20 February 2011

Movies: M (1931)

M http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0022100/
A 1931 crime/thriller movie from Fritz Lang - the genius behind Metropolis.
Plot: A serial murderer - specifically of little girls - is terrorizing a large German city. The police response to catch him is so thorough it disrupts not only public citizenry's lives, it disrupts the criminal element's ability to be criminals. The criminals cry enough is enough and decide they have to catch this guy. You know - to be free to do criminally things again with less scrutiny.
Features a young Peter Lorre.
Tell you what - for a 1931 film, there were so many things going on in this movie that are reflected / re-accomplished in modern movies that I kept forgetting how old it really was. Some of the shots were utterly brilliant. 

Getting a couple negatives out of the way first: The sound was kind of lacking. It is a talkie, so there is sound, but the sound production lacks in many places. Some scenes had absolutely no sound to them at all. Most sounds we take for granted in modern movies - traffic noise, street noise, shoe noise, etc. weren't always added in post production. I'll forgive that based on the age of the movie (talkies were still rather young in the industry) and it being Fritz Lang's first talkie.
There were a couple camera angles I had no idea what Fritz was going for. Just didn't make any sense at all.

Now to things good:
The story is very thrilling, very compelling. Peter Lorre is creepy. The opening sequence through the first murder - amazing. The portrayal of the public's growing fear and distrust leading to mob behavior - perfectly executed. The police doing all they can and getting nowhere, the organized crime response, especially when the police conference is cut to parallel the crime conference. Brilliant. Even a little CSI- type stuff with fingerprint matching, handwriting analysis, profiling the crimes against known mental patient and criminal releases. Really put a modern feel with such an old movie. Very impressive for the age of the film.

This is one of those movies that is a must watch if one is a film aficionado, a student of film, or one with appreciation of good movies through the ages. So much to contrast with all films that came after it. Note that the dialog is in German, so all dialog has to be read via captions by language-inept folks like me.  I really can't recommend this one enough.

(original post 24 May 2010)

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