Der müde Tod (1921) - Fritz Lang

Destiny from 1921 is the first successful film by Fritz Lang. Since I am doing this in chronological order, this is the first Horror movie to be made this well. Fritz Lang takes into account every aspect of the film. He weighs the contrast of the lighting with the mood in the scene. He gets these wonderful HUGE shots outside and the film is still visible. He actually spent the time experimenting with film to get the actual science behind successful cinematography. Sure, Robert Wiene had some fantastic sets in Caligari. However, Lang is successful with both artistic set design and beautiful cinematography.

The story is deeper than most horror films up to this point. The title suggests that Death might be the “Destiny” of every man, or I should say that every man’s destiny is Death. However, I believe that it actually shows that bringing souls out of the living is the Destiny for Death.

Death in this movie is quite well portrayed, perhaps the most well portrayed version of Death. His character, although the antagonist, is quite sad and full of moroseness. He challenges our leading lady to a game; if she can stop Death with love in three trys then she can win back the soul of her fiancee. Thus the movie is broken up into three tales.

The three tales all feature our characters in different roles, in different places, in different times. The first takes place in old Arabia, the next is a renaissance era piece, and the final is a comedy that takes place in China. Each are beautifully sculpted pieces of cinema. However, they are all very involved. This isn’t just a casual silent picture. Every scene has been carefully crafted by Fritz Lang. This is a film that is very deep and involved. It is not light.

That being said I am going to have to condemn this film on the basis of being a weak horror film. I can’t really say that the movie was scary but it was great under so many different aspects. Death was portrayed here by, quite possibly, the best actor to take the role at the time. The other choices were disposable. This is a great film but it is just an okay horror movie.


  • This is Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Buñuel's favorite movie.