Hangmen Also Die (1943)

During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovokia, insurgent Franticek Svoboda (Brian Donlevy) assassinates the brutal German leader Reinhard Heydrich (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski). Svoboda escapes with the aid of history professor Stephen Novotny (Walter Brennan), but Novotny is then captured, along with 400 other Czechs, through the machinations of Nazi sympathizer Emil Czaka (Gene Lockhart). The Czech prisoners are then told that if Svoboda does not surrender, they will all be executed.

From Rotten Tomatoes

I came across this film, a solid political thriller from World War 2, after watching M (1931) by Fritz Lang. This film is film noir and, as it was made during WW2, is dark and gritty.

This film depicts the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and its underground resistance. It isn't afraid to show the reality of the Czech resistance and the sacrifices those in the fight faced.

The film is loosely based on the 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi Reich Protector of German-occupied Prague, number-two man in the SS, and a chief mastermind of the Holocaust, who was known as "The Hangman of Prague." The real Heydrich was assassinated by Czech resistance fighters parachuted from a British plane in Operation Anthropoid, but in the film, which was made during World War II before the full story had become public knowledge, Heydrich's killer is depicted as a member of the Czech resistance with ties to the Communist Party.


It is a film filled with propaganda, but having watched dozens of films from 1939 to the mid-1940s, I know many of them had similar slants. Even watching the movie and knowing it's from the 1940s, one can't help to think a lot of the film's story could be applied to nearly any citizen resistance across many other countries.

Propaganda aside, this film has impressive camera work, visuals, and acting. The story is raw and shows the Czech resistance's confusion and deception of their Nazi occupiers throughout, making this a robust, gritty, yet enjoyable 2-hour watch.

Without giving away too much of the plot - two memorable scenes are (1) the Restaurant scene, where the resistance fighters discover new information, and the final 15 minutes.

Pay attention to the final scene, which wraps up the story nicely.