M

M

4.8 15
Director: Fritz Lang

Cast: Fritz Lang, Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut

     
 

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Fritz Lang's classic early talkie crime melodrama is set in 1931 Berlin. The police are anxious to capture an elusive child murderer (Peter Lorre), and they begin rounding up every criminal in town. The underworld leaders decide to take the heat off their activities by catching the child killer themselves. Once the killer is fingered, he is marked with the letter "M"… See more details below

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Overview

Fritz Lang's classic early talkie crime melodrama is set in 1931 Berlin. The police are anxious to capture an elusive child murderer (Peter Lorre), and they begin rounding up every criminal in town. The underworld leaders decide to take the heat off their activities by catching the child killer themselves. Once the killer is fingered, he is marked with the letter "M" chalked on his back. He is tracked down and captured by the combined forces of the Berlin criminal community, who put him on trial for his life in a kangaroo court. The killer pleads for mercy, whining that he can't control his homicidal instincts. The police close in and rescue the killer from the underworld so that he can stand trial again in "respectable" circumstances. Some prints of the film end with a caution to the audience to watch after their children more carefully. Filmed in Germany, M was the film that solidified Fritz Lang's reputation with American audiences, and it also made a star out of Peter Lorre (previously a specialist in comedy roles!). M was remade by Hollywood in 1951, with David Wayne giving a serviceable performance as the killer.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
A seminal serial-killer classic with the most horrific subject imaginable -- the murder of children -- M was the first sound film made by German director Fritz Lang, who soon thereafter began a successful career in Hollywood. It also turned out to be the first true masterpiece of the sound era. M's grim story centers on the search for a compulsive child killer (Peter Lorre), pursued not only by the police, but by Berlin's underworld as well. The killer's obsessive whistling of a haunting theme by Edvard Grieg is a famous touch, made all the more frightening by the fact that the film has no other music, save for that same theme, in full orchestration, used over the opening and closing titles. The lack of musical score also accentuates M's semi-documentary feel, as it lays out in clinical detail the state-of-the-art police procedures of the period, while eschewing any scenes of the murders themselves. Dark and visually striking, M ultimately raises some questions about justice and sanity that are still debated today.
All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
One of the most distinguished and technically accomplished early sound films, Fritz Lang's M (1931) revealed the expressive possibilities for combining sound and visuals, in a metaphorically loaded story about pre-Nazi Germany. Working from the true story of the Dusseldorf child murders, Lang matches a mother's anguished calls for her daughter with images of an empty stairwell and a lost balloon rather than show the killing, while the murderer's obsessive whistling becomes the calling card for his threatening presence. Beyond the use of sound, Lang takes a pessimistic view of German society, using editing to equate the police with the criminals, while Fritz Arno Wagner's fluid cinematography creates a gloomy night world of shadows and paranoid entrapment. Lang's documentary-like attention to the details of the search, combined with the absence of non-diegetic music, matches the stylization with an equally creepy element of realism. The killer may be sick, but the society pursuing him isn't that much better. A worldwide success and a star-maker for Peter Lorre, M influenced movies from those of Orson Welles to the American film noir of the 1940s; Lang himself left Nazi Germany for Hollywood in 1933. The 111-minute version features an added courtroom ending. The movie was remade by Joseph Losey in 1951 as an allegory of Cold War-era Communist "witch hunts."

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Product Details

Release Date:
12/07/2004
UPC:
0037429197820
Original Release:
1931
Rating:
NR
Source:
Criterion
Time:
1:50:00

Special Features

Disc One - The Film:; new, restored high-definition Digital transfer, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.19:1; Audio commentary by German film scholars Anton Kaes, author of the BFI film classics volume on M, and Eric Rentschler, author of The Ministry of Illusion: Nazi Cinema and Its Afterlife; New and improved English subtitle translation; Plus: a 32-page booklet featuring an essay by film critic Stanley Kauffmann, a 1963 interview with Lang, the script for a missing scene, and contemporaneous newspaper articles; ; Disc Two - The Supplements:; Conversation with Fritz Lang, a 50-minute film by William Friedkin ; Claude Chabrol's M le maudit, a short film inspired by M, plus an interview with Chabrol by Pierre-Henri Gibert about Lang's filmmaking techniques; Classroom tapes of M editor Paul Falkenberg discussing the film and its history; Interview with Harold Nebenzal, the son of M producer Seymour Nebenzal; A physical history of M; Stills gallery, with behind-the-scenes photos, and production sketches by art director Emil Hasler

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Peter Lorre Franz Becker
Ellen Widmann Madam Becker
Inge Landgut Elsie
Gustaf Gründgens Schraenker
Friedrich Gnass Burglar
Fritz Odemar The Cheater,Dynamiter
Paul Kemp Pickpocket
Theo Lingen Bauernfaenger
Ernst Stahl-Nachbaur Chief of Police
Franz Stein Minister
Otto Wernicke Inspector Karl Lohmann
Theodor Loos Police Commissioner Groeber
Rudolf Blumner Barrister
Georg John Blind Beggar
Karl Platen Nightwatch
Gerhard Bienert Secretary
Rose Valetti Landlady
Hertha Von Walther Prostitute
Heinrich Gotho Actor
Lotte Loebinger Isenta
Klaus Pohl Actor
Paul Rehkopf Actor
Hugo Döblin Actor
Ilse Furstenberg Actor
Heinrich Gretler Actor
Gunther Hadank Actor
Gunther Neumann Actor
Otto Waldis Actor
Rolf Wanka Actor
Leonard Steckel Karchow

Technical Credits
Fritz Lang Director,Screenwriter
Paul Falkenberg Editor,Screenwriter
Thea von Harbou Screenwriter
Emile Hasler Production Designer
Adolf Jansen Screenwriter
Seymour Nebenzal Producer
Karl Vollbrecht Production Designer
Fritz Arno Wagner Cinematographer

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Scene Index

Side #1 -- Disc One: The Film
1. Elsie Beckmann [8:17]
2. Who Is the Murderer? [5:43]
3. Investigations [7:10]
4. "Show Me Your Papers" [8:25]
5. Cops Everywhere [12:41]
6. Interfering With Business [4:47]
7. Hans Beckert's Apartment [9:36]
8. Peer Gynt Suite [2:27]
9. The Mark [2:00]
10. Abandoned Offices [5:20]
11. Surrounded [9:18]
12. Alarm [2:30]
13. Interrogation [2:50]
14. The Hideout [9:25]
15. Kangaroo Court [3:45]
16. Color Bars [16:34]
Side #2 -- Disc Two: The Supplements
1. 1917-1918 [12:05]
2. 1925 [6:50]
3. 1931 [10:19]
4. 1933 [18:35]
5. 1975 [1:35]

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