Saturday, February 3, 2018

My review of Fritz Lang's 1931 film 'M'

My review of Fritz Lang's 1931 film 'M'

M is a 1931 German murder mystery film directed by Fritz Lang about a pedophile played by Peter Lorre. M was Lang's 1st sound film and he and his wife Thea Von Harbou wrote the script which drew inspiration from a real life serial killer named Peter Kurten--also known as the Vampire of Dusseldorf--who terrorized Germany in the early part of the 20th century. 

M starts with a young girl being abducted while on her way home from school and from this goes on to show the crimes altering the tactics of law enforcement such as random house searches and also how the crimes and the fact that no one knows who the perpetrator is creates paranoia and also how certain groups of people are victimized as a result of stereotypes. The film raises questions as to whether the parents of missing children do enough to protect their daughters. But the main question the film poses though is whether or not pedophilia is a crime or a sickness that one has no free will to control. Lang also complicates this question by having child killer Hans Becker tried in a kangaroo court organized by the criminal element who the police have been cracking down on since the disappearance of the little girls. 

M is remarkable in the level of detail it shows in police procedurals and how they narrow down witnesses and evidence. The film also gives an accurate example of how the public is willing to give up its privacy and rights to feel safe by going along with house searches after Elsa Beckman's abduction. A present day comparison with this is 911 and how we allowed our elected officials to pass the Patriot Act afterwards. 

M is a pretty good film and my 3rd favorite Fritz Lang film behind 1927's Metropolis and his underrated 1945 film noir Scarlett Street starring 1 of my favorite actors Edward G. Robinson. I'm not a huge fan of Peter Lorre but his creepy performance in M is up there with the best even though he has limited screen time and his performance is limited to the kangaroo court at the end of the film. Despite M's subject matter, there are funny moments throughout the film, especially where Inspector Lohmann--played by Otto Wernicke--is involved. I have the film on DVD and it looks great as always with most of Criterion's films.

No comments:

Post a Comment