I somehow sympathize with both your points of view, and while I don't necessarily want Lang to remain 'earthbound', the pulpyness in "Frau im Mond" is a little bit too pronounced occasionally. While I also like Lang's silent works far better than his later films, it may be that the visuals, striking as they are, sometimes get too much value of their own, masking what is basically a story without too much depth. Just compare this to "M" or indeed "The Testament of Dr.Mabuse". What I miss a little in "Frau im Mond" are the underlying questions and also a more direct awareness of the 'times' that you find in "Testament", and which help to lift the pulp (and "Testament" of course IS also pulo) up to a something significantly going beyond it. "Testament" is even more entertaining on a basic level: "Frau im Mond" literally only lifts off when they leave the planet, the spy/crime yarn of its first hour has been handled much more effectively, without undue lengths, in "Spione" and perhaps even "Die Spinnen".
I wanted to see the clash of modern and middle age sciences in Metropolis, and damn it, I wanted to see more remnants of ancient Atlantis civilisation on the Moon.
Perhaps you should try his very late 'Indian' films, which cater precisely to the taste for exoticism and over-the-top characters (which I also like). But these are a good example where the visuals fail to mask the utter triviality of the plot and the bad acting.
I feel the finest complement I can give is to describe Fritz Lang as a film composer in the truest sense of the word and this film offers ample evidence of the huge wealth of talent he possessed, deftly prescient and visually innovative, I came away with a real sense of wonder at what can be achieved cinematically.
Well said, and in this respect "Frau" is just another masterpiece indeed (at least the second half of it). Though it slightly pales compared to "Nibelungen" and "Metropolis" even here.
By the way: the curious hairstyle of the 'evil' guy always struck me as a parody of Hitler's. I don't know whether this was intentional or just my imagination, but if it's the first, well, perhaps there's more to the film than one might think. Just an idea.