Director Fritz Lang coined the history of film by setting new aesthetic and technical standards, especially in the era of late silent film and early sound film. His films usually tell utopian and fantastic stories, which were staged in an expressively gloomy atmosphere. The silent movie “Metropolis” (1927) and the sound film “M” (1931) are among the milestones of German and international film history. With the movie “House by the River” (German title: “Das Todeshaus am Fluss“), also by Fritz Lang, UCM.ONE publishes the second part of the “Édition Film Noir” for the first time and limits it in a Mediabook including a DVD in the German-speaking area.
The unsuccessful writer Stephen Byrne (Louis Hayward) lives in a villa on the banks of a river with his wife Marjorie (Jane Wyatt) and his new housekeeper Emily Gaunt (Dorothy Patrick). One afternoon when he works on a new manuscript in the garden of his house, he receives the cancellation by post for his last work. Disappointed by this renewed failure, he allows himself two glasses of whiskey. His wife is in town that day and because the housekeeper’s shower is broken, Stephen allows her to use the upstairs shower in the evening. Intoxicated by alcohol and tempted by the scent of her perfume, he imitates Emily and becomes intrusive. As he begins to shout loudly at his advocacy, he grips Emily’s neck and asks her to finally settle down – until finally Emily is silent …
About Fritz Lang:
Friedrich Christian Anton Lang was born on December 5, 1890 in Vienna, where he grew up as the son of an architect, where he first studied architecture and later painting. Today, he is considered one of the most influential and important directors in film history, as he fully exploited all the craft possibilities of the medium film and set new aesthetic, stylistic and technical standards with his silent and sound films.
The exceptional director’s career began in 1918 when, after being wounded twice during the First World War, he was declared unfit for war and initially worked as a director in the troop-support theater. His first silent film directories promptly followed in 1919 with the melodramas “Halfblood” and “The Lord of Love” at the Decla Film. Unfortunately, his first works are still missing. Lang continued his directorial debut at Decla Film with the 1920s two-parter “The Spiders“, delivering some of the most typical elements of the adventure movie, such as the daring adventurer wearing a hat and leather jacket that’s still found in characters like Indiana Jones. He gained international fame in 1921/22 with his two-parter “Dr. Mabuse” starring Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Aud Egede Nissen. After the success of his epic “The Nibelungen” (1924), Lang first took a creative break and traveled during this time for a few months, the United States, where he visited the local film studios.
Presumably it was his visit to New York and the sight of the skyscrapers there, which should inspire him to one of the most monumental silent films in film history. The dystopian masterpiece “Metropolis” (1927) is one of the absolute milestones in film history and the first sci-fi film in feature length. The film was made between 1925 and 1926 and appeared in 1927 initially in a nearly two and a half hour version, which failed both critics and audience. Even the shortened version of just under two hours reaped only moderate applause and so brought the five million Reichsmark to date most expensive film in German film history, the former Universum Film AG to the brink of financial ruin. The high costs were due on the one hand Langs perfectionism, on the other hand the elaborate scenes and the trick technique as well as unfavorable weather conditions. As a result, Lang had to produce his last two silent films himself. Both “Spies” (1928) and “Woman in the Moon” (1929), however, were commercially successful, although the era of silent film in the early 1930s was slowly coming to an end.
Original Titel: House by the River
Director: Fritz Lang
Screenplay: Mel Dinelli
Novel: A.P. Herbert
Actors & actresses: Louis Hayward, Lee Bowman, Jane Wyatt, Dorothy Patrick, Ann Shoemaker, Jody Gilbert, Peter Brocco, Howland Chamberlain, Margaret Seddon, Sarah Padden, Kathleen Freeman, Party Guest, Will Wright, Leslie Kimmell, Edgar Caldwell, Edward Clark, Frank Dae, Watson Downs, Edythe Elliott, William Fawcett, Alex Gerry, Ethel Greenwood, Frank Jaquet, Candy McDowell, Judy Sochor, Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Switzer, George Taylor
Producers: Howard Welsch, Robert Peters
Cinematography: Edward Cronjager
Technical departement: Henry Cronjager Jr., Tad Gillum
Sound: Dick Tyler Sr., Howard Wilson
Editing: Arthur Hilton
Makeup: Peggy Gray, Bob Mark
Costumes: Adele Palmer
Music: George Antheil
Production company: Fidelity Pictures Corporation
Year of production: 1950
Genre: Drama, Film Noir
Lenght: 82 Min
Rating: FSK 12
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound Recording)
English (working title): Floodtide
German: Das Todeshaus am Fluss
French: Au fil de l’eau
Spanish: La Casa del Río
Russian: Дом у реки
Premiere: March 23, 1950 (Los Angeles, California)
Kinostart: March 25, 1950
DVD-Start: October 11, 2019 (Deutschland)
VOD-Start: October 11, 2019 (Deutschland)
The sound film Lang gave a new cinematic tool in hand and with “M” (German title: “M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder“) he delivered in 1931 a sound film debut, which skillfully used sound as a supporting medium of the image. The recurring “In the Hall of the Mountain King“, askew by child murderer Beckert, lent the diseased and driven figure another gloomy level and at the same time dissolved the story. With his second sound film, “Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse“, Lang returned to an “old acquaintance” in 1933, once again bringing the archetype of criminal genius to the screen. After its premiere, however, the film was banned by the National Socialists, as the psychiatrist in the main character who writes a manual for criminals, the Reich Propaganda Ministry was too clear an allusion to Adolf Hitler’s captivity and the writing of “Mein Kampf”.
1933 should also be the year in which Lang left Germany. Although propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels urged him to stay in Germany, he even offered the direction of the German film, Lang however did not want to be restricted by the Nazis in his creative work and emigrated first to France, where he filmed Ferenc Molnár’s “Liliom” adapted. In the same year he moved to the US, more specifically to Hollywood, where he turned in 1936 at MGM “Blind Rage” and also significantly involved in the founding of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League. Thus, he continued his work in the US, but he could hardly join old successes. From the 1940s, Fritz Lang devoted himself to various films, including “People Hunting” (1941), “Even Executioner Die” (1943) and “Ministry of Fear” (1944) the anti-Nazi film. His Film Noir “Dangerous Encounter” (1944) and “Strait of Temptation” (1945) were also well received by the audience, but the end of the 1940s proved to be difficult and Lang’s “Secret Behind the Door” of 1948 was both critical as well as audience a flop. In addition, disputes with several producers to problems and so it Lang in the early 1950s to Republic Pictures, a small studio, which was known primarily for B-movies. “House by the River” was therefore created on a budget and without the participation of famous Hollywood greats. However, the performance of the actors and especially the direction Langs were praised and also subsequent films were again more attention. Lang first returned to Europe in 1956, where he directed four more films. Finally, however, he returned to the US, where he died on 2 August 1976.
Film Noir – Light and Shadow and Smoke:
The French film critic Nino Frank mentioned for the first time the term “Film Noir” to describe a series of Hollywood films of the early 1940s, which in his opinion, a darker variety of crime film embodied. To this day, the exact definition of disagreement and the question of whether the film noir is now a stylistic device or its own sub-genre, perhaps the thriller, remains unanswered. On the one hand, an attempt is made to capture the whole thing in time and the era of Film Noir ranges from 1941 with “The Trace of the Falcon” to 1958 with “In the sign of evil“. Even stylistic elements such as strong light-dark contrasts are used as a criterion for definition.
Director and film critic Paul Schrader, for example, divides the classic Film Noir into three temporal periods: These begin with the so-called “wartime period”, those films of the time of the Second World War, which were written between 1941 and 1946. Here the well-known and romantically somewhat transfigured image of the lonely private snooping man who sits alone in his smoky office and through whose door a mysterious client steps. Schrader calls the second phase the “post-war realistic period”, the period of realism after the war. It extends to 1949 and deals more with the reality of crime, as it occurs on the street, with corruption and the everyday life of the investigative authorities. The third and final period – which dates from about 1949 to 1953 – is called Schrader “period of psychotic action and suicidal impulse”, which is characterized by disturbed personalities and self-destructive actions.
Press Reviews & Quotes
“[…] dark-macabre thriller-melodrama, located in the typical atmosphere of moral-ethical ambiguity for Fritz Lang.” (Encyclopedia of International Film)
“For a long time, Stephen Byrne thrives on a truly driven and tormented person – Film Noir in pure culture.” (Der Film Noir)
“The Death House on the River is a thoroughly expressionistic, gloomy film. […] At the same time, the film is once again a prime example of the director’s sense of timing and timing, as this was certainly one of his trademarks, along with camera work and lighting.” (Der Film Noir)
“Fritz Lang in his darkest and most perverted way.” (Dennis Schwartz on “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”)
Equipment and technical data of the Mediabook
Original Cinema Version, 16-page Booklet, Artwork Material, Original Trailer | Aspect Ratio: Full Screen 1.37: 1 (Original Size), Black and White Film | Running time: 81 min | Sound format: German DD 2.0, English DD 2.0 | FSK 16 | Édition Film Noir Nº 2