Hangmen Also Die! (1943) – full review!

Hangmen Also Die! (1943) – full review!

This World War II propaganda thriller featuring a better than average plot and tolerable jingoism was co-produced and directed by Fritz Lang who also co-wrote its story (with Bertolt Brecht) that was adapted by John Wexley. Set in occupied Czechoslovakia the drama begins with the (unseen) assassination of the ruling Nazi official German officer Reinhard Heydrich (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski) known to the Czech people as “the hangman” for his brutal tactics during Germany’s occupation of their country. The Czechs were unified in their resistance against these occupying forces; their work was intentionally slow and they refused to snitch on each other for acts that hindered their oppressors. Hence when the assassin (Brian Donlevy) is escaping he’s assisted by Nasha Novotny (Anna Lee) who directs the pursuing Germans in the opposite direction. However the extreme actions which the unrelenting Nazis take to ferret out the assassin begin to make some Czechs question their devotion to the cause. Nasha is among the first because her father Professor Stephen Novotny (Walter Brennan) is imprisoned along with hundreds of others marked for execution unless the assassin is revealed and captured.

The Nazis are assisted by a traitor Emil Czaka (Gene Lockhart) a brewer who lines his pockets while helping the Germans with their strategies and in capturing or killing members of the underground (like Byron Foulger’s character). Gestapo Inspectors Gruber (Alexander Granach) and Ritter (Reinhold Schünzel) focus their attention and pressure on Nasha who’d mistakenly brought herself and her family to their attention when she had a momentary lapse in patriotism. She deduces that the assassin is not an architect named Karel Vanek as he’d first introduced himself but is actually a surgeon Dr. Franticek Svoboda. But after Nasha witnesses the brave resistance of others that she knows (e.g. a grocer played by Sarah Padden) she helps Svoboda to use her initial almost betrayal against Gruber and Ritter to ensnare Czaka. Her assistance in this effort is complicated by her fiancé (Dennis O’Keefe) Jan Horak’s misunderstanding of the situation but Jan eventually figures out Nasha’s participation and joins the fight.

This dramatic film’s Score was nominated for an Academy Award its Sound Recording was also Oscar nominated. Nana Bryant Margaret Wycherly Tonio Selwart and Lionel Stander are among the other credited actors in the cast.

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