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(1931)

M - Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Mystery, Thriller | 31 August 1931 (Sweden)
When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.

Director:

Fritz Lang

Writers:

Thea von Harbou (script), Fritz Lang (script)
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Popularity
2,984 ( 270)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Peter Lorre ... Hans Beckert
Ellen Widmann Ellen Widmann ... Frau Beckmann
Inge Landgut ... Elsie Beckmann
Otto Wernicke ... Inspector Karl Lohmann
Theodor Loos ... Inspector Groeber
Gustaf Gründgens ... Schränker
Friedrich Gnaß Friedrich Gnaß ... Franz
Fritz Odemar ... The Cheater
Paul Kemp ... Pickpocket with Six Watches
Theo Lingen ... Bauernfänger
Rudolf Blümner Rudolf Blümner ... Beckert's Defender
Georg John ... Blind Panhandler
Franz Stein Franz Stein ... Minister
Ernst Stahl-Nachbaur Ernst Stahl-Nachbaur ... Police Chief
Gerhard Bienert ... Criminal Secretary
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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. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

IT STAGGERS THE SENSES!...SHOCKS the Imagination - It will leave you Gasping - It is the Sensation of 3 Continents!


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Germany

Language:

German

Release Date:

31 August 1931 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

M See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$6,123, 14 March 1931, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$35,566, 31 December 2013
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Nero-Film AG See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (2004 Criterion DVD edition) | (2000 restored) | (re-release)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

MGM studio executive Irving Thalberg assembled his writers and directors for a private screening of this film, telling them that they needed to be making films of this power and caliber. He also admitted that if anyone had brought a story of a child killer to him, he would have rejected it. See more »

Goofs

[All goofs for this title are spoilers.] See more »

Quotes

Hans Beckert: I can't help what I do! I can't help it, I can't...
Criminal: The old story! We never can help it in court!
Hans Beckert: What do you know about it? Who are you anyway? Who are you? Criminals? Are you proud of yourselves? Proud of breaking safes or cheating at cards? Things you could just as well keep your fingers off. You wouldn't need to do all that if you'd learn a proper trade or if you'd work. If you weren't a bunch of lazy bastards. But I... I can't help myself! I have no control over this, this evil thing ...
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

All of the original credits appear only in the beginning with no music. See more »

Alternate Versions

Re-released in 1997 in the US on video; this version features the original ending, and new, computerized subtitles - beware of older versions with poorly translated, illegible subtitles. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Rorret (1988) See more »

Soundtracks

La Marseillaise
(uncredited)
Written by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
Performed by Peter Lorre
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Fritz Lang's (sound) masterpiece- a taut and quintessentially suspenseful story, and Lorre
29 July 2005 | by Quinoa1984See all my reviews

The first time I saw M, by Fritz Lang, I almost didn't know what to make of it. I was overwhelmed by the power of the performances, the staging of the scenes, the locations, and the power that the simple story had with such complex circumstances. Then I saw it again, and a third time, and I know that this is one of the best films ever to come out of Germany- it's a powerful statement about protecting our children (if you're looking at it as a "message" movie), but in reality it is just a piece of cinema heaven. Thrillers today only wish they could draw a viewer into the mystery elements, and have such unconventionality of the times. Boiling down to this, M is about a child Killer - the legendary character actor Peter Lorre in his first major role - who snatches children when their parents don't watch, and continues on until an investigation goes underway. But as the police investigate overly thoroughly into the real criminal underworld, they know something is up, that this is someone far more gone than they could ever be, so they join in the hunt. This all leads to one of the supreme dramatic climaxes in any thriller.

On the first viewing I just went straight for the story, which is able to suck one in enough to make you feel dizzy. But on the multiple viewings it becomes even more interesting as one can study the intricacy, and indeed full-on artistry, of Lang's camera. He puts it in unusual places at times, and adds for good measure shades of dark and gray in many of the night scene (this is, by the way, a precursor to 'film-noir', which Lang later became an important director in the 40's and 50's). On top of this, there is a very modern sense of style in the editing- I remember a couple of scenes that surprised me editing wise. One is where the cops (I think it was the cops) have an argument about the investigation- two of them get into a shouting match, and we get medium close-ups of them going back and forth. This is done quickly, with a kind of intensity that isn't even captured in today's thrillers. There is also the hunt for Lorre in the digging of the house, where Lang cuts around constantly, heightening the tension between the predators (the criminals) and the prey (Lorre), until it's almost too much to take.

The disturbing aspects of the story, of child abduction and murder, have become benchmarks of a number of today's thrillers, where the cop is usually the subject and the killer left more in the shadows, in cat & mouse style. This doesn't happen here, and because of it by the time we get to the final scene, with Lorre being interrogated and giving his "I can't help it" speech, it becomes something poetic, tragic, frightening. Lang doesn't leave his "message" so simplistically, he makes sure we know Lorre's side too, however twisted it has become, and the antagonist is shown as human as opposed to these present-day thriller where the killers are barely given one dimension let alone two. There were reports that during filming Lang put Lorre through torture, ultimately causing the two to never work together again. But nevertheless, out of this comes a towering performance of a small, wild-eyed criminal in the midst of an extremely well-told and unpredictable mystery story. In short, if you don't know what you're in for when you hear that whistle, those several infamous notes, you may not at all.


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