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Crime, Drama, Thriller, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
Fritz Lang


          M IMDb    M Wikipedia    M Soundtrack

Peter Lorre as Hans Beckert
Ellen Widmann as Frau Beckmann
Inge Landgut as Elsie Beckmann
Otto Wernicke as Inspector Karl Lohmann
Theodor Loos as Inspector Groeber
Gustaf Gründgens as Schränker
Friedrich Gnaß as Franz, the burglar
Fritz Odemar as The cheater
Paul Kemp as Pickpocket with six watches
Theo Lingen as Bauernfänger
Rudolf Blümner as Beckert's defender
Georg John as Blind panhandler
Franz Stein as Minister
Ernst Stahl-Nachbaur as Police chief
M Storyline: In Germany, Hans Beckert is an unknown killer of girls. He whistles Edvard Grieg's 'In The Hall of the Mountain King', from the 'Peer Gynt' Suite I Op. 46 while attracting the little girls for death. The police force pressed by the Minister give its best effort trying unsuccessfully to arrest the serial killer. The organized crime has great losses due to the intense search and siege of the police and decides to chase the murderer, with the support of the beggars association. They catch Hans and briefly judge him.
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M is such a great movie!
it captures the way cinema and theater were once very close, especially in Deutchland. this movie is wonderful, it really is, you should watch it! it is a drama picture, it deals with the way the film maker saw his surrounding, which wasn't good at all. to me it felt like the filmmakers were quite aware to the awful state in which the German nation was, in the late 20s, early 30s. it directly referred to the way in which crippled people were referred to at the time, and i think it is equivalent to many films we have now days, talking about society. "M" was a great movie, that came to sum up a part of cultural life in Germany, fearing the land might not have anybody to do that later on.
A visual and audible movie that captivates and excites
A murderer of girls has frightened the entire city. The police are looking frantically, desperately, arresting anyone suspected. For other part, the leaders of the mob, angered by the raids that are suffering because of the murderer, they decide to seek their own

It is the first film where a serial murderer appears, and without staying in the mere collection morbid murders the film makes a profound reflection on German society broken by war, economic instability, unemployment and crime.

Fritz Lang got with "M" draw the profile of psychopath who later follow all his colleagues with varied shades. In the final scene, Peter Lorre shakes the heart of any viewer with its final monologue, achieving a degree of empathy with the public

Lang movie structured into three parts. The first shows the murderer and their consequences. The second shows the viewer the competition between law enforcement, criticized for their lack of results and criminals harassed by the police in their search for the murderer, to reach the same goal but with different methods. And in the third, which is the most daunting a merciless manhunt.

Both the pace, as the narrative, as the assembly of this film have nothing to learn any modern Thriler. Its advances in sound are memorable and the ability to Lang framing or sticking out all the juice possible (with Arno Wagner) of black and white photography is extraordinary. Especially memorable are the great opening sequence and comparison established between cops and robbers.
Spoilers follow ...
It isn't often a villain immediately invites the vitriol of the audience than a child murderer, or even more importantly, a sex offender. Director Fritz Lang intended this film as a stark warning against child neglect (as the very last few lines underline). The very lengthy meetings and discussions as to how the murderer be apprehended are enlivened somewhat by the challenge that characters have of actually seeing one another amidst the fog of all pervading cigar and pipe smoke. The acting is solid throughout, if theatrical in a manner typical of this period of film making. Talking pictures were very much in their infancy here and so the style of acting is highly visual – this is no complaint: the extravagant gestures enhance the atmosphere much as they did in the early sound Universal pictures. It has to be said that the performances here are even slightly restrained (if that is the right word) compared to others of this era.

And yet Peter Lorre, in his first major role, creates a true presence amongst all this, which is vital to the effectiveness of the story after the weight of expectation placed upon his character Hans Beckert. His reputation is discussed at length, and the first few glimpses we get of him are silent. Wide eyed and unassuming, this little man seems far from the monster we have been lead to believe he is. His mannerisms of jumpy neurosis and excitement upon spying children – especially young girls – going about their business are bravely portrayed given the subject matter, and in no time, we believe in him thoroughly.

Fritz Lang names this as his favourite of all his films, and it is easy to see why. The direction is inventive and almost surreal in places, inviting us fleetingly in to Beckert's world: a parade of photographs of his victims snatched away from our view to reveal the sea of scowling faces of Beckert's unelected jury; the revelation of the balloon Beckert bought for one of his young victims taking centre stage as he backs fearfully away from the incriminating toy; unusual viewpoints and distant camera work during the chase towards the end. Finally, Beckert's crumbling admission and cries of 'I can't help it!' A broken man guilty of the most heinous crime, viewed by a band of vigilantes impassively observing his meltdown. It is strong stuff of course, and caused the expected controversy at the time and since, but we take a long time to get to this point. A lot of time – rather too much for my enjoyment – is spent with other, lesser characters and their endless plans to capture the miscreant. At nearly two hours, it is too long – hardly surprising that an edited version (running at 98 minutes) was released in 1960. Yet what we have here is nevertheless a ground-breaking film, stunningly directed with a flourish that would prove inspirational for years to come, and a barnstorming central performance so strong that Lorre had cause to resent the subsequent type-casting that resulted.
The Masterpiece of Peter Lorre
Peter Lorre, one of the greatest of the character actors in cinema history, is at his best as a molester, murderer, who roams the streets. Fritz Lang, who was one of the most versatile directors adds his mark to this. Lorre is terrific in his role, whistling "In the Hall of the Mountain King," slinking around. That voice. That persona. It is also about the people who pursue him. One thinks immediately of Hitchcock's "The Lodger" (the first one) where the blood lust takes the place of reason and vigilantism rears its ugly head. We are led on a chase here and the close ups and the editing are masterful. Some would put this in a top ten (if they had actually seen it). It says, "Don't go out at night in the fog." The atmosphere is as responsible for the success of this as any facet of the portrayal of the sick soul that is Lorre.
Serial Child Murderer Whistles While He Works
This is One of those Great Movies that has been Contemplated, Written About, Studied, Dissected, Discussed and Never Dismissed. it is So Good that even those Averse to Foreign Language Films with Subtitles, Early Sound Era, and Black and White, can't Help but be Impressed if the Movie is Given a Chance.

The Film is so Ripe with Cinematic Excellence, Timeless Themes, and Controversy that it was and has Remained a Movie that Made its Indelible Mark and shows Absolutely No Signs of becoming Irrelevant or Dated even Decades after its Release.

There are In Depth Studies to be Found Elsewhere and Research on this One is Recommended for the Casual Movie Fan and is Required for the Film Enthusiast. It is Rightly Considered one of Director Fritz Lang's Best Movies in a Career that is Filled with Contenders. His Roots in German Expressionism along with His Technical Prowess Helped Him Make some of the Most Influential Films of All Time.

It was the Debut Starring Role for Peter Lorre and Spawned a Fifty Year Career of Character Acting at its Best. This Film is Unsettling and Provocative and is an Example of Film as High-Art and Cultural Significance. It was also made in Germany at the Beginning of Nazi Power and there are Parallels to be Found.

Highly Influential Movie that Anticipated Police Procedural Exposes, Psychological Horror, Film-Noir, Socially Relevant Message Movies, and Overall in the World of World Cinema this is One of the Great Ones.

Note...Many have made the obvious explanation that M stands for…Murderer...but it could also stand for…Monster…Maniac...or more profoundly…Man...and the Horrors that He commits. Was Lang warning of what to expect from the…Man...wearing the Swastika.
"M" makes you create the violence in your own mind
This masterwork was the joint creation of a husband and wife team, Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou, even though Lang's name is the only one featured up front. "M" is much more than just a film about capturing a pedophile murderer. In fact, you never see a murder. Most reviews overlook the clever structure of the script, which was credited to both Lang and von Harbou. Berlin is famous for its dry humor, which is sprinkled throughout the dialog despite the grim theme. Early on there's a scene in a bar in which a group of regulars discuss the latest murder until one man accuses another of possibly being the culprit. And there is a sequence of wry cuts which switch back and forth between a police conference and a gang conference as both separately discuss how to capture the child killer.

Peter Lorre was a stage actor before accepting this film role, and it shows at times. Actually, the film is almost stolen by the sly Otto Wernicke (Inspector Karl Lohmann), whose performance was so strong that Lang brought him back to play the same character in "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse" (1933). Another outstanding performance was given by Gustav Gründgens (Schränker, the crime boss). The large cast was matched to the top talents. The cutting is marvelous, as is the camera work. But be careful to avoid the washed-out copies that were sold before the restored version (2004). The English subtitles were clear without interfering with the images, and the sound was very good (by 1931 standards).
An amazing crime drama
Oddly enough, the only reason I watched this movie as fast as I did was because I found its short title to be eye catching while looking for different films to watch. I also like crime dramas, so I decided to watch this movie as I was expecting something Hitchcock-esque. However, I liked it all of Hitchcock's films that I've seen as it's not just a well-made crime drama, but a smart one.

A child murderer named Hans Beckert has just killed his third victim, Elsie Beckmann. With little evidence, the police decide to raid and question psychiatric patients with a history of violence towards children. In fear of the police ruining business, an underground boss named Schranker decided to assemble a group of crime lords to start their own manhunt.

On the surface, this movie seems like a simple, well-made crime drama. However, the movie has a deeper meaning concerning people fighting against a corrupt environment. The police force in the film were flawed as they staged raids with little to no evidence. They were the reason why the gang lords organized their own manhunt. That manhunt came with its own law force. However, that's not to say that what they did was moral, because they also created an unfair kangaroo court to try Hans Beckert. They were more concerned with killing him themselves rather than turning him over to the police. Despite this, however, the fact that the citizens were more successful than the police in catching the child murderer shows how faulty the actual police force was. Essentially, this film is about a corrupt "law force" forming in the midst of another one.

As many other critics have pointed out, Peter Lorre gave a magnificent performance. The reason his performance was so unsettling was how his character turned from a heartless killer to someone terrified by the thought of being killed. The final act where he begged for his life was chilling as we got to see another side of Beckert that we hadn't witnessed before. I don't believe that many other actors would've been able to make that scene work as well as he did. Even though Lorre didn't become truly spectacular until the 2nd half, I wouldn't describe his performance as bland, because he still sent chills down my spine when he would talk to the kids he planned on killing. Also, even his whistling was slightly unsettling. On top of Lorre's great performance, the final act was also powerful as Beckert's monologue for why he kills people is both haunting and thought provoking. The scene also shows the flaws with the court system the criminals established, showing that they aren't any better than the police force in the film.

This movie has one of the best openings I've ever seen in recent years. It does a great job putting us right in the middle of the action. It starts off with several kids chanting about a murderer in a courtyard, a scene which shows us how many of the children are oblivious to how dangerous the killer really is. The scene then shows one of the girls coming home when she comes across a wanted poster for the murderer. Suddenly, we witness one of the most unsettling and remarkable character introductions of all time as Beckert's shadow moves in front of the poster. It's a clever way of introducing us to the killer not just because of its creativity, but also because the film doesn't show Beckert's face right away. There are also a couple unsettling shots in the opening that work due to their subtlety such as Elsie's ball rolling out of the bushes and her balloon getting lost in a set of telephone wires.

The sound in this film was both impressive and revolutionary. Quite a few scenes stuck out due to their use of sound. An example can be found in the opening shot as we heard a girl talking before the film revealed its first shot. The technique of showing dialogue or sound before a film starts off is still used in movies today such as "Hunger", "The Tree of Life", and "Whiplash". However, a truly suspenseful moment was when Beckert pursued a young girl in the streets. The camera was only focused on her, but we heard Beckert's whistling in the background getting louder and louder. There were other instances in the film which made the camera feel alive. An example of this was how we heard the sounds of different objects before they would come into view. This can be seen in the car horns as we heard them before they entered the shot. It felt like the movie was actually taking place in real time. While this may seem like nothing today, it was really innovative back then. The sound design in the film was way ahead of its time.

In conclusion, this movie was a remarkable film. It's both a deep and well-made crime drama which impressed me for a number of reasons. It has a deeper meaning, great acting, a haunting 2nd half, and innovative sound design. A few people criticized the movie for trying to get you to sympathize with a child murderer. However, I don't think the movie is asking for sympathy as much as it is asking for understanding. Regardless, it's one of the best crime films I've ever seen.
A pioneering drama and cinematic landmark
Fritz Lang, dubbed as the "Master of Darkness", achieved new heights with his groundbreaking, 1927 silent masterpiece "Metropolis". Four years later, Lang would create his first 'talking' film in "M", a precursor to the film-noir genre that, even today, serves as the quintessence of crime thriller.

One thing I truly admire about B&W films is its use of light and shadows to manipulate setting, emotions and character development. Lang's visual style was said to mirror his contempt and increasingly pessimistic worldview. In "M", Lang creates an atmosphere of fearful apprehension; men are seen in shadows, in smoke-filled rooms.

This is a powerful and fertile piece of art. Hans Beckert, the disturbed child killer, uncannily portrayed by Peter Lorre, is often seen looking through glass windows or mirrors for expressive purposes. Sometimes we see just his shadow. His words are few and far between, and yet his general frame of mind and emotions are quite apparent to us.

The acting is superb and the story is a riveting one. But it was the cinematography that took my breathe away. One spectacular shot, among many, occurs when Becker is unwillingly dragged down to a basement. His cries for help are quickly silenced as he turns around to the sight of hundreds of criminal faces - silent, eerie, menacing.

The flow of this story is guided by two seemingly distinct groups seeking out the notorious child murderer - the police and the criminals. And yet, they are both cleverly shot (in their dark, smoky rooms) to appear as virtually homologous beings - even the criminals deem this man's freedom as injustice, with this commonality almost blending two morally opposite figures into one force.

The film is masterfully crafted and serves as an important message for parental neglect of their children. As we hear our killer compulsively whistle the same tune from "Peer Gynt," we are continually reminded of the innocence children can see in others and the perils of them acting on that naiveté. "M" is an unpredictably formidable film.
Spoilers herein.

Seeing this again makes me wonder about the different ways people evaluate filmmakers. For me, a filmmaker has to have skills in conveyance ideally through novel as well as effective means, but he/she also must have something worth conveying.

In the first measure, I've always regarded Lang as a production designer not a filmmaker. He poses as a filmmaker just as the seducer here poses as a friend. Both are talented fakers.

In the second half of the equation, I have always been unsatisfied by the elementary social commentary he selects.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
There are no "answers" {Fritz Lang}
This is a piece of cinema history. Fritz Lang, has left an impressive record of his genius and love of the cinematic art form. In this particular work we are taken on a journey of exploration, touching on some of Lang's big themes, {which are often repeated in his cinematic "body of work"}.

A perverse,{from a pathological view-point} or evil, {from a moral view- point}, force is at work in a Dusseldorf precinct of 80 years ago. The viewer is led through a beautifully wrought cinematography with insane camera angles {the camera is definitely a player in this movie}, as the fear and paranoia of one of the most heinous forms of criminality is explored. The rape and murder of young girls by a serial killer.

Hans Beckett {played by the totally amazing actor Peter Lorre} is wreaking mayhem amongst the population as the townspeople become gripped with a mass hysteria fed by sensationalist broadsheets and the pull and tug of imaginary monsters.

The realism {a style pioneered by Lang in this film} is palpable and emphasized by the precise care for detail, that Lang delivers throughout. The tension is cast in a delineated incise clarity with all of the actors being finely portrayed by the master film-maker.

Apart from being a great yarn, suspense thriller, chase movie, detective/police drama, bohemian milieu expose, {this movie has something of every possible genre}, there is also the philosophical question of human morality that Lang raises {its ugly head?}.

What is to be done about the criminally insane? Are they different from the vocational criminal? In what way are they different? How should their punishment differ? How can society be protected from this category of miscreant? Should they be punished at all? Finally, apart from the aforementioned questions and other related questions, Lang poses the eternal conundrum "What can Mothers do to protect their children from these aberrants and their violent obsessions?" The final solution, Lang offers amounts to the admonition to "look after your children", in other words Lang is saying, "not very much can be done".

This is a dense movie, running the gamut of horror, and comedy, a mirror that is shone in your face and ultimately challenging the viewer to ask the primal question "exactly what is it, to be human?".
See Also
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