Today in Movie History: May 11

Dark and gloomy films rule the roost today, with one bright ray of sunshine from Robert Redford. We’ll start with the masterpiece: Fritz Lang’s M, a chilling study in crime, compulsion and human evil that made a star out of Peter Lorre… whose unsettling performance as a child killer captured and tried by the criminal underworld launched an entire career of playing creeps and weirdoes. The film opened in Lang’s native Germany today in 1931.

If you prefer your Gothic crime in a more modern context, there’s Alex Proyas’s The Crow, a supernatural revenge story overshadowed by the tragic death if its star, Brandon Lee, while on set. Lee’s passing gave the film a ghoulish curiosity factor, but 24 years on, its haunting power remains undiminished. The film succeeded not because it relishes revenge, but because it understands that revenge won’t bring back what was lost. It opened today in 1994.

North of the border, a little Canadian crew took a new approach to the age-old horror chestnut of werewolf movies. The result was Ginger Snaps, a darky funny pro-feminist exercise that combines the high school angst of Heathers with some good old-fashioned bloodletting. It opened today in 2001.

Finally, it is spring after all, and with all those shadows on tap, we could use something a little brighter. Enter Barry Levinson’s The Natural, which reinvented a downbeat baseball novel as a sunny affirmation of Reagan’s America… and with Robert Redford in the lead, helped reinvigorate the baseball movie for a new generation. It opened today in 1984.


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