M (1931)

Not Rated   |    |  Crime, Mystery, Thriller


M (1931) Poster

When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.

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8.3/10
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  • Inge Landgut in M (1931)
  • M (1931)
  • Peter Lorre in M (1931)
  • M (1931)
  • Peter Lorre in M (1931)
  • Peter Lorre in M (1931)

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16 January 2010 | AlsExGal
9
| Ahead of its time
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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