Master of concentrated suspense: Horror, gender and fantasy in Lang’s 1940s films

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This article is an examination of the critical reception of Lang's career during the 1940s. Although many of his 1940s films are now understood as classics of film noir, this article demonstrates that they were often understood as horror films during the period. Not only does this illustrate that both the films and the term ‘horror’ had very different meanings during the 1940s from those that are common today, but also it gives an indication of the ways in which European cinemas and their directors were understood. In other words, although it is often claimed that noir came about due to the ways in which émigré directors imported ‘expressionist’ tendencies into Hollywood cinema, it may be more accurate to suggest that, in the midst of a boom in horror production during the 1940s, Hollywood turned to these directors because of its perception of European cinemas. Furthermore, the analysis presented by this article also suggests that the reason for Lang's declining fortunes during the decade was due to his failure to make the shift towards ‘realism’ that was pioneered by directors such as Billy Wilder and Robert Siodmak, a shift that was also strongly associated with horror.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-183
Number of pages13
JournalStudies in European Cinema
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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