Tag Archives: Peter Lorre

FEAR OF FEAR/ ANGST VON DER ANGST (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1975)

FEAR OF FEAR is a made-for-tv movie, a ‘woman’s’ film, a chamber piece in which a small set of characters and their inter-relationships are used to evoke a world, a social setting, a condition and an individual’s relationship to that world. As the film begins, Margot (Margit Cartensen), a middle-class housewife, beautiful and competent, happily married to an understanding husband (Ulric Faulhaber), is expecting her second child and understandably anxious. That anxiety turns to full-blown depression once the baby is born. Her in-laws live upstairs and whilst sometimes a help with baby-sitting, her mother in law (Brigitte Mira) criticises her housekeeping, her sister in law (Irm Hermann) is jealous and aspish, and her brother-in-law (Armin Meier), whilst kind and supportive, might also have sexual designs on her. The in-laws here are basically the Küsters but with their worst aspects highlighted and brought into focus: narrow-minded, petty, judgmental; an agent of social control; and heaven protect those that deviate from the narrow constraints they hold to be proper.

Margot is anxious and afraid, tired, and in such a deep funk she thinks she’s going mad. Her husband works during the day; studies at night; and though sympathetic to her, is not quite there for her or the children. Fassbinder shows us Margot, in frames within frames, hemmed in by the doorways of her ugly apartment, filmed at an angle to show her disassociation from her environment. There are lots of shots of her looking at mirrors where she questions the person she sees. Who is she? Who is she to her self? What is her ‘self’? Her inner state is often indicated in point-of-view shots where what she’s seeing is indicated by a blurred, wavy image as if she’s not quite there, and can no longer be objective about what’s out there either. The loss of her grip on reality is often signalled by an electric version of the type of score typical for melodrama.


Margot’s husband is concerned and they go to a doctor, who prescribes Valium, which helps, but soon she’s hooked on it and has to supplement the Valium with alcohol. Her sister-in-law catches her drinking in the middle of the day (the slattern!);, her mother in-law finds her dressed up with full on make-up in the daytime (it makes her feel better); her brother-in-law sees her in the swimming pool doing frenzied laps (what’s wrong with her?) and soon the in-law are checking on her constantly: has she fed the children, does she cook, does she need aspirin?: she’s a bad wife and mother who always though she was superior to everyone else. Is Margot mad? Or is this what trying to live up to impossible social norms that make no space for the wishes and dreams of women like Margot do to women like Margot?


Soon Margot is a drug-addict and a drunk, whoring herself out to the neighbourhood pharmacist (Adrian Hoven) for Valium. One afternoon, she tells him she wants to leave her family to be with him and he basically tells her she’s wonderful but that’s not an option. When she gets home, she slices a wrist; not to commit suicide, there’s her children, whom she loves. But just to feel something.


Kurt Raabe appears as Mr. Bauer, with all the charisma and creepiness of Peter Lorre, as a neighbour; her doppleganger – he’s just come out of an institution —  or her worst fear? He’s the only one who recognises what she’s going through. But every encounter with him on the street brings trauma. At the end of the film, when Margot has gone to a sanatorium, received help, and is back to normal, she looks out her window and sees that Mr. Bauer is in a coffin and hasn’t made it, the image begins to blurr and get wavey again. Is this a spark to regression? It’s ambivalent.


A tight, well-made film, like an un-glossy Sirk, that still feels relevant and lingers in the mind.

José Arroyo


Thinking Aloud About Film talks to Pamela Hutchinson about Ritrovato 2022

Ritrovato returns, in situ, live….and it was great to be back. Bologna itself, the food, the weather…all were heaven. But the reason we go to Bologna at this time of of the year is the films, the quality of the prints, the restorations, the way they are programmed and projected, and the conversations that take place around the screenings. In this episode, offered as vodcast and podcast, we discuss  the new booking system and the different strands of the programme: 100 Years Ago, Peter Lorre, Sophia Loren, Hugo Fregonese, Weimar Musicals , some of the restorations (El, Ludwig, La Maman et la Putain, ShoeshineNosferatu etc) and — in less detail — Yugoslavian Cinema and Cinema Libero. We couldn’t do it all. We wish we could have. The wonderful Pamela Hutchinson heroically resurfaced from her COVID sickbed to lend us her intelligence, knowledge and good humour and to helps us make sense of a cinephile experience that can easily overwhelm. This is the first of four podcast on Ritrovato. We will return with more extended discussions on Hugo Fregonese, Sophia Loren, Peter Lorre and an extended discussion of Erich von Stroheim’s Foolish Wives.


The vodcast can be seen here:


The podcast can be listened to here:


The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546


Very pleased to have made Ritrovato’s website here: https://festival.ilcinemaritrovato.it/en/thinking-aloud-about-film-talks-to-pamela-hutchinson-about-ritrovato-2022/

Readers might also be interested Pam’s excellent Bologna overview from a few years ago to give some context for those who’ve never been:

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 225 – Stranger on the Third Floor

Listen on the players above, on Apple Podcasts, or on Spotify.

A 62-minute-long, 1940 B-movie whose director you haven’t heard of and whose top-billed star has barely ten minutes of screen time, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Stranger on the Third Floor is nothing remarkable, but its reputation precedes it: Here we behold, if the legends are true, the first film noir.

José, a lover of noir, both likes and dislikes this line. On the one hand, it enjoyably disrupts what is already a fairly shaky narrative of noir beginning practically overnight in 1941; on the other, noir is a term that encompasses many visual styles, stories, character types, associated genres and influences, and artistic movements like this develop gradually, not immediately. But this taxonomic discussion says nothing of Stranger on the Third Floor‘s quality.

And for a good fifteen minutes or so, that quality is not promising, but the film explodes into life upon the protagonist’s descent into a hallucinatory nightmare brought on by guilt and fear. It’s José’s first time seeing the film, and immediately he proclaims its dream sequence as one of cinema’s greatest. And throughout the film, before, during and after this central visual treat, there is conveyed a vivid sense of the difficulties of life in Depression-era America, alongside a severe critique of the absurdity of a justice system that can be relied upon to offer nothing of the sort. All of which is to say nothing of Peter Lorre, who imbues his titular stranger with both understandable threat and surprising empathy.

So, Stranger on the Third Floor, The First Film Noir, is rather more than an historical curio. It embodies stylistic and thematic developments that were taking place in American cinema of its era, though the question of what counts as first is best left to those who think it’s even deserving of an answer, let alone possible to establish one. It’s a film that is on its own terms deserving of your attention, and in between its B-movie cheapness and clunkiness, offers something truly great.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.