Hangmen Also Die! (1943) Operation Anthropoid Nazi Assassination

Hangmen Also Die! (1943) movie credits titles shadow

Had no idea this Fritz Lang World War 2 film, Hangmen Also Die was based on Operation Anthropoid when I went in. Having a keen interest in military history I knew of the deadly task at hand. Interestingly the BBC have a series running at the moment investigating the training of SOE’s (Special Operations Executive) that specialised in espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance. Two SOE officers excelled the special training in the UK, one Czech the other Slovak, Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš. Both assigned with the task of being dropped back into their Nazi occupied home country with a deadly mission, to assassinate a high ranking Nazi leader. That Nazi asshole was dubbed The HangmanThe Butcher Of Prague, a truly hideous man who would also become know as one of the architects of the Holocaust, that beast was Reinhard Heydrich.

Hangmen Also Die! (1943) Hans Heinrich von Twardowski Reinhard Heydrich

The incredible achievement of this film is the fact it was made within a year of the assassination being carried out. What with secrets, propaganda and just the fact that news stories may not travel that fast, it’s fascinating to me that the nuts and bolts of this film picks up the factual details. It’s especially amazing because the SOE unit would of been highly top secret at the time. So that’s why I assume the changes with the two SOE hitmen to feature a lone gunman happened. Apart from a few other differences, most of the horrifying aftermath is quite true to the horrific facts.

Hangmen Also Die opens with the arrival of Reinhard Heydrich, here to motivate the workers of Prague, men and women tasked with fueling the Nazi war machine with their industry. To motivate harder working and tighter time schedules, when I say motivate, you should know that this included fear and intimidation. Hans Heinrich von Twardowski might only play Reinhard Heydrich for a short time but in the opening few minutes, he portrays so much in his performance that you despise this ghastly, monstrous man right from the get go. Lucky we don’t have to deal with him as the assassination is carried out off screen and leaves us with the introduction to our hitman.

Hangmen Also Die! (1943) Brian Donlevy on the run

Arriving looking like he’s lost from the silent era film, Brian Donlevy gives an over hamming it performance with a look on his face of the most guilty man on screen, ever. Playing doctor Dr. Franticek Svoboda our assassin is fearful and desperate for an escape after what looks like the mission didn’t go exactly to plan. After the initial scenes of ham with Brian Donlevy he seems to settle as the film progresses and excels as he realises what the aftermath of his deeds will bring.

Hangmen Also Die! (1943) Brian Donlevy and Jonathan Hale in Hangmen Also Die!

The film shows such fear but also so much resilience in such harsh and terrible times. For a film made in 1943 it doesn’t let up on troubling and brutal scenes. From savage and sick gestapo interrogations as they show brute force to find out who was involved in the hit. The film portrays, in equal measures, the different sides of spies and traitors, people coming together, martyrs, resistance fighters. All under the knowledge that anyone harbouring fugitives with not only get themselves killed but their families too.

Hangmen Also Die! (1943) Gestapo Insp. Alois Gruber Alexander Granach

So unfortunately the assassination of this evil man results in a bloodbath as the country is torn apart by Hitler’s men in the form of brutal reprisal. Though this act of assassination looked like total suicide and tragic with the untold number of mass executions which were to come, it proved to show the allies that the Czechoslovakian people were on their side. On this notion, Winston Churchill declared the Munich Agreement null and void and counted Czechoslovakia as an important ally in the fight for freedom.

It’s an important piece of history and the first of many film adaptations. Surprisingly there was another one in 1943 called Hitler’s Madman and three or four Czech versions of the story with one called Atentát (The Assassination) in 1964 which I would love to see. Another I want to watch is the 1975 take on the story called Operation Daybreak starring Timothy Bottoms and Joss Ackland as the two SEO officers. There are two newer adaptations coming 70 plus years later than Hangmen Also Die.

Hangmen Also Die! (1943) Anthropoid cillian murphy jamie dornan movie poster

One called The Man With Iron Heart (2017) and the one I watched last night and can very much recommend, Anthropoid (2016). It stars Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan as the two SEO officers. It’s an excellent telling of the story with a first rate powerhouse ending. Where Hangmen Also Die follows the people, Anthropoid retales the SEO and joining paratroopers story. Well worth watching the 1943 and 2016 version together in a double bill.

Hangmen Also Die! (1943) Anthropoid cillian murphy jamie dornan movie movie still

Be sure to pop on over to fellow film blogger Maddy Loves Her Classic Films where she did a fantastic, more detailed write up of this film. She always posts about great films so keep your eye on her site.

All the best and keep getting square eyes watching those screens and finding new and old movie gems…. Mikey Wolf

14 thoughts on “Hangmen Also Die! (1943) Operation Anthropoid Nazi Assassination

  1. Excellent review. Appreciate the link back to my blog too. This is such a cracking flick and very gritty and dark for the time. It was a very bold move by Lang to make this during the war too. LMAO at your spot on description of Donlevy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • hehe yeah I might of been a little mean on poor Donlevy though I remember you saying similar pop on your review lol. Such a great film and yes so dark too. A pleasure to link your excellent post over Maddy. Thanks for having a read. All the best 🙂


  2. Another Fritz Lang film well worth watching. Kenneth Branagh also played Heydrich in the film Conspiracy. A terrifying film that never leaves a meeting room for the majority of it. It’s just that the subject matter these high ranking madman are discussing is so disturbing. Still a really good film and one I need to revisit again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Mike sorry for the late reply, I have just seen this comment. Must of been a WP notification blip! I didn’t know Conspiracy. Looks very good. I’ll have to watch that one now that I’m slowly working my way through the retellings. But this looks like a different take on the story, more showing the sinister evil plan leading up to having to put Operation Anthropoid into action. Thanks for letting me know of it and the pre warning , it’s going to be very disturbing. Branagh doesn’t have those Heydrich rat like features but I bet he can bring the nasty to the table.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I usually associate Heytdrich with John Carradine from his performance in Hitler’s Madman. I’ve always thought that Branagh film like the most scary horror movie I’ve ever seen minus all the trappings of the genre. No blood, no jump scares etc…. just pure horror of what mans mind is capable of.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Madman? Disturbing? Have I got an award-winning Hitler film for you…it’s called ‘They Saved Hitler’s Brain’! Anyway…for some reason I’d always thought this was a film noir…not sure why, but I can see it’s more of a war drama than a detective thriller. Sounds good, though…I’ll see if I can dig it up somewhere.

    (And Mikey, sorry for being so delinquent on checking out your reviews…I’m going to spend the rest of this week trying to get caught up, so you won’t see a lot of comments from me, for now…just a lot of ‘Likes’! Although…you watch so many movies that I’ve seen and liked, I may have to cheat and sneak a comment in every now and then).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah it’s a pretty twist tale of true history and spawned quite a few retellings throughout the years. (I watched two of them) “Hangmen Also Die” is well worth a look. I too thought it was a film noir before going in. It’s that top image I reckon.
      LOL “They Saved Hitler’s Brain” 2.5 on IMDB sounds like a right classic. 🙂
      Oh Todd only pop on by when you got time, I’m the same and totally understand. The eternal battle with time, oh how I know her so well hehe. Nice one buddy


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