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With: Walter Pidgeon, Joan Bennett, George Sanders, John Carradine, Roddy McDowall, Ludwig Stossel, Heather Thatcher, Frederick Worlock, Roger Imhof
Written by: Dudley Nichols, based on a novel by Geoffrey Household
Directed by: Fritz Lang
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 105
Date: 06/13/1941

Man Hunt (1941)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Trigger Fingers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Fritz Lang loved to tell the story about how, in the 1930s, Adolf Hitler summoned him for a meeting. The Fuhrer had seen Lang's Metropolis and wanted Lang to be an official Reich filmmaker. Lang said, "sure," and then proceeded to flee the country, not even stopping to clean out his bank account. A few years later, in Hollywood, Lang had a small chance to set the record straight with this excellent thriller. Based on Geoffrey Household's novel "Rogue Male," the story follows a famous British hunter, Captain Alan Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon), as he comes upon Hitler's stronghold and manages to get the evil dictator in his rifle's crosshairs. A guard jumps him and he claims that it was only a "sporting stalk," and that he never intended to pull the trigger. A Nazi officer, Quive-Smith (George Sanders) agrees to release Thorndike if he'll sign a paper saying that he was working for the British government, and Thorndike refuses. He manages to escape and make his way back to England, all the while pursued by the evil goons. A cute cockney seamstress (originally a streetwalker), "Jerry" Stokes (Joan Bennett) helps him and quickly falls in love with him. But can the two of them escape, or has Thorndike put Jerry's life in danger as well? The high-profile Dudley Nichols adapted the screenplay, and the film's greatest flaws occur merely because of the fact that it was 1941. Nichols had to smooth out the more lurid parts of the story and also make it into a very serious, noble, "support the war effort" film, but fortunately, that bit only kicks in during the final three minutes. Otherwise, Man Hunt is a very tightly constructed, endlessly surprising, and expertly played bit of cat-and-mouse. John Carradine plays one of the thugs on Thorndike's trail, and rising star Roddy McDowall (also in How Green Was My Valley the same year) plays a kindly cabin boy who hides Thorndike on the ship over. This was the first of four films that the beautiful Bennett made with Lang.

DVD Details: In 2009 Fox Home Video finally made this classic available in a gorgeous, restored DVD worthy of something from the Criterion Collection. Author Patrick McGilligan (Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast) provides a commentary track and participates in a new making-of featurette. We also get a restoration demonstration, a trailer and various still galleries.

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