While the City Sleeps
Dana Andrews, George Sanders, Sally Forrest, Ida Lupino,
A lurid dime-novel murder propels us into the film Lang regarded as a personal favorite. Here we move ever farther from the moody lighting and striking camera angles of Fury, and ever closer to implicit expressionism; move from big stars to a B ensemble (Ida Lupino and company, plus Vincent Price) who give it their all. Here the Langian shadows and vectors are convergent plotlines, as the editorial staff of a big-city newspaper compete to nab the so-called “lipstick killer”—a pathetic delivery boy with a mother fixation who pleads, “Catch me before I kill again.” Sympathy, of course, is for the devil, rather than for the craven careerists who commit any sin for a story, then hide out in their underground bar. (“I wonder what the nice people are doing tonight?” muses the good guy, Dana Andrews.) In that bar, you might find a killer looking at you, as if in a mirror: in his penultimate American film, Lang came full circle, back to M. Fate is not an impersonal destiny at all.