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Ahead of its time
AlsExGal16 January 2010
This is a very interesting film on so many levels. It's interesting to see just how far ahead German cinema was of its American counterpart at this point in time. Although there is not that much talking in this early German talking picture - Fritz Lang resisted going to sound in the first place - what conversation that does take place is well done and natural sounding. Compare it with any American film from 1931 and you can't help but see the difference.

The murderer, artfully played by Peter Lorre, has been killing children that have no link to him personally for months. The police, despite all of their efforts, are unable to catch him, mainly because there is no rhyme or reason in his choice of victims. At first there is a focus on the victims and the hole left in their families by their killing. Then, the film shifts to two normally opposed groups - the police and the underworld. After several months of no results by the authorities, the police are unhappy because it reflects badly upon them, and the underworld is unhappy because their activities are being disrupted because of the police doing constant raids in their efforts to capture the killer.

In a particularly well-done part of the film the scene shifts back and forth between a conference of police and one of the underworld. They discuss how they are going to catch the killer. The police settle upon the idea of looking for people with a history of past mental problems that were pronounced cured and released. The underworld decides to enlist an invisible group - the beggars - to follow every child at all times and therefore catch the killer. Both groups focus on the right suspect, the question is - who gets there first? M is a fascinating film that raises many topics - the death penalty, a group of criminals that are criminals by choice causing less stress on society than a lone criminal that acts out of an uncontrollable compulsion, and the motivations of the authorities often being their own bureaucratic survival rather than the larger issue of ending a series of horrible acts against humanity.
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A masterful take on compulsive immorality
TheNabOwnzz27 April 2018
M has to be one of the most influential movies ever made, both technically and psychologically. With an outstanding Peter Lorre, suspense that outsuspenses Hitchcock, excellent cinematography and a deep sociological layer added to it, M is one of the masterpieces of the psychological thriller genre.

It is a film devoid of typical humanitarian propaganda, yet it is not the case that we immediately feel the need to relate to the child murderer Hans Beckert ( Peter Lorre ) since Fritz Lang also shows us the effects his gruesome crimes have in the form of the police constantly raiding establishments, the grieving parents & random people accusing eachother of the murders. It is not a movie that forces its opinion on you, but causes you to think about what is truly right and wrong. Hans later claims he cannot help himself because he has an irresistible compulsive urge to kill which cannot be stopped, much to the dismay of other career crooks who claim they only commit crimes to survive and take no pleasure or feel no compulsion towards it. It is a psychological kind of movie that is still as relevant as ever today as it was in 1931.

Peter Lorre is ofcourse the perfect fit for the psychopathic child murderer, he has the perfect innocent wide eyed look for a psychopath, who seems to even be likeable when he is not murdering children. His signature whistle by Edvard Grieg - In the Hall of the Mountain King is a nice creepy addition to his character which he uses to lure kids to their doom. Ofcourse the incredible shot at the start which focuses on Hans's shadow on the poster that lists his crimes and reward for capture while talking to a little girl before killing her is a great ironic symbolism to announce his character.

It was Lang's first sound picture, yet only two third of the movie was shot with actual sound while everything else was shot silent. This was primarily to keep the costs down since sound equipment was very expensive at the time. It creates a weird mix in constant transitioning from silent to sound. Yet as Lang has stated it adds another layer to the eeriness the movie has, so it only enhances the experience instead of unimmersing you out of the film.

The cinematography is revolutionary in its use of low key lightning, which is a technique that was used many times after in the classic Film Noir era in Hollywood. The result is many Film Noirs share a visual resemblance with M due to their dark tone. Not only visually, but psychologically many themes of M have been repeated throughout the years in cinema. It was one of the first instances of a semi-sympathetic look on a pure psychopathic murderer, which has been repeated countless times in later years.

Some might feel sorry for Beckert for having this affliction of which he cannot be helped while others would prefer to see him hang, the movie doesn't shove the right answer down our throats, and it's possible to look at it from either way without having a right answer. It is a sociological thinking man's picture that is as relevant now as it ever was.
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Thoroughly Creepy, Thoughtfully Done
davidcarniglia12 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Like many great movies, M has a simple plot. It's the cinematography, acting, and screenplay that make such an intense drama. There's multiple levels to explore as well. Clearly, a psychological theme is drawn. Then, there's a political aspect; the waning of the Weimar Republic must have been a palpable experience of doom for plenty of Germans. Also, there's the theme of alienation; and, relatedly, the role of criminal underworld.

It's fascinating that the search for the child-murder operates in a parallel fashion: obviously, by the legitimate authorities and, for reasons of self-interest, the criminal organizations as well. Sometimes it's hard to tell which side someone's on. When the underworld guys infiltrate M's hideout, one is in police uniform; a sensible ruse. But most of the 'criminals' are actually just deputized street people, some are actually the victims' families. The police haven't been asleep, though, as they're able, by good deductive methods, to find out who M is, and where he lives.

The police procedure is very logical and comprehensive. I had no idea that fingerprint analysis was so sophisticated in the early '30s. Another detail: when the watchman breaks loose to ring the alarm, the police not only know what address to go to, but which exact spot in the building. But M captures much more than these flashes of urban technology. So many scenes just vibrate with atmosphere: not just the noir-ish use of light and shadow, but the juxtaposition of objects, both in disarray (the attic store room where M. Hides) and in arrangements (the toy store windows, the display of confiscated weapons).

There's even whimsical stuff--the toys again, and the balloons of animal-figures. In fact, there's an undercurrent of humor. The safe-at-home watchman having a feast as the Inspector accuses the suspect of being an accomplice in the watchman's 'murder'; and, shortly thereafter, the Inspector dropping his cigar as the suspect lets on the real reason for breaking into the office building. Many of the seamy characters aren't so much creepy as obnoxious, nervy, and just plain eccentric. All of this flipping between seriousness and silliness remarkably doesn't create a tone problem.

Because of the overall strangeness of reality shown here, it's fitting that there's so many odd details; which, nonetheless, don't obscure the big picture. For example, we don't have to see M committing his disgusting crimes to feel their impact. Not only does this spare us what could only be lurid scenes, but it also saves space for more exposition. Having said that, the movie does drag at times. The time spent hunting for M in the office building is a bit much; likewise the kangaroo court scene. I did like the inquisitorial, thoroughly menacing feel of the 'court' proceedings. I don't think that Lang was implying that M deserved leniency by giving him his eloquent 'defense' speech.

It's the primacy of the rule of law that seems to be the message. In fact, although the police intervention came just barely in time, M does end up in the hands of legitimate authority. Watching the audience brood over M's actions in the basement, we can see some hints of recognition when M speaks of his sense of alienation. That these same folks still want to lynch him doesn't obviate the fact that most of them live outside of society's rules as well. M's fate kind of reminds me of the arguments in many early sci-fi movies between those few who want to 'understand' the alien/monster, and the majority, who just want to kill it. Usually, the sensitive guys wind up as the next victims.

Definitely M is a monster. It's worth discussing what his fate should be; but the main problem is resolved here--he's out of the way. Maybe the point is that, even in an unsteady world, there's still normal civilization bobbing up out of the chaos. 9/10.
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Xstal8 September 2020
Casting its shadow through motion picture history and continuing to do so to this day, suggesting that societies throughout the world have struggled to resolve the most despicable actions of their citizens (inc. those in the police and armed forces) and the penalties they should pay - as seen by the gamut of forfeits that can be incurred for the same crimes across the planet, as well as those that are crimes in some territories and not in others.

Ultimately this film asks the question: what makes us who we are, how responsible are we for our actions and what should be done about it and by whom? To this day, as subjective a set of questions as you could wish to ask - but ones we will forever continue to try and answer and cinema will continue to catch in its shadows.
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A landmark in psychological thriller genre...
chanishaj-2637717 June 2018
WOW !!

What a movie...

While being a thrilling serial killer manhunt story, this one looks into the modern society where parent-child relationships are getting distant, the two sides of the law, police and underworld, insanity, the legal system, justice and right to live- even of a child killer.

One of Fritz Lang's best works. Cinematography is amazing. Performances are brilliant, specially from Peter Lorre.

It's a landmark in psychological thriller genre, A Masterpiece.

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"This won't bring back our children"
Steffi_P27 May 2009
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?
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Destroying the World That You've Created
yolonurcan20 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
"M" is one of the strongest film of Fritz Lang. Fritz Lang leaves the silent movies with "M" yet he didn't leave it totally. In the film, there is sort of background silence which creates tension. The best thing in the movie i think, at the end of the film with the murderer, Fritz Lang destroys the world that he created. From the beginning of the film, we are as audience; hate the murderer and citizens hate him also but when the murderer gets caught, he confess and speak about murders. At the ending of the film we as audience feel sorry for him. Fritz Lang did a greate artwork by creating "M". One of the most strong film in my archive.
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M or the Mark of a Disillusioned Genius...
ElMaruecan826 August 2018
M like Manichean? What can you say of a plot driven by criminals and where good people are rather inefficient for the most part and where the most despicable character earns our own sympathy. This is a movie using such stark black-and-white contrasts, noir in its soul and gray in its core.

M like Mob Mentality? Fritz Lang personal "J'accuse" against a system where accusers aren't all innocent.

M like Maturity? The film also consecrates German Expressionism as a peak of creativity and social relevance, a sequence in history where Berlin became, literally, the best area and arena of expression to an art that had reached its maturity.

Or M like Mörder, murderer in German, Maudit in French (doomed) and Masterpiece in the universal language of cinema.

M like Menace (and Music).

Children are singing an elimination game of ominous undertones, later we see little Elsie playing with the balloon, a shadowy silhouette appears, the face remains unrevealed while we hear the whistling of "In the Hall of Mountain King". Before the 'shark' theme in "Jaws" to the "Psycho" shrieking violins, the "Peer Gynt" tune became the first notable leitmotif meant to suggest an evil presence, the perfect device to put us in the victims' standpoint for the first act, as powerlessly as the poor mother calling Elsie while her balloon (the bait used by Hans Beckert) is drifting along the telephone wires.

The effects are then shown through the growing fame of the new 'Jack the Ripper' figure, the ensuing paranoia with any adult basically talking to a child is assaulted. The killer is a menace to an already crisis-stricken society, forcing the police department to triple the efforts: psychiatric cases are explored, handwriting analyzed and daily and nightly raids operated to make further pressure on the criminal world.

M for Methodic. For its second act, "M" is the seminal police procedural.

While covering that angle with a documentary-like precision, Lang still seems dubious about the police's efficiency and provides an interesting twist by paralleling the work of the law with the outlaws'. In a long sequence where both sides brainstorm about the methods to use to find him, we swing back and forth from one world to another and the only indicator of the side of the law we're put in is the presence of uniform, last time I saw criminals acting like politicians in a masterpiece, it was in "The Godfather". One even points out insightfully that the killer must be a bourgeois, because it's the very standard of life that provides the level of idleness driving any easily corruptible mind to the most extreme corners.

M like the sign on the shoulder.

So in a famous sequence, criminals, helped by the street beggars find Hans Beckert quicker than the police force, he was betrayed by his trademark whistling and (irony) a little girl who noticed the infamous letter marked on his shoulder. The following chase takes maybe too much time for the film's own good. Not saying the film could do without the struggle to catch him but the court is such a high point of cinema's history that the previous part seems more forgettable.

And Peter Lorre with his round face, innocent eyes when he's cornered like a rat and utters his memorable speech, gives the performance of a lifetime, as a living symptom, a man incarnating the sickness of a society where bad people toy with justice and the worst of all acts as childishly as his victims, claiming innocence with such rabid eloquence he's almost convincing.

Beckert says he can't control his impulses, a little voice urges him to commit the irreparable acts and his body language is simply gut-wrenching when he simply can't put "words". His 'lawyer' makes a good point about the past of some accusers, whose Becket call hypocrites because they could choose to be honest, but the accusers retort that whether he's responsible or not, he's still a menace. Sure, whether their reasons are selfish or ethical is debatable but can we empathize with Beckert?

M like Modernity.

Looking at Twitter or Youtube or Facebook comments today, you can tell there's something ferocious and still on-going about mob mentality and a film like "M" could be deemed as feeble and liberal in the way it provides a tribune to a child molester, the worst possible crime.

M like Multilayered.

Yet there are some powerful truths hiding underneath the thriller, the truth about a society sick of its own contradictions, determined to impose standards of morality (white) and condemning true crimes (black) but indulgent toward activities that have no worse repercussion. That the film ends with black-clad mothers admitting their own responsibility is perhaps the most optimistic thing about "M", the sentence doesn't matter, what matters is the lesson behind... but did German learn the lesson?

Ironically, one could have seen the rise of the Nazi empire as the antidote, like Thea Von Sarbou who wrote the film and worked for the Nazi regime, other could also see it as its worst possible consecration like director Fritz Lang. That he didn't side with the criminals at the end emphasizes an intuitive comprehension of his world and allowed this film to be hailed as a true, intelligent, nightmarish and alas, premonitory masterpiece.. with M as the mark of a disillusioned genius.

M like Meditative? Mysterious? Mantic?

Interestingly, the French title is "M le Maudit", meaning the doomed one, as if Beckert was the living incarnation of a doomed society, as if there was indeed something rotten in the Weimar Republic and It wouldn't get any better after but could Fritz Lang anticipate it? Looking up his second masterpiece "M", I was wondering whether Lang reflected his own rejection of German society or cared enough to warn the audience against the impending doom of decadence.

Surely, the director behind "Metropolis" could only pinpoint with the accuracy of a soothsayer the limits of a civilization that might take its heritage for granted.
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Harrowing and profound
Leofwine_draca20 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Every once in a while there comes along a film about a serial killer. There's usually a lot of hype, and the film is no doubt controversial. The best known example of a serial killer film is PSYCHO. More recent examples would be MANIAC and American PSYCHO. But the film that started them all off was this black-and-white thriller/chiller that came from Germany, a shocking and disturbing film which still holds up as being powerful and frightening this day. Surprisingly, it's a film which hasn't dated, a film which looks at psychology - both individual and mob-orientated.

Peter Lorre appears in his first starring role, and it's safe to say this is his best and most well-remembered performance. Lorre portrays his killer as a sympathetic, whining, bug-eyed creep who hates himself for what he does but is unable to resist the compulsion to killer. His multi-dimensional murderer manages to be upsetting and frightening in equal measures. Lorre is given surprisingly little screen time until the mock-courtroom ending which gives us a real insight into the mind of a child murderer/molester.

This is a film which was way ahead of itself at the time it was made - in much the same way that PEEPING TOM was, thirty years later on. Fritz Lang directs with plenty of artistic flair, never letting the camera sit static for too long, which was the main flaw with Universal's Dracula. All the main actors and actresses are very good, especially the criminals who play the good guys for a change. There are plenty of memorable scenes, such as the balloon floating into the electricity lines at the beginning (subtle and disturbing), Lorre discovering, to his horror, that he has an 'M' chalked on to his back, and a tense chase through the streets and man hunt for the killer. And who can forget the eerie tune of Hall of the Mountain King that Lorre whistles to himself whenever he's on the prowl. Harrowing and profound, M is rightly regarded as a suspenseful masterpiece.
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"...they never leave me. They're always there..."
utgard1429 June 2014
There's a serial killer in Berlin who targets children. The police have been unable to catch him but their increased presence has made life more difficult for the criminal underworld. So the criminals band together to try and find the child killer themselves and issue their own brand of justice. Exceptional German film from the great Fritz Lang. His best sound film and second best film overall, behind only the silent sci-fi masterpiece Metropolis. The cast is terrific. Peter Lorre is amazing in this, which put him on the map. The direction, the cinematography, the angles, the lighting, the dark atmosphere all help to create this visually arresting film. It's a classic in every sense. Don't let its age or the subtitles turn you off from trying it. You're missing out on a truly great film if you do.
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Fritz Lang's Finest Film
CinemaClown9 August 2013
An expertly written & masterfully executed example of genre-filmmaking that was far ahead of its time back when it was released and which even today is counted amongst the greatest & most influential works of world cinema, Fritz Lang's M is an intriguing character study that paints an interesting portrait of a serial killer & is a biting criticism of a negligent society as well.

The story of M concerns a serial killer who preys on children & presents an underworld society whose usual business is disrupted due to the everyday raids carried out by the police to apprehend the killer-on-loose. Driven by police's continued failure & increasing losses in their business, the criminal bosses ultimately decide to take matters in their own hands & try to capture the killer all by themselves.

Directed by Fritz Lang, this is the film that the esteemed director called his finest & it's not really difficult to see why. The screenplay & direction brims with creativity, the suspense is wonderfully created & utilized, black-n-white photography is crisp & inventive, editing never lets the story settle down, score & sound effects work in seamless harmony, and Peter Lorre steals the show with a highly compelling performance.

On an overall scale, M is a cinematic treasure that has innovation written all over it. Whether it's the narrative style, leitmotifs, camera angles, sound mixing, symbolism or expressions, the contribution this German classic has made in the world of filmmaking is groundbreaking. A thought-provoking & well-researched study into the mind of a disturbed character, M is a strong meditation on the morals of right & wrong, that has a lot to say about our very own society.

Thoroughly recommended.
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A must see!
jlobarcelona-335-5497795 December 2012
His first sound film and own favorite, enjoy Lang's masterpiece. Peter Lorre best role! Written by Lang and wife Thea von Harbou, M boosted Lorre's career.Lang was stroke by Lorre when he first saw him on Berlin's stage in "Engineers in Ingolstadt" a play where he portrayed a confused adolescent. Fritz Lang naturally thought of him while writing M, his childish look would perfectly matches Hans Beckert the main character.Lang said that one of the reasons he chose twenty six years old Lorre was because he fit this story, set in the everyday life of Weimar- era Berlin, depicting ordinary citizens, criminals, and police and forensics experts at work. He just looked like a real, everyday person. Despite his bug-eyed and purring voice, Lorre's baby- faced child-killer role catapulted him to international fame.
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Thrilling, Chilling and Dark. A visual Masterpiece.
csab-3979716 December 2018
If you're looking for a twisted, dark thriller that is not long and drawn out then M is your movie. The theme in and of itself is taboo and had this not been made precode it would be mediocre. Lorre's breakthrough performance shows his acting ability. He almost gets the viewer to have sympathy for His "sickness" which is not an easy acting task considering the subject manor. M is also filmed in such a perfect visual style... haunting shadows and the camera angles are brilliantly done.
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M - Fritz Lang's Masterpiece.
Amyth4727 October 2018
My Rating : 9/10

This is, in my mind, Fritz Lang's masterpiece. Peter Lorre plays a child murderer in modern Berlin being hunted by both police and the criminal underworld. Lorre's performance is still one of my favorite performances by an actor in motion picture history. The lighting used in this film, credit to cinematographer Fritz Arno Wagner, set the mood perfectly in each scene and was far more advanced than any American films of the time. All round a brilliant film.
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The birth of a psychological thriller!
elvircorhodzic25 March 2016
„M" is primarily a bold and controversial piece of work. Lang's first sound film. Directed us to the beginning of the game offers shade and excellent cinematography. The atmosphere is gloomy and tense. The case of child killer is thematically processed. The focus of the story is not a serial killer but on how his murder affect people.

All that is unacceptable and incomprehensible leads to division among the people. The essence of terrible things, such as the murder of children, people understand in different ways. Given the panic that is certainly present in this film, chaos reigned. The killer must locate and catch. In the story dominate two segments. On the one hand we see a strong power law in its infinite analysis of the psychological profile of the killer, organizing raids and executing them, clinging to straws, all under public pressure and an uneasy feeling of general panic. On the other hand, the underground has its problems. Because of frequent raids and increased the number of police officers on the street, suffering job. Then the key decisions are made: the criminals themselves will catch the killer. The way the underworld decided to end the hunt was my genius. How to find and trace the man, and without this it noticed? How can I be invisible in the street? Everybody?

"M" is quite realistic movie and in many situations it can be replicated in our everyday lives shaken the social and economic crisis. Understandably, panic, fear and general mood affect each individual, but it is fascinating how the individual devices judge, jury and executioner. A mass hysteria not to speak.

Peter Lorre is „M" His performance deserves praise and admiration. Lorre before mobs straw, pray, but not for mercy, but to understand. Understanding? The expression on his face leaves the deepest impression.

Acting follows the dark tone of the film. The atmosphere is excellent and followed by darkness, dirt, whores, bums and ugly people ... a lot of bad people.

People are in uncontrolled situations corrupted. Most of us are trying to see the best in people. It is true that a large number of people conceals an eerie hatred that people often degrades in large social activities. Lang is a true master. He made a great movie. I will not have to engage in in-depth analysis.

Below is a simplified message: „Think only for themselves, but never head of the mob and keep an eye on children." Paradoxically. I know. "M" is an excellent thriller and police essay.
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Dark and suspenseful
Kubris1 December 2012
M is quite the film. It shocks you throughout its runtime: the subject matter is scary and mature, the acting isn't over-the-top like its counterparts from the era, and there's swearing. Extreme swearing for the time. To top this all off, it's suspenseful. The entire last half is edge of your seat.

Despite being indirectly named after Peter Lorre's character, he isn't directly prevalent in the film, but his presence is always in the air. Right from the start a mother yells at kids for "singing that awful song", a little rhyme about the child murderer. The citizens of Berlin are antsy: anyone could be the killer, and accusations fly. The entire police force is worn down, combing the city for one man. It even interrupts the criminals. So they decide to hunt this monster too, but at the same time while remaining separate from the police, who on any other day are their enemies. This is the dynamic of M, and the stubbornness leads to tension.

The first half is informative, organic, but slowly paced. There were many opportunities to advance the plot that weren't taken. But once the ball gets rolling... it stays rolling, and right to the end you're right in the film.

Lang makes interesting artistic choices, like the use of silence in suspenseful scenes. Seeing a man run completely scared but without even the noise of his shoes hitting the ground is harrowing. Mirrors also have interesting applications too.

I was reading about this film before seeing it and people said how they could sympathize with the murderer. Personally, I would see about checking their heads: the murderer is 100% deranged. The only inner demons he faces are those of his previous exploits. This leads to the final conflict, of how justice should be administered, which is an great debate, but the killer is sick, through and through.

M is groundbreaking, going where film had not gone before and doing it supremely anyway. An entertaining 2 hours, though it's not exactly a 'fun' film, and the end, while being powerful, isn't handled to the same standard as the rest of the film. It just... fades to black. Maybe this will grow on me, but after seeing it, it puts the tiniest damper on the end of a genius film. 8.7/10
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I can't help what I do! I can't help it, I can't...
lastliberal9 April 2009
We see the beginnings of film noir in Germany's first talking picture. It also has some remnants of German Expressionism. But what is most impressive is the story itself.

Anyone that has followed cases of missing children know what the police go through, and watching this crime/psychological thriller and the search for a child serial killer is just like watching the 6 o'clock news today.

The acting is superb, and the story is compelling. It is not so much about the killer, but about the people's reactions to the fear he has filled them with. Of course, the thieves and prostitutes are too happy either with cops everywhere. It was absolutely hilarious to watch the cops planning how to step up raids while, at the same time across town, the underworld was trying to figure out how to catch the murderer and get back to business.

Both the police and the underworld get a break at the same time. But the underworld has him cornered and things are getting really tense. You cannot image what they do to try and find him. This was the most innovative story I have seen.

The "trial" was magnificent! The print was absolutely perfect and the lighting was superb. The sound was even OK for the first use.

Gustaf Gründgens was superb as the leader of the underworld, Theodor Loos equally so as the head of the police, and Peter Lorre was great as usual.
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M-1931: Where Fritz Lang bares the soul and psychology of the child-killer.
RJBurke194222 June 2008
This is, unequivocally, a psychological thriller that all films buffs must see. I've now seen it three times, but I'm certain to see it again.

The fictional character of Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) is based upon a real-life serial killer who stalked the streets of Dusseldorf. Fritz Lang, the director, had read an article about that killer and constructed this thrilling story that relates how Beckert is finally brought to justice.

The film opens with a sequence that establishes the latest disappearance of a small girl, Elsie Beckmann (Inge Landgut), with her mother (Ellen Widmann) waiting and waiting, and finally calling anxiously for Elsie from her apartment window, set high in the lower-class tenement block. The expected hue and cry ensues at yet another ghastly murder; the citizens are again outraged that the murderer is still loose; the police are stumped for clues; and, most importantly, the well-connected criminal bosses in the city are angry – because the police step up raids across the city trying to find the killer and, in that process, prevent them from continuing their criminal activities. So, they decide to find the murderer themselves and get rid of him…

And, to compound the dramatic irony, Lang has the police launch a massive manhunt, across the county, for all men with a history of mental illness. As a result of that search, the file on Beckert turns up, and so the police set up a stake-out at his apartment when clues there substantiate their suspicions.

Hence, both sides of the law are frantically trying to find Beckert, but for very different reasons. The question is: who will get to him first?

The narrative then moves on to where Beckert is currying favor with his next little victim, when he is spotted by one of the city's criminal low-life, who then follows him around to make sure it's the killer he's found. Satisfied, the man cleverly marks Beckert on his overcoat, with a large, white M, and then runs off to raise the alarm and get help from the rest of the gang.

Thereafter, it's a three-way race: Beckert finds the mark on his back and runs to ground, to hide in a large office block, but not before the criminals see him enter the building; the criminal gangs then assemble a large force that breaks into that block after hours to find him; and the police, alerted by a tripped alarm from the office block, finally rush over to find only one criminal still there, ironically forgotten by his friends.

The sequence in the office block, with Beckert trying to stay hidden, while the searchers get closer with each passing minute, is one of the most suspenseful – and quasi-comedic – actions ever put to film. Years later, Ray Milland appeared in The Big Clock (1948) with a very similar setting which, in turn, was remade with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman in No Way Out (1987) – and both of which I'm sure owe much to Lang's superior effort with M.

It's a great visual story (reason enough to see it, in my opinion), but it's also Germany's first talking film. And, to say anymore about the narrative would spoil it, if you haven't seen it yet.

What's equally great is Lang's filming and direction, using light/dark; high and low angle shots; shot-reverse shot; voice-over narration that matched remote action (a first in cinema); and sequences that tell a story with no words; and all with the consummate originality and skill of a master practitioner. Little wonder that this film constantly ranks within the top 100 of all time.

Special mention must also be given to Peter Lorre, an actor unknown to Hollywood at the time of release. His portrayal of a child-killer is flawless. For the first hour, he hardly says a word, his looks and actions doing more than enough to show his character. Only after he is trapped in the office block does he break his silence, and with devastating effect. Lang then does the unthinkable, almost: he shows Beckert's psychology and vulnerability, with exquisite irony, to the extent that the viewer begins to feel sympathy for the worst of the worst. It's an unforgettable narrative achievement. (In contrast, who has ever felt any real sympathy for Norman Bates, the psychopath from Psycho [1960]?)

Interestingly, when Lorre did get to Hollywood, he appeared in a film called The Stranger on the third floor (1940), in which he again played the part of a psychopathic killer, this time of women. And, of course, who can forget his droll portrayal as Dr Herman Feinstein in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)?

The rest of the cast for M is more than adequate; in fact, I understand that Lang actually used a number of real criminals during shots of the criminal gangs, and especially during the final act. I was particularly taken with the boss of the criminal gangs, Schränker (Gustaf Grundgens) and the two main policemen of this story, Inspectors Lohmann and Groeber (Otto Wernicke and Theodor Loos, respectively).

Some reviewers exhibit frustration with what appears to be an ambiguous end. Considering the times, however, I think there's little doubt about the outcome. You'll have to make your own assessment, obviously.

Highest recommendation for all.
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Way ahead and interesting techniques
ashley-31622 March 2007
A superb film and anyone with an eye for creative filming will see the details. The scene where M spots a new victim in the reflection of a shop window is wonderfully filmed. Another great sequence is the alarm system being activated during a factory break and enter - the amazing details shows the opening of a window triggering a sensor which in turn sets of an alarm at the police station, where a light flashes above a number. Police then go to a card file system, look up that number and straight away know which window in which building and the address within seconds of the window being forced. I never knew they had such systems in 1931 - but hey did and the detail with which the sequence is filmed in remarkable. A must see!
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Fascinating, ahead of its time, and highly influential
crystallogic21 April 2019
This movie is from 1930/31 and pretty much defines the essence of thriller on film. Fritz Lang, of course, was a director of many silent pictures in the 1920s in Germany, and was one of the first to really take advantage of the sound format. Unlike most directors from the very early 30s, he seemed to have an inkling of just what an audio track could do for film, in fact. This picture isn't as audially fascinating as The Testament of Dr. mabuse, but it's full of really great dialogues on the nature and psychology of aberrant behaviour, the mentality of mobs, and so forth. You'll also find that it's just far different from most Hollywood pictures of even those pre-Code days.

The iconic thing about this film, really, though, is Peter Lorre and his portrayal of a serial murderer of young girls. His trademark whistling of "hall of the Mountain King" is a kind of "tick" that would be imitated and referenced for decades to come. In the end, the police are totally unable to find and stop this killer on their own, and so it's up to Berlin's underworld to help clear their name and bring this madman to justice. Interestingly, the topic of "mob justice" would soon become a very relevant issue in Germany, as the NSDAP had a nasty way of directing the propaganda and letting "democracy" have its say through violence when it suited their agenda. This wasn't at all what Fritz lang was going for, though; he came to hate the nazis and left for the US before the end of the 30s, where he continued to have an interesting, if somewhat less trail-blazing career.
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My Childhood Film
josephcamplese18 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This film is directed by the amazing directer Fritz Lang, and "is one of the best films iv'e seen in a while." is what I said as a child and I still stand by this. M is one of the greatest films ever made and hears why. The film stars Peter Lorre as the serial killer and this film has great casting I couldn't imagine this role being played by anyone else and that's why this performance is so believable he obviously cares about the role and the end scene is the best showcase of his acting. The end scene is brilliant the room is full of hypocrites and one of the judges is wanted for 3 murders so he looses all of his credibility as a judge and the murderer posing as insane to avoid death is a good move . but the end scene is not the only good scene the whole movie is good but you will have to watch the film for yourself to see it's brilliance.beware this film is subtitled but it's a slow burn that really pays off the message at the end still makes sense today and even more so in today's world and this is why M gets a 9/10
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Stands the test of time
allstarrunner6 July 2018
I just watched this movie for the first time about 90 years after it first came out! It is still a great movie! The tension it builds throughout and the use of music to set the tone and even move the plot along are brilliant! I can understand why this movie was used as a recipe for future movies. I think what I like best about the movie is the moral questions that are raised at the end and the decision of the director to leave it up to us to decide. So good! Trust me, you need to watch this film - even if you're one of those people who don't like to watch old films or international films (which I used to be) - there is amazing cinema out there to enjoy if you will expand your horizons. This is one of them you need to watch (I also recommend "The General" as a great silent film movie).
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M is a Masterpiece
sybolt_hoitinga17 April 2018
Everybody with any interest in the history of cinema should watch this epic masterpiece.
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An Enthralling Classic, and a Triumph For Lang & Lorre
Snow Leopard24 September 2004
An enthralling classic that still works as well as any movie of the genre that has been made since, "M" is also an artistic triumph for Fritz Lang and an acting triumph for Peter Lorre. The grim, complex story and the varied and sometimes weird settings fit together perfectly, leaving you with a lasting impression of the world that they create.

The story pulls you in quickly, and it only gets deeper as it goes on. To the basic story-line of the hunt for the murderer, it adds a detailed and distinctive portrayal of its society, with some unusual and thought-provoking parallels between sectors of society that at first would seem quite different. The settings are quite detailed and often unusual, yet never without a purpose. Lang strives for uniqueness but always keeps things tied together. There are many good sequences - too many to detail - that are as interesting to watch as they are important to the story.

To all this is added Lorre's performance, which showed how many things he could do. Seeing him perform so well in such a challenging lead role, it is no surprise that his supporting roles were such an important part of so many other fine films. Here, Lorre is one of numerous factors that make "M" such a memorable classic.
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M is not for the faint of heart
gsteve28 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Cinematically, I thought that the opening sequence of the film was frightful. I think it is because Lang used such long takes to watch the children playing (from a rather obtuse angle too); then the mother tells them not to sing the horrifying song they were singing (similar to our version of London Bridges or Engine Engine Number Nine. Children mirror what they see and hear; but the only reason the children's song was so atrocious was because the Child Murderer was afoot. Then Lang uses that long take to show the woman readying her table for her child—who will never come home; it is a drastic and dramatic scene and I find the horror of it magnified because we do not see Peter Lorre choking the girl, or stabbing her—or doing whatever. We figured what would happen and in implication the suspense and horror are far greater than any Freddy or Jason slasher flick.

I believe, what I find so appealing in this (first) version (Lang's 1931 cut) is that he was directorially satisfied to use long takes and wide shots that showed a world beyond the immediate camera lens—or at least an implied world. That show directorial finesse; something sadly lacking in a lot of contemporary cinema. I was shocked by the use of the obscene language, but it made sense. I found myself wondering, though, if Lang did not use long takes of silence because there were moments where he simply did not have story to tell…ergo, he shows people doing what they do.

What I thought most alarming was once the mobs collaborated and cornered and captured Lorre's character, they were actually driven by the rule of law, in a fashion. Though what they did was somewhat vigil-ante, it was at least a forum for a discussion on who has the right to do what to whom. Who does have the right to take a life? Does the state? I must say that Peter Lorre's acting in that scene was nearly as perfect as any actor can get to perfection as humanly possible.

It is fitting the justice exacted on the killer life even though Frau Beckmann said justice does not bring their children back (everyone needs to watch their children closer).

Of course, we have to understand, this film emerges from pre-Nazi Germany, between the wars. Germany was a demolished state nearly collapsing from the devastating war reparations imposed on it by the League of Nations. The German people were suffering with devastating unemployment rates (for heaven's sake, there wasn't even air conditioning) and people were angry. This is the condition that produced Robert Wiene The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary, Paul Leni's The Man Who Laughs with Conrad Veidt, King Vidor's The Golem and the perennial (immortal, no pun intended) favorite F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu. The expressionists of the 20s and 30s were, as you say Trailblazers. They could make frightening films and I think that Hitchcock did well to study their works, because I believe that he refined what they did into the realm of stereo sound and Technicolor. The pre-noir effect is stark and bleak, and you are right, I think it paints a frightening picture; I will add that it shows us how life may have been in the era.
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