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Hangmen Also Die [DVD]

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Product details

  • Actors: Hans Heinrich von Twardowski, Brian Donlevy, Walter Brennan, Anna Lee, Nana Bryant
  • Directors: Fritz Lang
  • Format: Dolby, PAL
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Odeon Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 23 Sept. 2013
  • Run Time: 130 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 81,549 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Classic war drama set in Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation. The film depicts an Eastern Europe populated by spies, traitors and revolutionaries - a deadly funhouse of political intrigue in which every personal encounter brings with it the threat of betrayal. Pursued by the Germans after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Dr. Svoboda (Brain Donlevy) enlists the aid of a young woman (Anna Lee) who is oblivious to the lethal crosscurrents that surround her. As she learns more about the mysterious doctor, she grows aware of the involvement of her father (Walter Brennan) and fiance (Dennis O'Keefe) in the resistance, and soon finds herself entangled in the revolution's secret operations.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
The events following the assassination of Reinhardt Heydrich have been recorded far better in other movies than in this piece of wartime dross. Germans, dressed in ill-fitting uniforms, looked more like tailor's dummies. The tank, rumbling through the streets, looked and sounded more like a Dalek and I was waiting for a cry, shouting "Exterminate !!". Brian Donlevy looked decidedly uncomfortable as a member of the Czech resistance, The Gestapo officers were caricatures. One can understand the motives of film studios during the war. Making the Germans look like refugees from "Allo ! Allo !" was essential for the war effort. Only in the postwar period was any balance restored. This movie could have been backed by some decent research, but in 1943 no one minded if the Germans looked like halfwits. The Americans adopted the same approach in dealing with the Japanese.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Graham David on 8 Jun. 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
First the flaws: we have to accept the idea that when characters speak English (some UK, some very USA) or there are written signs or posters in the street, they are supposed to be Czech. The action scenes are a bit clumsy, bodies flying here and there far too smoothly. And the moral drama is presented a bit schematically.
Nevertheless, the moral dilemmas, inevitable in resistance against an occupying force (Nazis in Prague), are extremely serious and handled with uncompromising logic. The narrative moves at a brisk pace, the images often evocative of Fritz Lang's expressionist background, and characters portrayed in sufficient depth for the spectator to sympathise with them, or long to see them get their just deserts.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mark James Barnes on 27 Dec. 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
classic film
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 20 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An Uneven Effort By Fritz Lang, This Anti-Nazi Propaganda Still Features A Truly Great Walter Brennan Performance 17 Oct. 2014
By K. Harris - Published on
Format: Blu-ray
One of the more remarkable aspects of Fritz Lang's 1943 war drama "Hangmen Also Die" is its timing. There is nothing particularly unusual about Hollywood producing anti-Nazi propaganda in that era, but Lang had an unusually close perspective of the subject. Lang had just left Germany in 1933 as the movement was on the rise and his story collaboration with fellow German refugee Bertolt Brecht brought an unexpectedly urgent and timely message to this noir thriller. Loosely based on the 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, Brecht's screenplay tinges history with melodrama to a somewhat uneven result. The movie boasts a truly fine performance by Walter Brennan and still features many scenes of potency and power. That being said, many in the principle cast lack Brennan's gravitas and this causes much of the movie to feel stilted and unnatural. It's a shame, really, as parts of this movie experience are exceptional. Obviously, I'm still going to give "Hangmen Also Die" an enthusiastic recommendation for any number of reasons, but it's not quite the enduring classic that I might have hoped.

Set in German occupied Czechoslovakia, the film begins as a political thriller. As a young lady (Anna Lee) goes about her daily routine, she accidentally becomes embroiled in an assassination plot. She witnesses a man (Brian Donlevy) fleeing and being pursued by German soldiers, and she instinctively misdirects the soldiers away from their prey. She has no idea who the man is or what he has done, but she'll soon find out. He seeks refuge from the young lady and she discovers that he has just assassinated a high ranking official in the SS. The town is on high alert and the Nazis round up prominent citizens until the culprit is served up by the people. Unfortunately for Lee, one of those rounded up is her father (Brennan), a politically active ex-teacher who holds much sway with the community. Every day that the assassin remains at large, those held in captivity will be executed. What to do? Although Lee is content to give up Donlevy, there might be a mutually beneficial solution to pin it on a collaborator (a great Gene Lockhart).

"Hangmen Also Die" is a well structured and well paced thriller. Any scene with Brennan is worth the price of admission alone. He underplays the role with a quiet dignity that makes the actions presented all the more devastating. Lockhart, on the other hand, opts for a big and bold performance. And that, too, is a vital part of the movie. Unfortunately, the movie has Donlevy and Lee at its center and neither are as intriguing or as believable as these peripheral characters. Donlevy never displays much in the way of emotion and Lee doesn't hit a real emotional chord throughout. Lee would become matriarch Lila Quartermaine on "General Hospital" many years later, and I loved her there for decades. But here, she is the least convincing aspect of this endeavor. Sometimes harrowing, "Hangmen Also Die" may not be Lang's best work. But it is a solid entry into the genre and one worth discovering. KGHarris, 10/14.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Don't miss seeing this. 24 Aug. 2014
By Randall L. Smith - Published on
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
I am not too please by the $36 pre-release price, however, this is an excellent film. Released in 1943 while Europe was still under Nazi control, it is a beautiful example of the era's wartime films. While based on an historical event, it is not history. It is, however, a great movie. with great suspense as the Nazis' slowly tighten the circle in their search for the assassin of Reinhard Heydrich - "The Hangman".. The Resistance struggles to protect him but interrogations slowly yield more clues. The daily executions of hostages increases the pressure. I will not outline the movie, that can be found elsewhere. Nor will I nit-pick it. I will say, without a doubt, it is worth seeing.
P.S. I am a Walter Brennan fan. This role is outside his nornal screen roles but his performance as a professor/hostage is a joy to watch.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Definitely worth seeing 6 Jan. 2015
By Jan P. - Published on
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
This film, like Man Hunt, was directed by Fritz Lang, and it takes place during the time when the Nazis were in power. In this case, the film is based on a true story, and it takes place in Czechoslovakia. It uses many of the same visual techniques as Man Hunt, but the story seems less dated. Worth seeing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Embellished Real Fritz Lang~ the master....4 STARS~ 25 Jan. 2015
By Molly - Published on
Format: DVD
PLOT: FRITZ LANG gives his touch to the Death of Heidrich and the man hunt for the killers...

1942~Nazi Germany was the master of Europe. The Skoda Munitions works in the heart of Czechoslovakia IS a key to German Victory. Hitler sends his 'iron fisted' minion Reinhart Heydrich to keep the Czech people in line. Heydrich was the 'master planner' of the Concentration Camps and killing of Jews. Feared and hated. In this film he is played as arrogant and very dislikeable.The Czech Underground soon plans to KILL Heidrich. He is shot ... This version starts with THE KILLER (BRIAN DONLEVY) running down a busy street with the Germans hot on his heels. His "escape" taxi driver is taken into custody by the police. He desperately ends up in the apartment of a girl (ANNE LEE)....WHO aided in his avoiding the police on the street. The Novotony Family complete with scholar (WALTER BRENNEN) is first rate who's morals come before his own safety. Donlevy escapes and we see he is a doctor. The Nazis soon have PROFESSOR NOTOVNY (BRENNAN)and hundreds of other famous Czechs are taken 'hostage' to put pressure on the Czechs to 'hand over' the elusive assassin. Lots of twists and turns in the plot. Lots over overacting on Anna Lees part but we stay glued. Lang uses the black and white film to show us the horror of the Nazi Gestapo and the tortures they use to get information. The Czech Underground has a traitor....CZAKA (GENE LOCKHART) who plays the cowardly arrogant traitor to the hilt. As hostages are soon being shot to "persuade" the Czechs to cooperate and give information, a last ditch effort to IMPLICATE Czaka is put into motion. This version has been excellently restored by the Cohan Film Collection. It is a visually a delight and the audio is clear and crisp. Well done.

Fritz Lang was a famous German director. He married a Jewish woman in the 1930s and made his "escape" to avoid arrest by the Nazis in the 1930s and settled in Hollywood. He was already famous from his masterpieces films of Metropolis and M. This was one of his Anti Nazi efforts. This is based on a real life event and very embellished by writers Brecht and Lang. Lang also directed and produced this. Lang use of the terror and evil Nazis to very successfully move this movie along. Lang "insisted" that the Nazis be ACTUAL German actors and the Czechs be Americans. This is why Dennis O'Keefe is VERY out of place as a Czech. This restored copy is excellent. I give it 5 STARS for restoration and 4 STARS for Lang who gives a Visual TREAT.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HANGMEN ALSO DIE Is A Vivid Portrait Of Wartime Occupation 18 Sept. 2014
By E. Lee Zimmerman - Published on
Format: Blu-ray
Hey, look: I’ll not try to convince anyone to watch a film that doesn’t interest him or her. As an online critic, I’ve always tried to position myself as one who tries to find something positive to say about any film I’ve had the good fortune to screen, but I learned a long time ago that – for some folks – classic releases like this old-school black-and-white release just doesn’t interest them. Still, there’s something to be said – and definitely lessons to be learned – from a feature like HANGMEN ALSO DIE: the film is a reminder of what not so much what combat looks like but stands as a vivid accounting of how regular folks like you and me end up being treated by those who would rather see us dead than share God’s green earth with us. At times its amazing grim for something produced in the 1940’s … but isn’t that precisely what the storytellers wanted us to remember?

(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)

From the product packaging: “…This noir-like espionage thriller is set in occupied Czechoslovakia and revolves around the successful plot by Czech resistance to assassinate Deputy Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia ‘Hangman’ Reinhard Heydrich and the hunt by the Gestapo to track down the killers.”

I’ve seen plenty of films from the 1940’s which directly or indirectly take shots at Nazi Germany and the general policies and practices of the Third Reich, but I’ve never seen what was obviously produced to serve as anti-Nazi political propaganda the likes featured in HANGMEN ALSO DIE. To be clear, I’ve never even heard of this release (maybe not so much a surprise), not in my reading on 40’s films nor any scholarly pursuits in noir flicks. Perhaps because HANGMEN charted its course clearly in its opening minutes and stayed true to its convictions from start-to-finish that academicians, film scholars, and the like have found it an uncomfortable film to chat about as much as they have other releases. Whatever the case, hopefully this new release will address that deficiency and give this story the attention it deserves.

While others have classified the HANGMEN as coming from the noir genre, I don’t quite see it that way. While many of the characters do possess some shifting motivations, the bulk of these characters are victims of the oppressive German regime (the tale essentially explores German-occupied Czechoslovakia), and, as such, they’re committed to just one agenda: diminishing the Nazi efforts in any way possible. Certainly, I’d never argue that the film doesn’t possess the look, feel, and texture of other noir projects; still, I’d stop short of calling it a fully-realized noir feature just based on my understanding of those films alone.

Fritz Lang directs from a script he helped Bertolt Brecht pen, and viewers certainly are in store for a real cinematic treat if they’ve yet to see this one. The restoration on the Blu ray I was provided is brilliant (I was amazed at the clever use of shadows throughout, and I marveled at the way light was used to direct the audience’s eyes). Essentially, the last half becomes a bit of a caper flick as ordinary Czech citizens join up with members of the Resistance to tie one of their own who has crossed the line and collaborated with the Germans; racing against time, all people end up converging in just the right ways to make for a nearly stand-up-and-cheer finish, though it isn’t without some dire casualties.

HANGMEN ALSO DIE (1943) is produced by Arnold Pressburger Films. DVD distribution for this release is being handled by the reliable Cohen Media Group. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is primarily an English spoken language release, though there are a few scenes where German language is spoken (they are not subtitled but I didn’t find them all that difficult to follow). As for the technical specifications? Yowza! This film has been brilliant restored and remastered; seriously, I’ve rarely seen film this old look this good, and the cinematography by James Wong Howe is worth further study. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, then hold on to your hat: there’s a featurette on the restoration process along with an essay in the liner notes about the film; a feature-length commentary; an old German newsreel from the era; a restoration comparison piece; and the re-release trailer. It’s a wonderful assortment of materials for folks wanting to know more.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Taking a page out of the German War Machine’s propaganda playbook was a smart way to go for acclaimed director Fritz Lang and screenwriter Bertolt Brecht as HANGMEN ALSO DIE is a great, near-perfect textbook example of how to get one’s political points across as efficiently as possible. The film looks stunning given its age (marvelous restoration work), and most of the performances of the principles (hats off to Walter Brennan and Anna Lee) hold up quite well even 70 years later. That’s impressive, no matter how you shake it.

In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Cohen Media Group provided me with a Blu ray DVD of HANGMEN ALSO DIE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape or form influenced my opinion of it.
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