02/06/2023: German Film “M” directed by Fritz Lang
Overview: M is a 1931 German mystery suspense thriller, made two years before Hitler came to power. M, which stands for Murder of ‘Mörder’, was Fritz Lang’s first sound film and is a great psychological thriller, a trenchant treatise on crime and justice, and a vivid portrait of the rapidly disintegrating Weimar Republic. Peter Lorre shot to stardom as the compulsive child murderer who is hunted down not only by a desperate, frustrated police force, but – rather more ruthlessly – by Berlin’s criminal underworld. The extraordinarily detailed police procedures are based on Lang’s research at the Alexanderplatz police headquarters, while the documentary-style depiction of Berlin’s prostitutes, beggars and grotesquely respectable citizens recalls the sharp-eyed satire of artists such as Grosz and Dix. Lorre’s first major screen role was also his greatest – no monstrous caricature but a quietly credible psychopath who could easily be your next-door neighbour. The explosive revelation of his inner torment is one of cinema’s great set pieces.
- The film premiered in 1931. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party took power in 1933 and banned it the next year. It was then stored in a vault, where it stayed for many years. German audiences didn’t get the chance to see it again until 1966. For its video release 30 years later, it underwent a restoration that included the addition of music and sound effects that wouldn’t have been authorized by Fritz Lang (he deliberately kept certain passages quiet) and the cutting of certain scenes.
- Fritz Lang’s cruelty to the actors was legendary. Peter Lorre was thrown down the stairs into the cellar over a dozen times. When Lang wanted to hire Lorre for Human Desire (1954) over two decades later, the actor refused.
“Fritz Lang’s super thriller fascinates” The Guardian
“M is a fantastic film and one of the finest of the early sound era” – Philosophy in Film
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