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Fritz Lang’s ‘Man Hunt’ at Goethe Institute

“Man Hunt” (1941), which screens tonight at 8 at the Goethe Institute, 8501 Wilshire Blvd., has a tantalizing paint-yourself-into-the-corner opening.

A man with a precision rifle has lined up in his sights none other than Hitler, who is standing on a Berchtesgaden balcony. Where do you go from here--especially when you know that Hitler isn’t about to be assassinated? Not to worry, Fritz Lang’s film, which Dudley Nichols adapted from Geoffrey Household’s “Rogue Male,” deftly turns the table, with the hunter, the aristocratic Walter Pidgeon, becoming the prey--and meeting along the way an adorable, gallant cockney prostitute played by Joan Bennett.

Lang’s compositions are as glorious and expressive as his silent classics, but he brings a light touch to this story, balancing suspense and adventure with the charm of the Pidgeon-Bennett relationship. A suave George Sanders supplies the evil as a top Nazi, and Roddy McDowall, in his American debut as a child actor, is a brave and imaginative cabin boy.

“Man Hunt” ends on a stirring patriotic note appropriate to World War II, but it is timeless in its sophistication and in the subtlety with which it contrasts a dangerously naive but ultimately heroic British sense of sportsmanship with Nazi ends-justify-the-means implacability.

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“Man Hunt” is screening as part of a film series being presented in connection with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ “From Babelsberg to Hollywood” exhibition. Admission is free but reservations are required: (213) 854-0993.


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