Fritz Lang concedes a rare interview to Friedkin, who wanted to use it together with another he made with Roman Polanski for a never completed project about horror cinema, to be titled A Safe Darkness. During this long conversation, which was edited to a 50-minute version especially for the Torino Film Festival, the Austrian-born director remembers his artistic life and discusses with Friedkin various arguments that interest both of them, including the relationship between reality and horror movies, the option of showing violent scenes or not on screen, and Germany during the Nazi years. Lang emigrated from Germany to the United States after finishing Das Tagebuch des Dr. Mabuse (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, 1933), and directing Metropolis (1927) and M (The Murderers are Among Us, 1931).
William Friedkin was born in Chicago on August 29, 1935, the son of Russian Jews who had emigrated to the United States. After graduating, he began working in television in the midst of the economic boom of the 1950's, a factor which would prove to be fundamental to his professional and artistic development. His first job was as a messenger boy at the local station WGN; then in 1959, he moved to WTTV, only to return to WGN as a director and screenwriter. During that period, he met the journalist Frank Caughlin, a member of Chicago's progressive middleclass who was famous for his civil rights battles. This culture is reflected in his first documentaries, which he made for WGN with his friend Bill Butler (who was to become an important director of photography for films like Jaws, Grease, Rocky II and Rocky III). He also filmed The People versus Paul Crump (1962), a movie which was conceived and made to save a man from the electric chair. This film won him the prize for best documentary at the San Francisco Film Festival. His first full-length film, Good Times, was made in 1967, but true success arrived in 1971 with The French Connection, which won five Oscars (best film, director, screenplay, editing and actor, Gene Hackman), followed in 1973 by The Exorcist, which won Oscars for best screenplay and sound. Sorcerer (1977), a remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot's film Le Salaire de la Peur (1953), was his unlucky film and weakened the relationship between Friedkin and the Studios. Between the late '70s and early '80s, the director alternated working on commission on a controversial film like Cruising (1980) and directing a milestone in detective films, To Live and Die in L.A. (1985). The 1990's saw him range from horror films like The Guardian (1990) to sports films, Blue Chips (1993), only to return to his favorite genre, noir films with Jade (1995). In Rules of Engagement (2000), Friedkin investigated the effective impossibility of reconstructing facts, on a historical and on a cinematographic level, while his most recent film, The Hunted (2003) takes dueling, a key feature of classic American cinema, to its extreme limit.
Beginnings: The Ulveling Interview (cm, doc., 1960), The People versus Paul Crump (mm, doc., 1962), «Home Again» - 77 - Grange of Illinois (cm, doc., 1963), The Bold Men (mm, doc., 1965), Pro Football: Mayhem on a Sunday Afternoon (mm, doc., 1965), «The Alfred Hitchcock's Hour» - Off Season (mm, TV, 1965), The Thin Blue Line (mm, doc., 1966), Good Times (1967), The Pickle Brothers (cm, TV, 1967), The Night They Raided Minsky's (Quella notte inventarono lo spogliarello, 1968), The Birthday Party (Festa di compleanno, 1968), The Boys in the Band (Festa per il compleanno del caro amico Harold, 1970), The French Connection (Il braccio violento della legge, 1971), The Exorcist (L'esorcista, 1973), Fritz Lang Interviewed by William Friedkin (1974-2003), Sorcerer (Il salario della paura, 1977), The Brink's Job (Pollice da scasso, 1978), Cruising (id., 1980), Deal of the Century (L'affare del secolo, 1983), To Live and Die in L. A. (Vivere e morire a Los Angeles, 1985), To Live and Die in L. A. (videoclip, 1985), Self-Control (videoclip, 1985), «The Twilight Zone» - Nightcrawlers («Ai confini della realtà» - I serpenti della notte, cm, TV, 1985), Somewhere (videoclip, 1986), The C.A.T. Squad (TV, 1986), Rampage (Assassino senza colpa?, 1987-1992), The C.A.T. Squad: Python Wolf (1988), The Guardian (L'albero del male, 1990), «Tales from the Crypt» - On a Dead Man's Chest («I racconti della cripta» - Segno di morte, cm, TV, 1992), Blue Chips (Basta vincere, 1993), Jailbreakers (TV, 1994), Jade (id., 1995), 12 Angry Men (La parola ai giurati, TV, 1997), Rules of Engagement (Regole d'onore, 2000), The Hunted (The Hunted - La preda, 2003).
Fotografia/Director of photography: William A. Fraker
Montaggio/Film editor: Augie Hess
Interpreti/Cast: William Friedkin, Fritz Lang