Man Hunt is one of four films that Fritz Lang made on Nazism, all of which were some kind of thriller. Of course, Lang knew the dangers of Nazism first-hand, having fled the country in 1934 after he was offered the head role in German film studio UFA despite his most recent film being banned by Goebbels. The film was made right before the US entered the war, coming out only months before Pearl Harbour, and the rest is history.
The film is based on the novel Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household, and has an absolutely great set up. It’s about this almost Rambo-like English hunter (with a Canadian accent) who attempts to assassinate Hitler. After the Nazis attempt to kill him off, he escapes back to Old Blighty. However, there are Nazi agents waiting in England and wanting to put him out of the picture by any means necessary, and the UK has not quite entered the war either.
Naturally, given that it’s a Fritz Lang film, it’s pretty much perfectly constructed and expertly photographed in black and white, which brings out the shadowy London of the film. It kind of falls apart near the end, but it’s a solid thriller throughout, and built around a prescient theme for its time. It was shot by Arthur Miller, a cinematographer who did lots of work but very little in the world of Noir. However, his photography in other films had a Noir sensibility, as in The Ox-Bow Incident.
Lang did have to fight with the censorship boards and the head of 20th Century Fox, Darryl F. Zanuck, because of its anti-Nazi message. They were upset because the Nazis were portrayed as bad guys and there wasn’t any kind of “Good Nazi.” It also went against the isolationist stance that the US had at the time about that war in Europe. Zanuck banned Lang from the editing room, but he went behind his back with his editor and they edited it themselves. Zanuck never seemed to notice.
It also marked the first collaboration between Lang and Joan Bennett, who was his muse and possible lover during much of the ’40s. She became a brunette in the late ‘30s so she could play more interesting characters as she aged, including the femme fatale roles she is now best known for. Bennett would go on to do three more films which Lang, which are some of his most highly regarded Film Noirs.
Signal One Entertainment’s release is the definitive version of the film. It ports over the commentary, featurette and trailer from the Twilight Time disc. However, it adds two more excellent featurettes to the disc, and only drops the isolated score (which I have to admit I’ve never found much use for as a feature, but I know some people swear by them.) It comes as a dual Blu-Ray and DVD disc with reversible cover artwork that gets rid of the BBFC certificates on the front cover.