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Crime, Drama, Thriller, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
Fritz Lang
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
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 = Milestone...Mesmerizing...Masterpiece!
Fritz Lang's second absolute landmark (after the equally brilliant but completely different 'Metropolis') and also his first opportunity to work with the wonders of sound. And boy, did he ever deliver a great piece of work! Like the M (for murderer) is marked on Peter Lorre's coat, the film M (for masterpiece) is branded on cinema history annals for all eternity. Lang's film is a triumph in every possible viewpoint and it covers a lot more genres and elements than just simply the manhunt for a child-molester.

*** SPOILERS ****

The horrors 'M' handles about is timeless and of all cultures, but yet it'll always remain a taboo subject and for that reason alone Fritz Lang deserves extra praising. In an utterly astonishing way, Peter Lorre portrays Hans Beckert, a child murderer who single-handedly terrorizes four and half million people simply by his uncontrollable urge to kidnap and molest young schoolgirls. The grim and haunting atmosphere is terrifically built up by images of previous Beckert-victims and the disappearance a new unfortunate girl. Her toy rolling of a remote hills...a balloon drifting away on the wind. Really simple but extremely efficient methods to reflect the ominous actions that just took place. Other than to focus on the further actions of the killer, Lang turns to the effect this terror has on the city and how the manhunt for Beckert develops. Our director is obviously fascinated by how a police procedure is organized and he serves the viewer a detailed overview of all the steps taken by the investigators. Meanwhile, he grabs the opportunity to forcefully criticize the media's influence and the German law system with both hands. I'd really like to stress that Lang's subtle mockery was a really risky thing to do with the upcoming Nazi-reign, so you can't admire him enough. Due to the constant (and fruitless) raids the police are holding in the hope to capture the killer, the criminal underworld begins to lose its profits as well and they start their own manhunt for the killer, assisted by whores, beggars and petty thieves. With the carefully observing eyes all over town, it becomes practically impossible for Becker to satisfy his monstrous needs. The almighty Peter Lorre arrives late in the film every moment he's on screen is a moment worth treasuring. His sad appearance and cruel testimony are sequences that leave no human being unmoved. Lorre is a brilliant actor and this is inarguably one of the most impressive performances of all time.

'M' features constant tension, outstanding dialogue and stunning camera-work. As said before, Fritz Lang had the opportunity to work with sound for this film and he immediately makes the most out of this. This was the first 'big' German production that featured sound and it STILL ranks as the title that made best use of it...and that sure means something after more than 70 years. There's the chilling and legendary tune Lorre constantly whistles but also the absence of sound Lang uses to portray the besieged city. As you can tell from the above review, 'M' is absolute must-see and easily one of the most essential productions ever shot. It's light-years ahead of its time and still disturbing after all these years. This film is a mesmerizing portrait about the darkest, most alarming aspects of humanity and yet still it doesn't live up to real-life facts. As you probably know, the plot of 'M' is based on the whereabouts of the serial killer Peter Kürten who brutally murdered many victims in the city of Düsseldorf. I read a biography on Kürten recently and the true details of his crimes and animal-lusts go beyond every filmmaker's wildest imagination.
This one should definitely be in your private collection
'M' is excellent in every single way. A movie with a magnificent plot. A movie with a superb acting. A movie with an even better filming. It's a masterpiece beyond time, a film so real and absorbing that you wont even stand to go to the bathroom. Lang's movie suggests a lot but says a lot, too. And it can be proved when the Nazis got it forbidden. The way it recreates a chaotic situation in which millions of people are affected because of a single man deeds is simply amazing. It's a movie about misery, and humans at their worst....and maybe a bit at their best. 'M' created a genre (film-noir) and, although being made in 1931, it's a guideline and a FAQ for making this kind of movies. A film that should be seen by many directors nowadays and by all you movies' fans. A classic, simply and totally. It deserves to be in your personal collection.
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.
Truly Deserves to be in the Top Ranks
I started watching this movie with some skepticism. Having seen many Thrillers and murder mysteries of 40s and 50s, i somehow felt i had seen it all. Oh boy was i wrong. This movie just kept building up at a pace that beats even some of the movies of current era. This movie is absolutely Flawless and an experience that shouldn't be missed. Depth and accuracy of Clinical investigation demonstrated in this movie is just jaw dropping. For god's sake this was in 1931. Beyond being a Serial Killer, Thriller film, it touches upon the questions of morality of Legal and Ethical systems of the society then. And i think those questions are still relevant in our times.
A Landmark Psychological Thriller
M is a German drama-thriller directed by Fritz Lang and written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou. It was Lang's first sound film, although he had directed more than a dozen films previously.The film has become a classic which Lang himself considered his finest work.

Fritz Lang's classic early talkie crime melodrama is set in 1931 Berlin. The police are anxious to capture an elusive child murderer, and they begin rounding up every criminal in town. The underworld leaders decide to take the heat off their activities by catching the child killer themselves. Once the killer is fingered, he is marked with the letter "M" chalked on his back. He is tracked down and captured by the combined forces of the Berlin criminal community, who put him on trial for his life in a kangaroo court. The killer pleads for mercy, whining that he can't control his homicidal instincts. The police close in and rescue the killer from the underworld so that he can stand trial again in "respectable" circumstances. Some prints of the film end with a caution to the audience to watch after their children more carefully.

Filmed in Germany, M was the film that solidified Fritz Lang's reputation with American audiences, and it also made a star out of Peter Lorre. The moral issues are complex and deftly handled: Lorre is at once entirely innocent and absolutely evil. Lang's detached, modified expressionist style gives the action a plastic beauty.It can also be classified as an extraordinary, good, impressive and strong talker.And most of all,it is a landmark psychological thriller with arresting images, deep thoughts on modern society.
I can't help myself
M is such a revered film yet also little seen. Only in recent years has a restored version has been available. This was Fritz Lang's first talkie but he still uses expressionist techniques.

M is a crime drama, a city terrorised as children are getting killed. The cops are shaking everyone down including the criminal underworld and they have had enough and also hunt down the child killer.

Peter Lorre is the plump pathological child killer whistling a tune from 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' which will eventually give him away. He befriends little girls with the promise of cakes, sweets and balloons before he kills them.

Lorre only appears here sparingly. His first appearance is as a shadow as he lures a small child. He spends a lot of the time being hunted down and then once caught by the mob has to plead for his life as he is a victim of a diseased mind that compels him to kill.

Lang paints the inhabitants as grotesques, both the criminals and the police (maybe reflecting the rise of Nazism in Germany.) There is a lot of talking both by the police and the criminals as to who this killer is and how to catch him. One of the criminals actually does a rather good profile on him.

The film is uneven, too long. The hunt for the murderer starts well before the hour is up and really drags as it is mixed up with a heist. Once caught the murderer stands trial at a kangaroo court, he is even given a lawyer where he makes his plea for understanding of his uncontrollable urges.

Lorre became a star with his bug eyed, sweaty, deranged face of the killer. He screams 'I can't help myself' a phrase that has been cynically used by 1980s vigilante action directors so the hero can shoot the bad guy dead, point blank.
"This won't bring back our children"
While many of the problems of early sound pictures lampooned in Singin' in the Rain were more or less myths, the early talkies did present a big challenge for filmmakers everywhere. Europe however was at an advantage over Hollywood because even though it took them a few years to gain the same access to sound technology, films from the US would be screened abroad only six months or so after their first domestic release. Thus directors like Fritz Lang were able to witness Hollywood's first faltering steps with sound before giving it a go themselves.

It's funny how sceptics dismissed sound as a gimmick, because the best early uses of sound were those that treated it as exactly that – a gimmick. Lang demonstrates in M that a talkie need not be an entirely new kind of motion picture; sound is merely another layer of technique. Rather than getting bogged down in lengthy dialogue scenes, Lang keeps his storytelling primarily visual, and when he needs lots of expository dialogue he intercuts multiple scenes to keep the pace going. This is not to say Lang is trying to ignore sound – in fact he uses it to enhance the picture, sometimes having dialogue or other noises take place off-screen to focus us on reactions or cause-and-effect. Other times he ironically uses completely silence (something of course you never get with "silent" pictures due to the continuous musical score) giving a dreadful sense of eeriness.

And thankfully, the best elements of Lang's method have survived the talkie revolution. His visual style is particularly effective here in provoking a chilling, disturbing atmosphere. Shot compositions with large blank areas give a sense of surreal starkness. Characters often stare intensely straight at the camera, aggressively drawing the audience into the film's world. Several times we are even dumped straight into the point-of-view of the killer himself. The fragmented narrative with its lack of lead characters and impersonal, point-by-point plotting could easily be boring, but Lang holds our interest by keeping a dynamic sense of rhythm and telling the bulk of the tale through pure wordless imagery.

Lang's German pictures, in common with typical German cinema of the time, feature highly melodramatic acting and exaggerated, almost comical characters. These figures generally suited the fantasies and comic-book stories of Lang's silent days, but I'm not sure they sit so well with the close-to-home setting of M. Still, these characters are somewhat more effective now that they have voices, probably because most German screen actors of the day were from a stage background. Peter Lorre was a shameless ham, but that's what you need to play a psychopath, and in any case he's a lot better here than in many of his Hollywood roles. Otto Wernicke is also incredibly entertaining in the role of Inspector Karl "Fatty" Lohmann; again a stagy exaggeration but with some absolutely wonderful gestures and comic timing.

There isn't a lot else I can say about M – it is one of those pictures that has been analysed to death – although I doubt any comment other than mine mentions Singin' in the Rain in the opening line :). While not quite Lang's best picture, I can think of few directors who made such a smooth transition from silents to talkies, and sadly this was his penultimate German picture before the Nazis took over. There's no denying that Lang was wasted in Hollywood. He did his best to understand it, but by and large it never understood him. I say by and large; the renowned Irving Thalberg was reportedly bowled over by M, and screened it to many of his writers and directors as inspirational material. Had that prestigious and influential producer not died in 1936, the same year Lang began working in Hollywood, would things have turned out differently, I wonder?
You'll Remember This One Forever
This is one of those movies that will stay with you for the rest of your life. The characters are ugly and disturbing, there is nothing "cute" in this movie.

There are constant parallelisms drawn between the police and the underworld and the common way in which they operate.

We also get to journey into the mind of the madman. If you enjoyed "Silence of the Lambs", you should see this also.

Of course you must be patient enough to deal with subtitles, and the fact that this is a very old movie - one of the first "talkies". But most viewers will get something out of the dialogue even without knowing the German language.
You wont believe its from 1931
This movie is so intense and enthralling, it doesn't have to hide from even the most amazing Action-movies. But unlike the most action-movies, it really has a story to tell with a very interesting conclusion at the end.

When people talk about Fritz Lang they always talk about Metropolis, but I think this is his masterpiece. This movie MUST HAVE inspired pretty much every police movie or show ever made.

Rarely have I rated a movie a 10 with more confidence than this one.


....... so I don't have anymore lines, but they make me write "10 lines" apparently, so Im writing this. I know a joke ...ehm, well, its not a good one, so I will quote GEORGE BEST:"I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered"
M is for Mediocre
There is a child murderer about, and because the police can't catch him, and because it is hurting their business, organized criminals take it upon themselves to do so instead. The murderer is identified by a signature whistle, before being pursued into the attic of a large building. Once caught, the criminals then hold him to their own "trial" in the basement of an abandoned building, where he attempts to present a case that he himself shouldn't be killed.

It is well shot, and for the first two-thirds, well acted. The editing is without excess, meaning it moves along efficiently. But although the plot has some intrigue, it is quite thin, very predictable, and never manages high tension. At first it is simply an expose of how the investigations are to be carried out, while the chase sequence to capture the criminal is all too simple. We also suffer from lack of identification with characters. In the first half we get scenes from the perspective of many different characters, but no single character or group emerges as the "lead", curtailing any emotional response we might have otherwise had - and noir lighting alone, quality as it may be, is not enough to establish a compelling mood.

The thrill of suspense films usually lies in seeing how the good guys will escape the bad, but as this film gives little screen time to anyone likable, there is no attachment, and very little suspense. The film may attempt to leverage some social/political gravitas at the end by sympathising with the murderer and debating whether he deserves to be killed by the mob (aka capital punishment), or given a reprieve due to mental health issues, but instead of any intended depth, it simply descends into ham-fisted melodrama.

At the end of the day, this film cannot be called entertainment - it amounts to no more than weak fearmongering.
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