M (1931)

9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking, well acted

Abrupt ending

Movie Info

Movie Name:  M

Studio:  Vereinigte Star-Film

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  May 11, 1931

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


No…no way that shadowy guy could be the killer

A murderer named Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) is stalking Berlin killing children.  The police find themselves at a dead end and are now canvasing the area with what technology they can find.  The criminals are also finding themselves at odds with the killer since with the increased police activity hurting their business and have turned to the homeless to help locate him.  As the police close in, will the killer escape?

M was directed by the famed director Fritz Lang and was highly critically acclaimed.  It was written by Lang’s wife Thea von Harbou and was the first time Lang worked with sound.  Some say the story was based on the “Vampire of Düsseldorf” Peter Kürten, and many some of the story’s aspects match this, but Lang denied it.  M was released on Criterion (Criterion #30) and has also been released on Blu-Ray.


A balloon…of Death!!!

The movie is quite interesting and so much has been written about it that it is hard to say anything new.  Before I saw the movie, I always assumed it was mostly about Lorre since images of him predominately are shown from the film.  The movie is more about the search for him by others, though Lorre’s creepiness really comes through in the few scenes throughout the movie where he appears and the longer ending segment in which he has to face his peers.

The result of this combination has a strange sense that makes the movie almost feel like The Wire.  It looks at different aspects of a crime to solve the murder with everyone closing in on the same answer.  Like The Wire, all the independent entities aren’t wrong and essentially have a working relationship.  It is an interesting and kind of advanced idea.


Dammit…now I need a drycleaner. That really is murder!

The movie, like many of Lang’s films, looks fantastic.  The use of shadows, light and darkness, and screen composition just puts Lang way ahead of the curve in this category but does keep him in line with many German Expressionists of the period.  There are a ton of famous images from the film and combined with the smart script and fun use of the “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 makes lots of memorable moments.  The movie ends with the great scene of Beckert facing his accusers but unfortunately has a rather abrupt post scene that kind of leaves it up to question on what’s Beckert’s fate…as a modern day viewer I don’t know enough about German law to know if Beckert could even be executed by the state.

M is a great film and Lorre does a nice job making a memorable, sick character.  It is odd to watch these early talkies since directors don’t know how to really handle the sound and there are moments of long silence.  The movie is one of those movies that you should see if you are into film…especially thrillers.  Hans Beckert is one of the first attempts to bring a serial killer to film and even ended up saving Lorre’s daughter Catharine’s life when she almost became a victim of the Hillside Stranglers.  Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono had targeted Catharine but decided to let her live because of their love of Lorre’s character in M…meaning Beckert saved a life in the end.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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