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He's one of the masters, of course, but from these three early movies, you'd never guess....
Kino / 237 Minutes / 1919-1921 / Unrated / Street Date: November 6, 2012
There is a double-edged sword quality to Fritz Lang: The Early Works. On one hand, Kino has made available a trilogy of pictures that most of us only had familiarity with from biographies on the great director: while still famous for works like M and Metropolis, information about Lang's apprentice years as a filmmaker is minimal. Therefore, a set like this - which contains Harakiri (1919), The Wandering Shadow (1920), and Four Around the Woman (1921) - is historically invaluable.
The other side of it, though, is that these films are the work of Fritz Lang before he became Fritz Lang. Lacking any of the master's iconic sensibilities, if we didn't know these were Lang movies, we'd never have guessed - as capable as they are as stories, these films don't have any major presence to them. They're clear manifestations that while Lang may have gone on to change the medium for the better, at this phase in his career, he was still playing by the books.
Yet even if Fritz Lang: The Early Works sags as an overall DVD box set, for cinephiles curious about witnessing the early trajectory of the director's career, a release like this one is at the very least curiously informative. As a piece of Lang's cinematic biography, it is informative, of course, but the movies themselves don't exactly hold water.