M was released in the early stages of cinema and after another German film NosferatuM became almost like the birth of the thriller genre so in terms of horror and suspense, the Germans were the ones that started those specific genres off! I really like silent films especially ones that are suspenseful and have a dark story but this one was a bit of both because there were moments of ordinary dialogue and actions but there were a lot of unexpected silent moments that were literally silent without any music at all. This didn’t so much terrify me but it really kept me off the edge of my seat as I was watching it and I love the feeling when a film drives me to that. I also couldn’t help but notice that the characters seemed to like saying the words ”bastard” and ”swine” a lot and I think this is the oldest film that I have watched that actually features swearing in it.

Child-murder is probably the one cinema theme where viewers don’t and wouldn’t feel comfortable with watching at all so it really isn’t for the faint-hearted but I do love films with dark stories and creepy characters. Unfortunately, not everyone would watch this because it was made in the early 1930s, it was filmed in black and white and some are very fussy snobs who expect top quality Avatar-like effects every time. However, I am actually quite surprised that nobody has made a remake version of M yet. It’s not like I’d want them to, just that Hollywood are so predictable and most classics have been remade or loosely remade but have turned out crap most of the time.

There have been a rash of child abductions and murders in a German town. The murderer lures the children into his confidence by candy and other such child friendly items. Everyone is on edge because the murderer has not been caught. The most substantial pieces of evidence the police have are hand written letters by the murderer which he sent to the newspaper for publication. Unknown even to himself, a blind beggar, who sold the murderer a balloon for one of the child victims, may have key information as to the murderer’s identity. The murder squad’s work is made even more difficult with the large number of tips they receive from the paranoid public, who are quick to accuse anyone of suspicious activity solely for their own piece of mind that someone – anyone – is apprehended for the heinous crimes. Conversely, many want to take the case into their own hands, including the town’s leading criminals since the increased police presence has placed a strain on their ability to conduct criminal activity. Although they both have the same end goal of capturing the murderer, the police and the criminals seem to be working at cross purposes, which may provide an edge to the murderer in getting away.

Despite there are many characters involved in M, it was really only about one character: the murderer of the children in the city. Peter Lorre portrayed Hans Beckert and what an absolutely outstanding performance it was! It is unique, really, because before M, Lorre was in fact a comedic actor but his performance in this film goes to show that anybody can portray something really well that is totally different from what they have done previously in their careers. He wasn’t only a terrifying villain in terms of what he was doing regarding the murder of the children but he was also damn terrifying to look at especially when the character was either scared or shocked about something that was going on. Apart from the obvious fictional characters back in the old days, the Hans Beckert was perhaps the darkest character to have ever been shown in a film and that child-murder is unfortunately something that happens on a regular basis. I don’t understand how Lorre as well as the film in general weren’t nominated for any Academy Awards at all! Otto Wernicke gave a great performance also as Inspector Karl Lohmann! M was also Wernicke’s career breakthrough as well as Lorre’s too so this became a breakthrough for those involved in the film as well as a breakthrough in cinema in general.

Fritz Lang is perhaps the most underrated filmmaker in the history of cinema. First he achieves the breakthrough classic Metropolis in the science fiction genre and now M in the horror-thriller genre. Despite the fact that both films are breakthroughs in cinema and both are fantastic, I did prefer M more because it was more powerful and I just happened to enjoy it more as entertainment than art like Metropolisis both of those too but the other way round. I really liked the twist at the end of the film also but I won’t spoil that in the review. Anyway, I think that Fritz Lang truly expressed (even from a German in the 1930s on the brink of World War II) that there truly are some sick people in this world and some just don’t deserve to live like child-murderers and paedophiles.

Overall, M is one fantastic classic that is a landmark in the thriller genre (and the birth of psychological thrillers) and is without a doubt one of the best foreign language films of all time and it is also unfortunately one of the most underrated films as well. Despite the fact it was made in the early 1930s, it is a lot darker than some of the thrillers we see nowadays. If you’re one of those people who aren’t too selective when it comes to classics and if you like Metropolis, you will absolutely love this one like I did.


~ by SJMJ91 on 18/05/2012.

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