For Lang (reknowned director of Metropolis, M, the Dr Mabuse trilogy, Fury, The Big Heat and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt) this was his second American film after arriving in Hollywood and fleeing Nazi Germany in 1934. An early film noir made in 1937, You Only Live Once demonstrates Lang's visual power as a film maker and how successful he was making the journey from silent cinema into the era of sound. It is an expressionistic exploration of an anti-hero, Eddie Taylor (Henry Fonda), trapped in a cycle of violence, corruption and paranoia.
Eddie is a convict completing his third term for felony. One more offense, the warden warns him, and he will be returned to prison for life. Taylor is not a bad sort though, he has made his mistakes, but he has paid for them. All he wants now is a job, a home for the girl who has been waiting for him, Joan Graham (Syvia Sidney) and a family. He gets a truck-driving job, marries Joan and even makes a down payment on a little house. Sadly, everything falls apart: he loses his job, and a hat, bearing the initials “E.T”, found at the scene of a fatal bank robbery, is enough to convince a jury of his guilt. So he is forced to flee with his wife and baby on the way. In trying to avoid capture, Taylor becomes a murderer.
As Senses of Cinema suggests, the film presents "Eddie’s existential odyssey, a journey that begins with him succumbing to the cruel, violent forces of society, but ends in his tacit decision to combat and transcend these forces." It is regarded as perhaps the best of Lang's American noir that also includes Scarlet Street (1945), The Blue Gardenia (1953), The Big Heat (1953) and While The City Sleeps (1956).
At the time of release, the film was considered too violent and 15 minutes of footage had to be trimmed from the film. The story is also partly based on the exploits of Bonnie and Clyde and You Only Live Once explores the intense relationship between Eddie and Joan as they take to the road to escape the authorities. Lang's film would initiate the 'couple on the run' genre that later included Arthur Penn's own Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973).
DVD Special Features:
• Introduction by critic George Wilson
• 70 minute audio interview with Fritz Lang recorded at the National Film Theatre in 1962
• Inside You Only Live Once - film reel showing the creation and filming of the highly celebrated rain soaked bank robbery sequence
You Only Live Once
Cert: 12 / 82 min approx. / Region 2 / Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 / Black & White / Audio: Mono 2.0 / English language / Cat No: OPTD2346
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