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Thursday, 26 March 2009

M


Directed by Fritz Lang
1931
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.

10 comments:

I.J. Parnham said...

It's been a long time since I saw M, but I remember it as a powerful film that, as you say, is even more relevant now than then. The only fault I can think of is the minor one that Peter Lorre was such an odd-looking bloke that it helps to perpetuate the image of the child-killer as being someone who is easily identified - he's the little creep with mad staring eyes!

Paul Brazill said...

GREAT FILM.

G said...

It was an excellent film.

I watched it a few times over here on Turner Classic Movies, and it was worth every minute.

David Cranmer said...

M is brilliant and Lang's Metropolis is equally monumental.

ARCHAVIST said...

Ian - Lorre certainly had a strange look as you say, but his performance was excellent. But you're correct - in life the child killer is often the normal looking guy.

David - Course Metropolis. Had forgotten that - can you believe it!

All - M is truly stunning and disturbing.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have always been too scared of both Lorre and the topic to watch it. METROPOLIS I can watch.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've never seen it, I fear. I just never get around to watching movies much.

I.J. Parnham said...

As everyone is mentioning Metropolis, does anyone know the truth of whether the full version has been discovered or not? It, along with Greed perhaps, is one of the holy grails of missing films.

They had that version with the Freddy Mercury soundtrack in the 80s that was supposed to be the fullest version they could do, running at about 90 minutes, but then more footage was found to bring it up to 120 minutes, but supposedly, and who know with some of the stuff you read on the Net, the 210 minute version has now been found.

Jonas Nordin said...

M is indeed available in a fantastic remstered print done by Criterion.
http://www.criterion.com/films/558

There are other releases of it as well but the Criterion is the one to have.

ARCHAVIST said...

Jonas - I wasn't aware of a dvd release, especially from the excellent Criterion. I know it once had a VHS release but was deleted. Ahh well, you live and learn