Man Hunt

1941, Movie, NR, 105 mins


One of the best-loved of Lang's spy dramas, MAN HUNT is a superbly exciting, tightly constructed picture which stars Pidgeon, terrific as Thorndike, a big-game hunter in the Bavarian Alps who accidentally discovers that he has a chance to assassinate Hitler. Apprehended by Gestapo leader Quive-Smith (Sanders), he refuses to sign a confession and is beaten and left for dead. With the help of a friendly youngster (McDowall), Thorndike stows away on a Danish steamer. Also on board, however, is the mysterious, umbrella-wielding Mr. Jones (Carradine), who has Thorndike's passport and has taken his identity. Befriended by a friendly cockney prostitute (Bennett, rarely better) in London, Thorndike eventually has a memorable showdown with Jones in a subway tunnel. Our dashing hero isn't out of danger yet, though; Quive-Smith threatens as well, and it's up to a hatpin to save the day.

Based on the best-selling novel, Rogue Male, MAN HUNT was scripted by the immensely talented Dudley Nichols and intended as a John Ford picture. Ford, however, disliked the subject matter and the film was offered, by Darryl Zanuck, to Lang. Lang encountered, as he often did, some problems on the set involving both the Hays Code and budget constraints by Zanuck. A great lover of complex female characters, Lang had cast Bennett as a compassionate woman who happened to be a prostitute. The Hays Code, however, which would just as soon have denied the existence of prostitution, required some rewrites. According to Lang, "We had to prominently show a sewing machine in her apartment; thus she was not a whore, she was a `seamstress.' Talk about authenticity!" Most objectionable to Zanuck was the parting scene between Pidgeon and Bennett which was to take place on London Bridge. Zanuck was distressed by the fact that a "decent" girl had to play the whore in front of the man she loved, and so refused to allow any money in the budget for this essential scene. As Lang tells it, he cinematographer Miller and unit manager Benny Silvi found a single bridge railing in the props department. Two were needed, however, so Lang spent $40 to have a second one constructed. Without the aid of studio workers (whose unions would not allow such defiance), the threesome stole into the studio at 4 a.m. They painted the backdrop, hung light bulbs in a manner of diminishing perspective to create depth, and then obscured the whole thing in a blanket of fog. The result was a beautifully atmospheric set. leave a comment

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