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
[All goofs for this title are spoilers.]
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I can't help what I do! I can't help it, I can't...
The old story! We never can help it in court!
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 ...
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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 »
Being a huge fan of German Expressionist art, I'm naturally drawn to the films of Fritz Lang. I recently was able to see the restored version of "Metropolis" on the big screen, and was delighted to see "M" on the Sundance channel - especially since it was the uncut version. M follows the trail of a child killer (Peter Lorre), sought both by the police and the members of the underworld whose businesses are being effected by the investigation.
This film is ground-breaking for many reasons: It is Fritz Lang's first talking picture, it is one of the first in the serial killer genre and it was overtly anti-Nazi. This film was banned in Germany shortly after it premiered, and Fritz Lang and Peter Lorre, both Jews, soon fled the country. It has superb acting (most notably, Peter Lorre's trial scene in the catacombs) and very stark yet at times gritty cinematography. The story is indeed suspenseful and at times, very creepy (what whistling child killer isn't?). The entire movie, however is extremely thought-provoking and challenging, much like the German Expressionist movement itself.
This is not a movie for everyone; some may find it boring, some may find it too abstract. It also has one of the most bizarre shots I've ever seen in film - essentially it's a 30 second shot of the police inspector talking on the phone, but you're under his desk and looking up his pants leg. It actually kind of baffled me and made me chuckle for a second, but it was avant garde if anything.
To those who appreciate early cinema that truly makes you think, both about the film and the subtext with which it was written and filmed, it is a must-see.
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