M (1931) IMDB Top 250 Review

I’ve finally done my own IMDB Top 250 review! 🙂 After this week, only one more guest review will be posted then they’ll no longer be posted regularly every Tuesday. I’ll do my own sometimes but will continue to post guest reviews if & when I receive them. If you’ve signed up for any, feel free to send them to me & I’ll post them right away. Now let’s have a look at Fritz Lang’s M… 

M (1931) (German: M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder — “M – A city looks for a murderer”)

IMDB Rank: 52 out of 250 on 01/01/13

Directed by Fritz Lang

Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Gustaf Gründgens

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.

My Opinion:

I know I started this IMDB Top 250 project as a way to force myself to finally watch a lot of classic films that I had yet to see but I’ve been very lazy about reviewing any the past couple of years, especially as I’ve had so many guest reviews to post. I’m glad I started it as I’ve discovered some films that I now adore: things like Charlie Chaplin’s movies and a surprising amount of war movies such as The Bridge On The River Kwai, which I never expected to like so much. But it’s been difficult with a few as, while I can understand why they’re so highly regarded, they just didn’t work for me. One of these was On The Waterfront so I’ve been putting off reviewing that for a year now. I’ll still eventually say something about every Top 250 film I watch but some may be multiple quickie reviews like I’ve been doing lately. I’ll get back to doing more of these myself again in the New Year. I’m just saying that, you know, don’t expect all of them to be “quality” reviews as I have surprisingly little to say about some of these classics. Not that anyone has come to expect any quality reviews from me anyway. 😉

The point of all my rambling is this:  M is excellent and definitely deserves its place in the Top 250 but it’ll never exactly be a favorite film of mine as I’ve never been a big fan of the crime genre. I’ll talk about it a little bit, though, as some of you would probably like it a lot and I do love to bring attention to films that deserve it. And nothing makes me happier than when someone decides to watch a movie after I’ve done a post about it!

I figured I could do this as part of my October Horror thing since it’s a movie about a child killer. This is the sort of topic I’d normally avoid watching but I had no choice if I’m going to ever finish this project. Besides – it’s a movie from 1931 so I knew it would probably handle things in a respectful way & of course not be graphic in any way. If I’m going to watch a movie like this, I’d rather watch one from 1931 instead of some nasty modern day True Detective-style crime story. Sorry – I don’t normally like crime films, particularly ones about murderers, and I never have for some reason. Give me sci-fi & fantasy! (Metropolis is the Fritz Lang movie I really should have watched by now instead. I’m so ashamed…)

That M poster is awesome, though. Look at it! God they had so much more style in the old days. Although it could be a new design – what the hell do I know? And the scene involving the M on the hand was pretty damn great (I did wonder if there would actually be an M on someone’s hand). This movie is a pain in the ass to Google, though, being just one letter. Guess it’ll go at the start of the letter M in my movie review index! Which reminds me – I’d reviewed a movie for every single letter on this blog other than Q and it was really annoying me so I was planning to do Quadrophenia at some point. Then I watched & reviewed the thoroughly boring The Quiet Ones a couple of weeks ago & it didn’t even register that I’d finally done a Q movie until I put it in the index. Dammit!!! What a wasted opportunity – that movie sucked. Off topic again? Sorry!

Review actually starts NOW!

Crime films may not be my favorite genre but M is a truly excellent example of one and I’d strongly recommend it to fans of this sort of thing (someone like Zoe – I know you like your crime & detective books, Zoe!). It’s, I’m assuming, one of the very first of its type and certainly one of the very best (in my limited experience). From a filmmaking standpoint, of which I know absolutely nothing, there are some amazing shots in this that will forever remain in my mind. Ones such as this:


(Hmm – was the Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV show opening an homage to this??)

And this, which I couldn’t find a great image of, but it’s from a fabulous scene in front of a mirror shop. Very cool use of the reflections:

Plus a couple others that I won’t share as they’re big plot spoilers…

I’ll admit that the movie did drag a couple of times (for me) when the investigation was underway & detectives were doing all they could to try to figure out who the killer was. It was fascinating, though, as they were using handwriting & fingerprint analysis – it was such a different world back then and it must have been so hard to track down a serial killer. I have to say, though, that this movie feels very ahead of its time in many ways so don’t avoid it just because it’s from 1931. It’s weird to think that this is from a time when Charlie Chaplin was still making silent films (City Lights also came out in 1931) as M is a “talkie”. It feels more like the 1940’s crime films such as Hitchcock’s Shadow Of A Doubt or The Maltese Falcon (also starring Peter Lorre).

Speaking of Lorre, he’s fantastic as the murderer in this (I’ve not given anything away there – this is one of those movies where the audience knows the killer). I don’t watch as many older films as I should so, while I know Lorre’s name, I can’t say I remember him in either The Maltese Falcon or Casablanca as I barely remember those films now. I know, I know – I saw them at a very young age! I’ve been meaning to re-watch Casablanca for years & I especially want to now after seeing Lorre in this. This may sound weird but he has such a great face for this role. He’s totally believable (if that’s a good thing? I read that he was often typecast as a villain after this movie). This movie also sort of explores the psychological aspect and whether a criminal has control over their actions or not, which again made the movie feel ahead of its time. The only one slight downer is that there’s a little bit of blame placed on the murdered childrens’ mothers for “not watching them well enough”. Well, it was 1931… It was a different time!

Summary:

M is one of those movies I appreciated even more after thinking about it for a while and as I wrote this review (I watched it about a month ago). Certain scenes are so iconic and I’ll never again hear Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King without thinking of this movie, in which the song is used in such a memorably haunting way. Peter Lorre is fantastic and, while the middle dragged a little as the investigation was underway, the ending more than made up for it. I absolutely loved the direction the film took in the manhunt for the murderer. I highly recommend M to fans of the crime thriller genre and fully admit that it deserves to be one point higher than my rating but, as always, my ratings are based more on my own personal enjoyment of a movie. Now I really should watch Metropolis as it looks more like my type of thing – it’s ridiculous that I haven’t!

My Rating: 7.5/10