House by the River

Screening on Film
Directed by Fritz Lang.
With Louis Hayward, Lee Bowman, Jane Wyatt.
US, 1950, 35mm, black & white, 88 min.

In House by the River, Lang brought the Gothic sensibility so prominent in Die Nibelungen and Destiny to America. The film, with its tale of the aftermath of a sordid small-town murder at the turn of the twentieth century, is an important link between the dark melodramas of forties Hollywood and Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (1955). As in Laughton’s film, the river is omnipresent visually, and its flow represents both the promise and the threat of time: everything passes, but some things resurface that should remain buried. In Lang’s hands, the “American Gothic” on display emanates not from the supernatural but from a keen sense of moral bankruptcy.

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