IMDb > M (1931)
M
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Overview

User Rating:
8.5/10   80,864 votes »
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Director:
Writers:
Thea von Harbou (script) and
Fritz Lang (script)
(more)
Contact:
View company contact information for M on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
31 August 1931 (Sweden) See more »
Genre:
Plot:
When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Awards:
2 wins See more »
User Reviews:
Influential and unforgettable masterpiece. See more (264 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Peter Lorre ... Hans Beckert
Ellen Widmann ... Frau Beckmann
Inge Landgut ... Elsie Beckmann

Otto Wernicke ... Inspector Karl Lohmann
Theodor Loos ... Inspector Groeber
Gustaf Gründgens ... Schränker
Friedrich Gnaß ... Franz
Fritz Odemar ... The Cheater
Paul Kemp ... Pickpocket with Six Watches
Theo Lingen ... Bauernfänger
Rudolf Blümner ... Beckert's Defender
Georg John ... Blind Panhandler
Franz Stein ... Minister
Ernst Stahl-Nachbaur ... Police Chief
Gerhard Bienert ... Criminal Secretary
Karl Platen ... Damowitz

Rosa Valetti ... Elisabeth Winkler
Hertha von Walther ... Prostitute
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Behal Carrell ... (uncredited)
Josef Dahmen ... (uncredited)
J.A. Eckhoff ... (uncredited)
Else Ehser ... Woman (uncredited)
Karl Elzer ... (uncredited)
Ilse Fürstenberg ... (uncredited)
Anna Goltz ... Woman (uncredited)
Heinrich Gotho ... (uncredited)
Heinrich Gretler ... Man (uncredited)
Günther Hadank ... (uncredited)
Albert Hoermann ... (uncredited)
Ellen Isenta ... Woman (uncredited)
Karl Junge-Swinburne ... Man (uncredited)
Albert Karchow ... (uncredited)
Werner Kepich ... (uncredited)
Hermann Krehan ... (uncredited)
Kurth Leeser ... (uncredited)
Rose Lichtenstein ... (uncredited)
Lotte Loebinger ... Woman (uncredited)
Sigurd Lohde ... (uncredited)
Alfred Loretto ... Man (uncredited)
Hanna Maron ... Girl in Circle at the Beginning (uncredited)
Paul Mederow ... (uncredited)
Margarete Melzer ... (uncredited)
Trude Moos ... (uncredited)
Hadrian Maria Netto ... (uncredited)
Günter Neumann ... Man (uncredited)
Neumann-Schüler ... Bit Role (uncredited)
Katharina Nied ... Woman (uncredited)
Maya Norden ... (uncredited)
Fred Nurney ... Man (uncredited)
Edgar Pauly ... Man (uncredited)
Klaus Pohl ... Witness / One-Eyed Man (uncredited)
Franz Poland ... (uncredited)
Eduard Rebane ... Man (uncredited)
Paul Rehkopf ... (uncredited)
Bertold Reissig ... Man (uncredited)
Ernst Rhaden ... Man (uncredited)
Hans Ritter ... (uncredited)
Max Sablotzki ... Man (uncredited)
Agnes Schulz-Lichterfeld ... (uncredited)
Leonard Steckel ... Man (uncredited)
Wolf Trutz ... (uncredited)
Otto Waldis ... (uncredited)
Borwin Walth ... (uncredited)
Rolf Wanka ... Man (uncredited)
Bruno Ziener ... (uncredited)

Directed by
Fritz Lang 
 
Writing credits
Thea von Harbou (script) and
Fritz Lang (script)

Egon Jacobson  article (uncredited)

Produced by
Seymour Nebenzal .... producer (uncredited)
 
Cinematography by
Fritz Arno Wagner 
 
Film Editing by
Paul Falkenberg 
 
Art Direction by
Emil Hasler 
Karl Vollbrecht 
 
Makeup Department
Wilhelm Weber .... makeup artist
 
Production Management
Ernst Wolff .... production manager
Gustav Rathje .... unit manager (uncredited)
 
Art Department
Edgar G. Ulmer .... set designer (uncredited)
 
Sound Department
Paul Falkenberg .... sound editor
Adolf Jansen .... sound
 
Camera and Electrical Department
Robert Baberske .... second camera operator
Horst von Harbou .... still photographer
Erwin Hillier .... assistant camera (uncredited)
Károly Vass .... assistant camera (uncredited)
 
Crew believed to be complete


Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
Runtime:
117 min | 110 min (2004 Criterion DVD edition) | France:118 min | Germany:105 min (2000 restored version) | Germany:108 min (re-release) | USA:99 min
Country:
Language:
Aspect Ratio:
1.19 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Certification:
Argentina:13 | Australia:PG (DVD rating) | Australia:M (original rating) | Finland:K-12 (1995) | Finland:K-16 (1960) | Finland:(Banned) (1933) | Germany:12 (re-rating) | Germany:16 (video rating) | Germany:12 (re-rating) (2006) | Germany:(Banned) (1933-1945) | Netherlands:12 (2006) | Netherlands:18 (re-rating) (1959) | Netherlands:18 (original rating) (1931) | Norway:15 (1995) | Norway:16 (original rating) (1931) | Portugal:17 | Portugal:M/12 (re-rating) | South Korea:15 (DVD) | Spain:13 | Sweden:15 | UK:PG | USA:Not Rated | USA:TV-14 | West Germany:16 (bw) (nf)

Did You Know?

Trivia:
The Tegel Penitentiary in Berlin is Germany's largest prison with about 1,700 inmates (as of 2007).See more »
Quotes:
Inspector Karl Lohmann:In the name of the law.See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in Der Fall Metropolis (2003) (V)See more »
Soundtrack:
Le Halle du Roi de la MontagneSee more »

FAQ

How much sex, violence, and profanity are in this movie?
Is this movie based on a real person?
Is it true that there is a comic book based on "M"?
See more »
61 out of 70 people found the following review useful.
Influential and unforgettable masterpiece., 31 March 2006
Author: EThompsonUMD from Massachusetts

Fritz Lang's highly influential career as a film director began in post World War I Germany, where he was a leading figure in the German Expressionist film movement, and ended in the United States in 1953 with the production of The Big Heat, a film noir classic. Perhaps his greatest film, M (Germany, 1931) forms an historical bridge between expressionism and film noir. Like the former it uses strange and disturbing compositions of light and dark in order to symbolize the inner workings of the human mind; like the latter it more realistically sets its story in a modern urban setting and blends in sociological issues along with the psychological and moral ones.

Even though M was Lang's (and Germany's) first sound film, many historians cite it as the initial masterpiece of cinema to appear following the introduction of sound into films in the late 1920's. While most early "talkies" return films to their static, visually monotonous, stage- imitative beginnings and thus limit rather than expand the artistic possibilities of the medium, M avoids the failing by skillfully balancing asynchronous, off-screen sounds with the more limiting use of synchronous dialogue. The film's editing, particularly its elaborate use of parallel cutting, also contributes kinetic energy and fluidity to the storytelling. Of course, many of the film's sound effects are also imaginative and memorable, none more so than the compulsive whistling of the film's central character, the stalker and serial killer of little girls Hans Beckert (magnificently played by Peter Lorre).

Sound is also an important contributor to M's rich and influential use of off screen space. One famous example is the scene that introduces Beckert as a shadow against his own Wanted poster, creepily intoning to his next victim, Elsie Beckmann, "You have a very pretty ball." Not only is Beckert's shadow a bow toward Lang's expressionist artistic roots, but it ironically places the murderer in the implied space in front of the image - that is, among us, the human community of viewers of which he is an innocuous-appearing, albeit monstrous, member. Another example of Lang's use of off-screen space is the montage of shots whose common denominator is Elsie's absence from them: an empty chair at the Beckmann dinner table, the vertiginous stairwell down which Elsie's mother searches compulsively and futilely for signs of her daughter's arrival, the attic play area that awaits Elsie's return from school. Most memorable of all - and most often alluded to visually in other films - is the series of shots that indirectly record Beckert's assault and murder of the innocent child, representing these off screen events metonymically via the entry of Elsie's ball from bushes along on the right edge of the frame and the release of her balloon from telephone wires and off the left edge of the frame. Never in the history of cinema has something so terrible been communicated through such powerfully understated images.

Beyond its technical brilliance, the keys to M's lasting impact are its psychologically convincing portrait of Hans Beckert's twisted compulsion and the still relevant ambivalence of his capture and "trial." Unlike contemporary cinematic examples of the serial killer, Beckert is not presented simply as a grotesque psychopath. Nor is the issue of how society should deal with him at all clear-cut. To be sure, the gut-reaction of most film audiences is to root on the underworld mobsters and petty thieves who, beating the established authorities to their mutual quarry, capture Beckert and bring him to a mock- formal trial whose conclusion is foregone. Like many in America today, Beckert's accusers are disinclined to listen to insanity pleas and would just as soon be rid of the "monster" in the surest way possible: a summary death penalty with as little fretting about legal rights as possible.

Considering the heinousness of Beckert's crimes and the imperfections of a legal/medical system that could well turn him loose to kill again, this emotional response is hard to resist. Yet M is by no means an endorsement of vigilantism - quite the contrary. Through the unlikely rhetorical persuasions of Beckert's unkempt "court appointed" defense attorney and Beckert's own impassioned monologue, Lang strongly implies that impatience with democratic judicial procedure and a paranoid eagerness to scapegoat others (guilty or not) in the name of order are symptomatic of the social hysteria breeding Nazism in 1930s Germany. That the ruthless killer who heads the underworld looks, dresses, and gestures like a Gestapo officer is no accident. Moreover, the letter "M" chalked on Beckert's back by one of his pursuers not only stands for "murderer" but also alludes to God's marking of Cain. While the popular misconception holds that the mark of Cain symbolizes his evil, it in fact represents God's warning to Cain's flawed fellow creatures not to mete out wrathful vengeance, but to leave justice in God's hands. Translated into secular terms (and literally entering the shot from the top of the frame), God's hands in M belong to the legitimate authorities that intervene at the last moment to arrest and try Hans Beckert "in the name of the Law."

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