While the City Sleeps DVD
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Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced in 1955
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - American film
James Oliver revisits this late-period masterpiece from Lang and finds its theme of a killer formed and captured by the media ever more compelling in our own age of technological change.
Fritz Lang was an unfashionable figure when he made While the City Sleeps. At a time when his one time acolyte Alfred Hitchcock worked on prestige projects with big stars and an ample pay packet, here was the great Lang toiling for peanuts at a declining studio. But it would take more than that to deter our Fritz; While the City Sleeps bristles with the incisive precision that characterises his very best work.
It's a story about news, about those who report it and those who make it. The former are employees of the Kyne Enterprises – TV pundit Ed Mobley (Andrews), George Sanders (who runs Kyne's wire service) and dogged newspaperman Thomas Mitchell. Their new boss has let it be known that there's a promotion due to one of them. The winner will the be the first to announce the successful capture of the vicious killer preying on young women...
As ever with Lang, it's a restlessly modern affair, obsessed with technology and change. No matter how quaint the television sequences might appear to cynical modern eyes, this was surely the first film to understand the power and the impact of the gogglebox. It's a film about 'new media', in other words (which gives it a certain resonance in our era of podcasts and e-books).
The killer, it seems, is a product of this environment; of television, of comic books, of easy glamour and pop psychology (yes, he blames it all on mother). Lang enthusiasts might find this suggestive of earlier films and, sure enough, While the City Sleeps can be seen as a return to the themes of his most celebrated film, M. And, as before, it's a film about systems and structures rather than the individuals who inhabit them. The murderer is formed, defined and ultimately nailed by the media.
While the City Sleeps was Lang's penultimate American film, a fascinating late period masterpiece that shows his vision was undimmed even after forty years of making movies. Lang might have lacked the resources he enjoyed in his glory days but he still saw further than everyone else.
James Oliver on 25th June 2010
Author of 147 reviews
A classic Fritz Lang thriller and a superb film noir, While the City Sleeps sees a group of newspapermen hunt for a sex murderer. However, their motive is purely greed as control of the newspaper is the ultimate prize at stake. Lang makes inspired use of the main locations of the news office and the downstairs bar and makes the crazed killer the most sympathetic character, particularly as the 'hero' uses his girlfriend as bait to catch the killer.
Length: 100 mins
Cat No: EX003D
Format: DVD B&W
- Digitally remastered
- Theatrical trailer
- Stills, Poster and Pressbook Gallery
- Collector's art card featuring poster reproduction.