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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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eerily relevant
The interesting thing about M is not that it was Lang's first film with sound, but that he was able to use sound so effectively with no prior experience with it. Rather than just adding another layer to the visuals, sound is often completely divorced from the visuals, creating two distinct elements working in concert. Another thing that marks M is its' subject matter, which was many years ahead of it's time and influenced countless other films while making Fritz Lang an enemy of the Nazi party.

From the very beginning of the film, characters are heard before they are ever seen. We hear children playing and singing a violent nursery rhyme as they camera tilts down to reveal them on an eerie downward angle. Hearing the voices off screen, and without music makes for a haunting, almost ghostly screen presence that Lang will use again and again throughout the film, particularly with the killer Beckert.

Borrowing a technique from opera known as Leitmotif, Lang first introduces Beckert by having us hear his whistling "Hall of the Mountain King" off screen, then representing him as a shadow on a wanted poster. From this moment on we understand that when we hear this tune, the killer is prowling. In fact, this is how the blind balloon seller recognizes Beckert in the end.

One particularly memorable scene occurs shortly after the first child is abducted, when the child's frantic mother calls out for her repeatedly, with increased panic as we are shown several dark, empty scenes culminating in a small, childlike balloon figure caught in power lines before coming free and silently floating away.

Almost as important as the technique used in this film is it's content. While much of our entertainment today involves psychotics and dark, violent stories, it goes without saying that in the late 20's and early 30's, the subject matter of film was somewhat tamer. M received heavy criticism from the Nazi party not for this however, but for the scenes in which the narrative switches back and forth between the police and the criminal element as they both discuss ways in which to catch the dangerous serial killer. This, along with the fact that the criminals beat the police to Beckert, supposedly degrades law enforcement by showing it as incompetent, although this is debatable, as the police would have caught Beckert soon anyway.

There are also undercurrents of socialism in the film, which undoubtedly made the Nazis a little nervous. The criminals talk of pooling their money and using it to support the families of members temporarily incarcerated. At one point a policeman even says, "each individual is responsible for what happens to the poorest child on the streets". At another time someone is heard to lament the effects of fear on a desperate population, " there's no privacy anymore". For a government built on fear after the Reichstag fire, this might have been seen as sly criticism.

Impressive films wisely use new technology in ways that push the boundaries of film. Classic films use bedrock principals of good storytelling to keep our interest and stay relevant even many years after their creations. While it's not often that a film can combine both of these elements to create a truly great film, Fritz Lang's M definitely qualifies. This is a groundbreaking film with a potent message that touches on debates about the nature of criminality and the ultimate responsibilities for actions. Debates that are still occurring more than 70 years after this films release.
outstanding film from Fritz Lang
Don't let the fact that this is a German language film get in the way of letting you watch it M is one of the best expressionist thrillers i have ever seen fritz Lang dose an incredible job of creating suspense and keeps you griped from the very start. Peter Lorre is a kind of actor you don't see much anymore and his performance is outstanding witch goes for most actors in this film. the film follows the story of Berlin suffering from horror of a child murderer although this might sound like a grim story the film is really very beautiful this is a must see for any fan of film or German expressionism. the use of sound is really what makes this film amazing, peter Lorre's whistle will be in your head for day. the only other fritz Lang movie i have seen is metropolis and i have to say although metropolis begin a great science fiction masterpiece i enjoyed M a lot more its not only a brilliant exciting film it is also a piece of history from a time when Germany played a massive part the world of cinema and if my word is not enough to persuade you into checking out this film maybe the fact it is part of the criterion collection can.
M for "modern"
Extremely well-crafted and powerful drama that could spring from the pages of today's newspapers.

Fritz Lang poignantly captures the vulnerability of the sweets-loving child victim and the mother pathetically waiting for her daughter to return home from school.

We see cops feeling the heat from a horrified public and the bumbling incompetence within their ranks. We also see the well-organized thugs who beat the police at their own game -- not because they like kids but because the murders are costing them profits.

Speaking of poignancy, we don't feel any when the predator is finally cornered like a trapped rat. He can't help himself...he must suffer from his inexorable compulsion. Awwww...

The Peter Lorre character's judges aren't moved, either. And while the stony, moralistic justice of the cons' court comes as a refreshing surprise, one recoils with the realization that this was filmed within years of the rise of the ultimate rogue tribunal -- the Nazis, who also appointed themselves executioner.

Lorre excels here but has surprisingly little screen time. I haven't seen much of his work elsewhere but it's hard to imagine his surpassing this performance.

Truly memorable.
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.
"...they never leave me. They're always there..."
There's a serial killer in Berlin who targets children. The police have been unable to catch him but their increased presence has made life more difficult for the criminal underworld. So the criminals band together to try and find the child killer themselves and issue their own brand of justice. Exceptional German film from the great Fritz Lang. His best sound film and second best film overall, behind only the silent sci-fi masterpiece Metropolis. The cast is terrific. Peter Lorre is amazing in this, which put him on the map. The direction, the cinematography, the angles, the lighting, the dark atmosphere all help to create this visually arresting film. It's a classic in every sense. Don't let its age or the subtitles turn you off from trying it. You're missing out on a truly great film if you do.
This movie ROCKS
Even though it was made in the 1930s this film is actually very good. It is very exciting and even though some parts look rubbish and it is spoken in FOREIGN you will ignore that and enjoy it.

I can say with conviction that this is a film all about the cops hunting for a child killer, which is where the film gets its short title. He is a man who kills children (which is horrible), not a killer who is a child. He is so mean that even the local criminals gang up on him and they want to catch him too. But you must feel no sadness for the man, even though he is hated by everyone. It's not that kind of film.

This movie has some really cool parts that I didn't even know they could do back in those old times, like nice camera moves and cursing. The killer even screams like a pig at the end! This film is very good and if you see it you will like it without any nefarious reservations.
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.
Ahead of its time
This is a very interesting film on so many levels. It's interesting to see just how far ahead German cinema was of its American counterpart at this point in time. Although there is not that much talking in this early German talking picture - Fritz Lang resisted going to sound in the first place - what conversation that does take place is well done and natural sounding. Compare it with any American film from 1931 and you can't help but see the difference.

The murderer, artfully played by Peter Lorre, has been killing children that have no link to him personally for months. The police, despite all of their efforts, are unable to catch him, mainly because there is no rhyme or reason in his choice of victims. At first there is a focus on the victims and the hole left in their families by their killing. Then, the film shifts to two normally opposed groups - the police and the underworld. After several months of no results by the authorities, the police are unhappy because it reflects badly upon them, and the underworld is unhappy because their activities are being disrupted because of the police doing constant raids in their efforts to capture the killer.

In a particularly well-done part of the film the scene shifts back and forth between a conference of police and one of the underworld. They discuss how they are going to catch the killer. The police settle upon the idea of looking for people with a history of past mental problems that were pronounced cured and released. The underworld decides to enlist an invisible group - the beggars - to follow every child at all times and therefore catch the killer. Both groups focus on the right suspect, the question is - who gets there first? M is a fascinating film that raises many topics - the death penalty, a group of criminals that are criminals by choice causing less stress on society than a lone criminal that acts out of an uncontrollable compulsion, and the motivations of the authorities often being their own bureaucratic survival rather than the larger issue of ending a series of horrible acts against humanity.
"M" = Mesmerizing!
Fritz Lang's "M" took me by surprise completely! It is one of those amazing motion pictures which holds the audience in their grasp and never lets go. And when it is finally over, it refuses to exit the mind and forces the viewer to constantly think about what he/she has just seen! I wasn't expecting much, but I was more than satisfied when I was finished with this timeless classic. I have watched countless films, but this is one story that is definitely unique. It is one of those films which will leave the viewer in two minds about who to sympathize with..and puts him/her in (for lack of a better expression) a true moral dilemma! Peter Lorre delivers a bravura performance as a child murderer who is the center of this whole drama involving everyone from the police to the families who lose their children to even the underworld! That is pretty much all that can be said about the plot of this gem which has to be seen to be believed.

This also happens to be Lang's first talkie film and is probably one of the greatest films ever made about a pathological serial killer.

True, due to the era it was released in(1931), it lacks some of the finesse that is used in "creating" a motion picture in today's times. But that hardly mars the overall viewing experience. There are some great movie moments, masterfully shot sequences and nail-biting proceedings in the narrative combined with great display of acting from Peter Lorre, as mentioned earlier, along with some commendable supporting acts from Otto Wernicke as Inspector Lohmann and Gustaf Gründgens as Schränker.

Go ahead and rent/buy this and treat yourself to a wholly satisfying movie experience! Highly recommended!
A hidden message warning against Nazi Germany, Lorre's performance, and Lang's direction all make this a very good film
The first question you might find yourself asking while watching this movie is just where the hell is the 'stranger danger'? Despite the news of a serial killer preying on children in the news for a long time, we still see children on the street alone, and one easily lured in with candy and treats. Peter Lorre is brilliant in the role of the killer, setting the tone early on as director Fritz Lang cuts to him looking in the mirror, and, like a child, distorting his face to look monstrous, while the police are talking about the psychological profile of a killer.

While the police are shown at work with some early examples of forensics – fingerprints, handwriting analysis, and sifting through physical evidence in concentric circles around the crime scene – the overall picture of them is unflattering. In a very heavy-handed way they begin putting heat on the street and in pubs, asking for papers and rounding people up for little reason, motivating an organized crime ring to get involved to find the killer themselves and get things back to normal. The police and mob are barely distinguishable as they both discuss the matter over cigars and alcohol in separate meetings as Lang flips back and forth between them, and perhaps that's one of his larger points about Germany at the time. He does do a fantastic job at establishing a dark feel to the film throughout, and is brilliant when he cuts the sound a few times, letting the action speak for itself, which is heightened because of the darkness of it all.

Unfortunately the movie gets a little bogged down in its middle portion, when Lang could have shown us other sinister acts from Lorre or at built some type of backstory in his characters. Instead, he shows us the surveillance network of beggars and focuses too much on procedure. At one point we do see Lorre nearly salivating at the sight of a child's reflection in the window of a shop he's looking into, and at another, him trying to lure in his next victim, but he's simply not on-screen enough. I have to also say that when the mob have found him holed up in a building and don't just call the police instead painstakingly going through the rooms, it seems like a plot hole, since from their perspective all they need is to get the police off the streets.

The ultimate scene showing Lorre confronted by a mob intent on killing him after a mock trial redeems the film, however, and is riveting. The scene of Lorre seeing them all staring at him as Lang has the camera pan slowly from left to right is brilliant, as is his own statement in self-defense shortly afterward. We have an unruly mob confronting a child killer, where both sides are reprehensible. We feel for the mob when they voice their concern that he will simply serve a little time in a mental institution, then be back on the street again and kill again. Perhaps improbably, we even feel for Lorre, as he says he's sick, in what is one of the great scenes in film.

There are few positive role models here, except perhaps the counsel who stands up and says and tries to defend him. This a dark, brooding film showing us some of the worst aspects of mankind. A child killer, sure, but also a mob which draws the wrong conclusions and gets violent without evidence. There is a lot of smoking and drinking. Lang shows one guy drinking out of a giant stein with a plateful of sausages in front of him, and another guy from a camera angle up his crotch practically as he's sitting down. If it was made by someone other than a German, you might think it a caricature, as it's made by Lang, we know he's expressing his frustrations with the state of Germany at the time. The ending that has a mother simply asking the audience to watch out for their children probably refers to watching out against predators, but also watching out for them that they don't get swept up into mob hysteria (history would turn out differently of course). It's this hidden message warning against Nazi Germany, Lorre's performance, and Lang's direction that all make this a very good film.
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