5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie
Saw this years ago at a repertoire theatre, was really impressed with the story, acting and photography, so much better
now since it's alteration by criterion
Published 3 months ago by martin czernatowicz
3.0 out of 5 stars an excellent film, poor print. wait until late 2004 to buy
This review is for the Criterion Collection (1st edition) of the film.
This movie is Fritz Lang's first "talkie" and an excellent film about a serial child murderer. The police are so obsessed with catching him and are everywhere. This prevents the other criminals like pickpocketers and burgalrs from doing their criminal activity so they team up and enlist the...
Published on April 2 2004 by Ted
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5.0 out of 5 stars A classic from Fritz Lang,
In 1931 Berlin, 8 children have fallen victim to a murderer. Suspicion abounds on the city streets, and the police have very few leads to follow. To expand their search for the killer, the police raid the dens of the underworld, infuriating the crime bosses. How could the police think that a murderer of children would be included in their ranks!! They may be theives and prostitutes, but even they wouldn't stoop so low as to harm a child. In an effort to rid themselves of such a terrible mark, the criminals take it upon themselves to track down and to bring their own form of justice this terrible person.
"M" is Fritz Lang's first "talkie" and is filled with great camera shots and very little sound. Sound is only used when necessary, giving this a great mix of the silent era and the new age of the talking pictures. The story is wonderfully told and displays one of the finest performances of Peter Lorre's acting career. His portrayal of the child killer is chilling and beautifully acted. An incredible film.
5.0 out of 5 stars Peter Lorre is great in this role!,
This review is from: M (VHS Tape)
All the reviews I've read here are so good that all I can add is the image of the balloon floating in the air.
5.0 out of 5 stars This beats Silence of the Lamb and other such films.,
In this day and age, psychological drama is a dime a dozen. I can think of several. Seven. Silence of the Lamb. To name two. Yet way back when...even before I was a twinkle in my parents eyes...or a crash on their credit cards and wallets (lo those many years ago)...there was this little film, M.
M. is one of the greatest of dramas, of a psychotic killer that...as the story moves along...though he is unbelieveably evil in his killings of children...you and I as a audiance grows to have an interest in. Peter's character in M. makes Hannibal look weak, because Peter is able to derive out of you so many emotions...anger, fear, sorrow, anquish. Who is the real villain in this? Yes Peter's character must pay for his crime, for in any logical and thought driven society such actions as he does call for punishment. Yet the way the avengers in this film, the hunting crime bosses and their lackies...you hate them for the way they deal with Peter's character in the end. You can't help it, you want to see Peter's character pay, but the way the criminal syndicate makes him pay for the crimes, you will be left tormented as the credits roll.
I have to think that Lang was probably gaining some of the feelings and attitudes of this movie by the horrors of the growing Nazi party and their sinister evils that were only shadows in the background of Germany's rush for nationalism after the toils the country had to pay for in reperations toward the Allies after W.W. I. I of course could be wrong, but that is my assessment anyway. Take it or leave it.
If you want a true scare, get this. If you enjoy thought provoking movies, get this. If you enjoy period movies, get this. It is just that simple.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, questionable transfer...,
Let me start off by talking about the transfer. For a Criterion edition (and the pricetag attached to the Criterion name) the transfer is really quite lacking. The negative is rather scratched and there is that rather unfortunate presence of the white bar in the latter stages of the film. I understand that they were dealing with compromised film stock, but I refuse to believe that they were unable to restore the film to a greater extent.
Criterion compounds this problem with their notable lack of extras. No commentary or audio essay, no production notes, no publicity stills, no biographies or anything else. A poor effort from Criterion.
On the other hand, the film is presented in the original 1.17:1 format, and not at 1.33:1 as another reviewer has stated. Criterion confuses this by stating that it is presented at a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, but in reality there are black bars at the sides of the screen. I suppose that this is nominally a 4:3 aspect ratio (as opposed to 16:9 enhanced) with reverse letterboxing being applied, if that makes any sense.
As for the film itself, I was quite impressed with it. It is a movie which is as relevant today as it was in the days it was made, a movie where the string of crimes would terrorize as many people today as it did then, and a criminal whom we are as unsure how to treat as they were then. In this respect we may regard M as being vastly superior to current fare, as it actually raises the sticky questions of responsibility versus compulsion instead of emptily condemning that which cannot be condoned.
Sure, it may strike us as being unrealistic that the police and the underworld are both trying to capture the same man (and for the same reason), but it's a conceit we are willing to believe in "Silence of the Lambs," not to mention "Cradle 2 the Grave," which was a straight up M remake.
One of the surprising elements of the film is how well it uses sound, considering that it is Fritz Lang's initial foray into the medium. In this sense it is an innovative work (like citizen Kane), as Lang has integrated sound in a way few directors today manage to do. We actually hear the murderer whistling before we see him, and you'll never listen to that little Grieg tune the same way ever again. It's interesting to observe the way sound is used at other stages of the film, as in some points there is no sound whatsoever, to the extent you might even start checking to see if there is something wrong with your speakers or DVD player. I don't know if it was the novelty of sound or what, but it seems like a lot of early directors were much more innovative in their use of sound (think of Eisenstein in Alexander Nevsky) and took advantage of it in ways modern directors don't think of. Sure, there are directors to whom sound is obviously important and who use it well (David Lynch and Wong Kar-Wai are a couple), but for most it seems like something of an afterthought.
I was actually familiar with Peter Lorre before watching this movie, mostly from his extensive appearances on radio programs. That being said, I must say I found his performance rather tiresome, as he uses the same histrionics and tics (only this time they are in German, and not in the English I was used to hearing). Of course this isn't really fair to him, as he was no doubt being type-cast in his later American works, having made much of his reputation with this film. If you aren't familiar with his other work then you may find his performance really quite fine.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great in its time, but showing its age,
"M" was a pioneering effort when Fritz Lang directed it, a lifetime ago, and it's still well worth watching. But 72 years later, it's lost a bit of its edge. Peter Lorre was primarily a stage actor at the time he appeared in "M" and by today's standards his performance in the famous "underground trial" scene verges on scenery-chewing. And while the print used to produce Criterion Collection DVD is mostly clear, the subtitles [are bad] ... sentences are broken in odd places, and often several characters' lines appear all together, before an exchange is half over. If you've never seen this movie, and you have any serious interest in the development of the art form, you definitely ought to see it. But don't expect edge-of-your-seat tension throughout!
4.0 out of 5 stars Great film, decent dvd...,
First, let me say I'd like to split my review:
I give the film 5 stars, no question, but the dvd transfer only 3 stars.
First, the transfer:
This transfer is great given most of the available alternatives, at least in R1 North America. Its relatively clean, and the audio is adequate although there's some hiss and crackles and there's one spot where its missing sound for a few seconds.
There is one problem, though, and that is the fact that the aspect ratio (screen size) is not correct. M was shot with an aspect ratio of 1.17:1, not 1.33:1 as Criterion states. This was the standard aspect ratio of early German 'talkies' and Blue Angel, for example, was shot in this same 1.17:1 aspect ratio. Criterion has used the same film element that they used for their LD edition of M, one that originated from a private collection in Switzerland. As a result, their film is just slightly clipped compared to the original.
There is in fact a more recent restoration that is uniformly better in both video, audio and technical details (a different film element that went through a complete digital restoration a few years ago) but this is only available in a German only R2 disk (available from Amazon's German and British websites).
Anyway, my comments about the dvd technical details aside, M is one of the all time classics of cinema. If you've seen any thriller made after this film, then you've seen elements of M. The story involves the search for a serial murderer of children, played by Peter Lorre. The police start cracking down on crime all over Berlin, causing the underworld to become concerned about business. The crooks hold a meeting, and decide to find the killer themselves, using street people and beggars to help hunt him down: the result is a competition, almost, between crooks and police to catch the murderer. Who is more effective and why?
There are a many scenes that are incredibly memorable, and have been copied repeatedly since this film. Trust me, when you see M you'll recognize how well the film has stood the test of time, and how often imitated its been. Perhaps one of my favorite scenes involves simultaneous meetings (in separate locations) between the police officials on one hand and the mob on the other. The film switches back and forth between the two in a seamless fashion, showing how both more or less have the same problem but completely different motivations.
M is early filmmaking at its best.... you should see this film just to appreciate how often its been imitated in the years since.
5.0 out of 5 stars Lorre at his best,
M both made and broke Lorre's career. It made him into an international success and sent him soaring into the limelight. But it immediately type casted him; leading him into mostly villianous roles. The movie is the first film that shows police procedure. It is also the first to tackle the subject of serial killers. Lorre plays a dejected child killer who just can't "help himself". There's a terrific scene of Lorre staring at a young girl through a store window and obviously becoming sexually charged.
The idea of the criminals persuing Lorre and holding a kangaroo court is a wee bit silly, but the silliness is made up for the fact that the ending monologue is terrific. Lorre's frustration, self-loathing and desperation is what stands out in the movie. All the other actors don't hold a candle.
This is Lang's first venture into sound and of course he does a terrific job of directing; he never shows the murders, but simply implies it. And the part of the cops walking through the streets in complete silence is damn eerie and memorable.
My only problem is I wish the DVD had more extras. More about Lorre, more about Lang and more film facts.
M should be in every movie lover's collection.
*another top notch Lorre film to check out is the hard to find DER VERLORENE, Lorre's first and last directing stint. Very ahead of it's time!
3.0 out of 5 stars This may have been shocking back in the day,
Peter Lorre was the highlight of this film. But, after watching this film, I am confused as to what exactly was so horrifying. I see far more horrifying images on the nightly news. Peter Lorre's character is never fully developed - as a viewer you have no insight into his dementia. It would have been a far better film to have been better informed as to his past insanity. If you are expecting a modern psychological thriller - you will be disappointed. It may be impossible for such an old film to have the intense psychological impact of modern films.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Film - Only a So-So Transfer,
Fritz Lang's masterpiece "M" is clearly one of the greatest of the early sound features made by him or practically anyone else. Peter Lorre gives his greatest performance as a weasly serial killer of little girls, and we accompany him on a couple of his stalkings, the last of which have him marked by the underworld with the letter 'M' and sought out by the city's criminal element, so the police will take some of the heat off them. The sound is crude, obviously added post filming in many instances, but it doesn't reduce the power of one of the greatest of German imports.
A film this old (1931) is naturally not going to be in spotless condition, but I have to say that I was very disappointed with Criterion's unusually sloppy work on this film. Clearly little effort was put into making the print pristine with scratches, dirt, and missing frames all still marring the viewing experience (compare what Criterion did with THE LADY VANISHES or THE SCARLET EMPRESS which look practically brand new), and the white bar which crisscrosses the screen (similar to the problem with new prints of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI) is very annoying. I have seen film prints of "M" without this white bar. I can't understand why it couldn't have been digitally removed.
So, one star gets removed due to the nature of the disappointing transfer. The film should nevertheless not be missed!
5.0 out of 5 stars Mention of the Nazis is *not* wrong,
A previous poster incorrectly states that any comparison with Nazis in reference to M is wrong, as the Nazis did not come to power until 1933. (He rather snottily makes reference to those who might take issue with him as "historically challenged.")
The Nazi party was created in 1919 -- basically the German Workers' Party was renamed the Nazi party by Hitler at this time. M premiered in 1931. It's quite clear that Lang is drawing allusions to the troubling and controversial rise of the Nazis a political force preying on the fears of Weimar Germans. A pity that the film was later used by Goebbels to illustrate the "evils of the Jews," implying that Jews, like Lorre, were prone to be evil child-molesters...
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M by Fritz Lang (VHS Tape - 1997)
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