Movie Review – M (1931 – Germany
Possibly the best film of its era
There are classic movies, and there are classic movies, and then there is the astonishing M , Fritz Lang’s 1931 psychological thriller, the film that is the direct precursor to about 50% of all the movies and TV ever made. If you doubt that assertion, just take a quick look at your cable guide—how many of tonight’s offerings are crime stories? What percentage feature deranged, compulsive bad guys driven by inner demons to hurt, to terrorize, to kill? Are there any shows about organized crime? What about police dramas, stories about the investigation of crime, the criminal justice system, the success or failure of society efforts to protect the innocent and punish the guilty?
Watch this terrific movie right now:
Watch the original 1931 trailer:
M is on every Best Movies list for a number of sound reasons, and the fact that it wraps up every one of the plot points I just listed inside one terrific story line is one of them. A child murderer is on the loose in Berlin; the city is in the grip of a paranoid panic. The civilian hysteria is mirrored by the determination of the police to catch the killer, and their intense scrutiny has set the underworld on edge, as well.
In one of the film most famous passages, Lang cuts adroitly back and forth as police and gangsters both develop strategies to identify the murderer, and by doing so he shows us the similarities between the two seemingly disparate groups. M is filled with such flashes of story-telling genius, and Lang also uses the very new technology of cinematic sound as a very effective plot device as the tune whistled by the killer (Edvard Grieg's In The Hall of the Mountain King , from the Peer Gynt Suite I Op. 46 ) gives him away.
More from and about classic films:
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- Movie Review - The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933 - Germany)
A classic psychological thriller and stunning example of early sound film, Fritz Lang's The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is a complex puzzle as well as a movie of great historical significance: banned by the Nazi's as subversive, it compelled Lang to flee
- Movie Review - Metropolis (1927 Germany)
This beautifully restored and remastered edition of 1927 classic Metropolis let's us see Fritz Lang's vision of the future as he intended us to do, and a scary future it is!
- Movie Review - Spies (1928 - Germany)
Fritz Lang's 1928 silent classic has been restored and is a real treat for any film lover. One of the first takes on the Evil Mastermind genre, it foreshadows the Bond/spy genre and is a good story taken on its own merits.
- German Cinema: What You Need to Know About the Silent Era
This is an overview of Germany's silent era from 1912-1929. It highlights some of the classic films of that era and provides some information about the two more popular film movements on the time. Don't think these movies are all outdated because the
Peter Lorre created one of film’s most memorable villains by imbuing Franz Becker with an unsettling, childlike quality that provides an undercurrent of conflict, especially when the gangsters subject him to a kangaroo court trial. His performance raises M into the highest level of psychological drama as we ponder to what degree the deeply damaged should be held responsible for the damage they, in turn, do to others—another very modern theme that Lang places at the core of his story.
M was an international sensation when it was released and was widely respected in the burgeoning American film industry, paving the way for Lang’s successful repatriation after he fled Germany in 1934. It remains an astonishing film, one whose impact has not been diminished in the many decades since it first asked the question with which it begins, "Wer ist der Morder?" (Who is the murderer?)
Very highly recommended.
Copyright © Roberta Lee 2012. All rights reserved.
(I am an artist and the author of the Suburban Sprawl series of novels as well as two nonfiction books. Find out more about my work at RobertaLeeArt.com.)