In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.
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
The film was independently backed by an admirer of Fritz Lang who persuaded him to make another film when the director was thinking of giving it all up. Lang eventually agreed to make the film provided that he had no interference and had final cut. See more »
[All goofs for this title are spoilers.]
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[to union member asleep next to him]
Beggar's Union Member:
Stop snoring! You'll wake up the lice.
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All of the original credits appear only in the beginning with no music. See more »
The version shown at the film's premiere (on May 11th, 1931, running time 110 minutes) had an alternate ending: it shows the full trial of the murderer. This ending was later replaced by a woman sobbing "Man muß eben noch besser auf die Kinder achtgeben. IHR..." (One must look out for the children even harder. YOU...) See more »
The economy, austerity and directness of the films of Fritz Lang made him one of the most profound, and precise filmmakers...
Lang, a master of the German expressionist film, shot his first talkie, a crime drama considered a landmark in the story of suspense movies... It was a shocking idea for its time, based on the real-life killer Peter Kurten, headlined as the Vampire of Düsseldorf...
'M' is about a terrorized city, and a plump little man with wide eyes (often chewing candy) who is a pathological child-killer, unable to control his urge for killing...
The film embodies several Lang themes: the duality between justice and revenge, mob hysteria, the menacing anticipation of watching a helplessly trapped individual trying fruitlessly to escape as greater forces move inexorably in, and, for probably the first time in the cinema, it adds a new dimension to suspense: pity... For the killer is clearly mentally sick... He cannot overcome the overwhelming compulsion of his murderous disease, and yet, we see him hunted down and almost lynched as a criminal, rather than treated as a sick man...
Early in the film, the killer is heard whistling the Grieg theme from 'In the Hall of the Mountain King'. This theme inexorably becomes imbued with menace... And when we see no more than a girl looking in a shop window, the melody on the sound-track told us chillingly that the murderer is there, just out of sight...
The Murderer is played by Peter Lorre in a virtuoso performance that has barely been matched in all the thrillers he has made since 'Casablanca,' 'The Maltese Falcon,' and 'The Mask of Dimitrios.' When the photographs of his victims, all little girls, are shown to him, he jumps back and twitches with horror...
With powerful visuals, Lang's motion picture is Lorre's first film... His performance as the corpulent, hunted psychopath is a masterpiece of mime and suggestion... Lorre is the archetypal outsider-outside the law and society because of his compulsive crimes, outside the balancing society of the underworld because he is not a professional criminal... He had only twelve lines of dialog...
In the most famous of all about a pathological killer - Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho' - Anthony Perkins lacked not only the threat of the tortured Peter Lorre, but also the dimension of invoking our incredulous sympathy...
'Psycho' reeked with blood and horror, whereas the suspense of 'M' is subtle... A child's balloon without an owner, a rolling ball, are enough to tell us that another murder had been committed... The audience, trapped in its seats, torn by ambivalent feelings towards the killer, watched him trapped as the net is pulled tight...
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