How Fritz Lang Trolled the Nazis

How Fritz Lang Trolled the Nazis

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curated online cinema streaming exceptional films from around the globe. Get one month
free at In early 1933, Fritz Lang, the visionary director
behind Metropolis and M, decided to troll the Nazis… hard. And who could blame him?
He was a cocky guy and with good reason… he was Fritz motherfuckin’ Lang, one of
the most famous directors of all time. What was the reaction? Well, let’s start at the
beginning… So there is this Fritz Lang movie called The
Testament of Dr. Mabuse. It’s a talkie, but it is a sequel to the silent film Dr.
Mabuse the Gambler. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse follows a hypnotist and criminal mastermind
who went mad ten years prior. He is now in an insane asylum where he writes out his plans
for crimes. It is discovered that there is a gang committing the same crimes Mabuse has
been writing about. The film begins with a detective named Hofmeister who nearly uncovers
Mabuse’s conspiracy before going insane and being institutionalized at the very same
asylum Mabuse is imprisoned in. When the police inspector, Karl Lohmann finds evidence linking
the crimes to Mabuse, he goes to question Mabuse where he learns that he has died. The
head of the asylum, Professor Baum, studies Mabuse’s writings and is eventually visited
by Mabuse’s ghost. Mabuse’s ghost merges with Baum and he goes on to plan various crimes
with Mabuse’s gang. Mabuse’s ghost leads Professor Baum to Hofmeister’s cell in the
asylum where Baum attempts to murder him before being foiled. The film ends with Professor
Baum, now insane and imprisoned in his own asylum, and we see him ripping apart Mabuse’s
writings. Hello, my name is Tyler and this is TCM—
Tyler Classic Movies. You’ve just watched The Testament of Dr. Mabuse by Fritz Lang.
A shocking tale of madness and mischief. So what did you think? Me? Yeah, you. It was… interesting. Interesting, sure, but did you know that this
film really managed to get under the skin of a certain up-and-coming group in Germany? What group? Oh, a little group called… the Nazis. The film was was in post-production in 1933—
just as the Nazi Party was rising to power in Germany. And in the scene where Mabuse’s
ghost appears to Professor Baum, Lang had the evil Mabuse say all of the Nazi slogans. Because the ultimate purpose of crime is to establish the endless empire of crime. A state of complete insecurity and anarchy, founded upon the tainted ideals of a world doomed to annihilation. What’s interesting is that this is actually
the first time we actually hear Mabuse speak as the previous film was silent. Despite this scene criticizing the Nazi party,
the actor who played Mabuse ended up becoming a member of the Nazi party himself and [quote] “an
eager follower of Hitler” (Commentary). The actor who played the professor rejected Nazism and
moved to America (Commentary). Nevertheless, the Nazi’s were not going to be too happy
about this scene. Two yellow-shirts came to Lang and told him that Propaganda Minister
Joseph Goebbels will confiscate the film. “I was very haughty and said, ‘If you
think you can confiscate a film of Fritz Lang in Berlin… do it.’ Alright, they did it.” The problem was that company that funded the
film was going to lose a lot of money if the film wasn’t released and that would likely
affect Lang’s ability to make more films. Lang was hot shit at this point and he thought
that if he could just talk to Goebbels, he could get him to lift the ban. But could he
do it? Lang said, “I have to admit that up to two
or three years before the Nazis came I was very apolitical; I was not very much interested
and then I became very much interested. I think the London Times wrote about the fact
that I used this film as a political weapon against the Nazis—I put Nazi slogans into
the mouth of the criminal” (cinephiliabeyond). Well, one day at the beginning of March in
1933, Fritz Lang received an invitation to meet with Goebbels at the Ministry of Propaganda–
presumably to talk about his film. “Invitation” was putting it lightly— this was an order.
 When he arrived, he was ‘greeted’ by four yellow-shirts with guns yelling, “What do you want!?” He showed them his [quote/unquote] “invitation”
and they sent him down this looooooong corridor with the floor covered in huge marble squares
where each of Lang’s footsteps echoed against the completely blank walls and high windows—
barred and too high to see out. He reached another desk and four more yellow-shirts sent
him down another corridor. This happened three times until he finally came upon a round room
with several doors. Suddenly a door opened and out
came polite man saying, “Mr. Lang, one moment. The Minister will
be ready in a second.” After a minute or so Lang was invited into
a humongous room where Goebbels sat behind a desk very far away. Lang said that Goebbels could turn on friendliness
like a faucet. He came toward Lang with outstretched hands, “Mr. Lang, I’m very very happy to see
you. Here come sit down.” Goebbels talked for a while and then said, “The Fuhrer has seen your films and the
Fuhrer said: ‘This is the man who will make THE national socialist film.” Lang began to sweat. Goebbels said, that under
his guidance, Lang will become the leader of all German film. At this point, Lang knew
the severity of the situation— he wasn’t just visiting the lion’s den, he was being
asked to be a part of it. He reminded Goebbels that he himself was not part of the Arayan
race because his mother, while Catholic, was born to Jewish parents. Goebbels smiled and
replied, “Mr. Lang, we decide who is an Arayan.” Woah woah woah, wait a second. Are we saying
that Lang told Goebbels…. This Goebbels?… that Goebbels… that he’s half-jewish and Goebbels was like, 
‘oh yeah, that’s fine.’ Yes. And Goebbels didn’t care that Lang just
had an insane character that looks like this saying the Nazi slogans? Shhhhh. I’m getting to that. Can I? Wait, let me just show one thing. Okay. Proceed. So, Lang knew that he had to get out of there,
get his money from the bank, and flee to Paris. Outside the window, Lang could see a large
three-sided clock and as Goebbels rambled on about potential actors and actresses, Lang
could see the time ticking closer and closer to the moment that the banks would close. Lang told Goebbels, “Yeah, that sounds totally great. I will
totally be the leader of German film.” Then Goebbels brought up The Last Will and
Testament of Dr. Mabuse. He said, “Look, there’s a scene were the professor
who runs the insane asylum in which Mabuse died, is driving home. And suddenly, near
him appears Mabuse and tells him certain things. That’s not good. The professor
has to be killed by the rage of the audience.” Lang said, “Oh yeah, totally, that makes perfect sense.” But in his mind, he thought it “stank to high
heaven.” Goebbels told him that he would call him in a day or so and to wait for him and
Lang left. When Lang got home, he told his servant Hans
to pack his bag with everything he needed for a month because he didn’t think he was
going to find a job in Germany anytime soon. (Wink wink) Luckily Lang already had a passport
from working in France and England quite a bit. Wait, so the banks were closed, right? How
did Lang afford to travel out of Germany? Lang had been collecting these Japanese miniature
sculptures called Netsuke, so he always had five, one-thousand Reichmark bills on hand
just in case, which is about $26,000 today. But as he slipped the bills into his pocket
he noticed, out the window, about 200 yellow-shirts gathering outside his house. The jig was up. Or was it? As Lang stepped outside, not a single one
batted an eye. As it turns out, the yellow-shirts were just preparing for a scheduled night
maneuver—like an exercise. Lang sent Hans with some money to go and buy a train ticket
and then went to his wife’s house. Her name was Thea von Harbou and she was a
screenwriter and frequent collaborator on her husband’s films. I should also add that
she was a member of the Nazi party, and her first husband was Rudolf Klein-Rogge, the
actor who played Dr. Mabuse and C. A. Rotwang in Metropolis (Commentary). She gave Lang
some jewelry to smuggle out of Germany and stayed behind. On the train, Lang wrapped up the jewelry
in tape and hid it behind the toilet in a vacant train car next to his and hid the five
thousand marks in the dining car’s complaint book, but on the way to Paris, there was a
stop in Erbesthal before Belgium for about an hour. Usually the railroad people come
around and inspect your luggage, but this time it was a group of yellow-shirts. The
yellow-shirts started at the end and one by one, banged on the door of each compartment
yelling, “Open up! Pass control.” When they finally got to the compartment next
to Lang’s, he was lying on his bed and he recalled a direction he had given to actors
on his movie sets: “If you want to give a good act, try really
to do what you are playing.” So, he began to snore. But instead of banging on his door, they just
moved past it. Lang was sure that they were just waiting for the time when the train was
about to leave and then they would bust in and arrest him, but no one came. He arrived
in Paris with his money and the jewelry and lived there for some time before ultimately
continuing his career in the United States. But he never understood why they skipped his
door. It’s a harrowing story— like something
out of a movie and after all, Fritz Lang is one of cinema’s greatest story-tellers. Was it true? There is some information that has come to
light that seems to go against this story. But why would Fritz Lang lie about escaping
the Nazis? Tune in next time to find out! A special thanks to Mubi for sponsoring this
video. MUBI is a curated cinema streaming service
for everything form Art-House to cinema classics. What’s cool is that MUBI hosts just 30 hand-picked
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fun to check the site and see what new movie has been selected that day. They even put together special collections
that celebrate specific auteurs and categories. They are currently running a collection called “After
The New Wave” that explores the work of French directors immediately following the
New Wave of the 60s. Finally, a streaming service that is, above
all, stream-lined. Try MUBI for 30 days at MUBI dot com, slash
CinemaTyler. That’s M-U-B-I dot com slash CinemaTyler
for your extended free trial. Thanks for watching my video on Fritz Lang’s
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100 thoughts on “How Fritz Lang Trolled the Nazis

  1. We all know how much the Nazis relied upon propaganda in films, but how about the ultimate propaganda-machine they call Hollywood? How about analyzing the way Hollywood creates the image of good and evil and how it brainwashes people to believe in the capitalistic lie?

  2. Why are we subjected to flowery descriptions of walks down halls? What purpose does that serve? Do you assume all of your subs are 14 years old and require a buildup of dramatic tension? Weak.

  3. Watch "The Testament of Dr Mabuse" before it's banned 'cause of the inspector's beautiful 𝒄𝒊𝒈𝒂𝒓 𝒉𝒐𝒍𝒅𝒆𝒓

  4. Brown not yellow shirts. As this goes along, the impression you are leaving is that you don’t know the topic. Stop the use of swearing, it demonstrates lack of knowledge.

  5. Racism starts and ends with hooligans and sadists surrounding the "silly" and "lame" to this brutals and primitivs, with their lust to war and brutality, to torture and drill, alike islamists and terrorists, which choose like cookoos somebody as their prey, to be stalked and chased and forced into nonexistence, alike brutals do with those, they don't like for critisising sadists and criminels being pimps, prostitutes, religious fanatics or sadists, who are in war with each other, fuelling racism, brutality, terrorism, war and violence all over earth, which i cal fanatic torturism, primitivitism and psychiatrism, which is the uttermost evil and insane to have as solution with even handycapped persons and people in competition and brutality to each other,while helping a deathcamppolitic into existence all over earth,which in itself is insane as structure, absurd, injust, evil and cruel and has racism and islamism and terrorism and sadism and brutality as aim, with nothing than destruction and terror planned and done by criminels, who are used to be evilminded and brutal, sadistic in hailing war, cruelty and terrorism, sadism, injustice and violence.

  6. Sounds legit specially since Hitler was leader and anarchy is derived from Greek meaning without leaders any government likes it when movies imply its disorder because government is a con.

  7. Lang had already satirized the Nazis in M!. Listen carefully to the speech given by the chief criminal during the "trial."

  8. You're not allowed to say NAZIS to nazis anymore. It's offensive. What if they haven't been real nazis and just pretending to be nazis?

  9. Hey!! Real great guys… :/
    do not get me wrong, this is a video that is nicely made and it is entertaining.! 🙂
    when you are going to make a title/theme span over more then one episode,
    please note it in the description.
    Hate to watch something, just to realize before it ends that I only got to see half the video and then.. nothing.

    (So that is where my "dislike" came from.. (Yeah.. i'm petty)

  10. Wait for a video "How Hitler trolled nazis". After Germany lost the war, it appeared that there were no nazis there: everyone was against the regime. 🙂

  11. Yeah that sounds like total bullshit, there are a ridiculous amount of stories people made up after the Third Reich fell. I have no doubt this is one of the fakes. Also “yellow shirts” def doesn’t help the credibility here..

  12. Disappointed , when I saw the Untergang cast thought this was a Hitler Rants vid. Also the SA uniforms were made of WWI khaki defined as ‘a light shade of brown with a yellowish tinge’….for all the losers worrying about that and ignoring the content of the vid. PS enjoyed all the other scenes like those from The Great Escape and North By Northwest!

  13. While the research is good, and the story's interesting, I just cannot stand you saying "Gerbels" over and over again. And then those yellow shirts… It's destroying the whole experience 🙁

  14. Love a lot of your vids @CinemaTyler. Great editing skills. I run a cinema club on social media, and will recommend your critiques and vids to peers in the group. This being a great example. Kudos to you my friend.

  15. many thanks Respect and love for fritz lang… there was a MAGA guy I had to work with a few yrs who used to walk around whistling. He had a penchant for murdering any fun or good mood I was having at work, so I asked him a few different times if he had ever seen M. He had no idea what I was talkin bout, so I'd tell him the basic plot n go back to work…

  16. No offense to the Germans but German is a language that should never be whispered it sounds so painful it’s like a silent yell but u forgot to clear your throat so now it sounds like a dog whistle combined with nails on a chalkboard

  17. In French, that ending 'e' is silent, unlike in German. It's Doctor Mabuse, ma.byz, not ma.bu.zə, as you pronounce it. (After doing a bit of research) Scratch that, the character is German, so it's indeed ma.bu.zə. 🙂

  18. Goes to show if your father is famous you will be too.

    I did not know the singer from Death Cab For Cutie had a son with Zoey Deschenel named Tyler

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