Thursday, 26 March 2009
Directed by Fritz Lang
Peter Lorre, Gustaf Grundgens and Ellen Widmann
Fritz Lang had previously made silent movies concentrating on monsterous criminals but for his first talkie he turned to more mundane and altogether more frightening horrors. Originally he had planned to make the movie about a set of poison pen letters and their effect on a small community but the director decided to change tack after hearing about the exploits of real like killer, Peter Kurten, known as the Dusseldorf Vampire.
When the film studio learned what Lang and his screenwriter wife were planning, they gave up on the project and the director took it to the small studio Nero Films. This limited the budget and forced the director into a six week shoot between Jan and March 1931.
Peter Lorre is truly chilling as the child killer and he received universal praise for his performance but he didn't get on with the director and would forever resent the way he was forced to throw himself down some steps twelve times before Lang was happy with the take. Maybe this contributed to the haunted look Lorre carries through the entire picture.
The movie is a classic but is sadly unavailable on DVD and given the current paedophile hysteria it looks set to remain that way for quite some time.