, in one remarkable scene, is literally seen riding drunken men like horses), whose policy at the ranch is that no crook discuss his past sins.
More than just a gumshoe movie with added saddle baggage and spurs, Lang deviously pulls the mystery of the killer’s identity out of the frame in the final act to emphasise the subtle allure of corruption and vice.
And his decision to radically alter the gender roles dictated by western convention makes this the ideal riding partner for Nicholas Ray’s sublime ‘Johnny Guitar’. DJ
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