M

Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced by Seymour Nebenzal
Written by Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou, Paul Falkenberg & Adolf Jansen
Starring Peter Lorre
Otto Wernicke
Gustaf Gründgens
Ellen Widmann
Inge Landgut
Theodor Loos
Friedrich Gnass
Music by Edvard Grieg
Cinematography Fritz Arno Wagner
Editing by Paul Falkenberg
Distributed by Vereinigte Star-Film GmbH
Paramount Pictures (US)
Release date Germany: 11 May 1931
United States: 3 May 1933
Running time 117 minutes
99 minutes (US)
Country Germany
Language German

Fritz Lang’s M is an interesting 1931 German film. For much part it seems almost like a silent movie. It wasn’t uncommon for film makers in the late 1920s and early 1930s to add sound elements to what started out as silent movies, Hitchcock did this with Blackmail as did Howard Hughes with Hell’s Angels, as they tried to catch up with the boom in talkies in the aftermath of The Jazz Singer.That said, M has long stretches of silent scenes but as sound, or a particular tune, plays an important part in the picture it must have originally been conceived as a talkie.

The plot concerns the hunt for a serial killer who has been murdering young children. The police have hit a dead-end and have started targeting the criminal underworld in the hope that this will help them find the killer. What it really does is cause the criminals to take matters into their own hands so that they can get the police off their own backs and get back to business.

Peter Lorre is quite impressive as the serial killer even though he really doesn’t do much until near the end of the film when he is on the run from, and subsequently captured by, the underworld. It’s interesting to hear the emotion in his voice when he is pleading for his life and stating that none of his accusers know what it is like to be him.It is worth watching this film for his performance alone.

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