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M - 2 Disc Special Edition - (The Criterion Collection) (1931)

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Peter Lorre made film history with his startling performance as a psychotic murderer of children. Too elusive for the Berlin police, the killer is sought and marked by underworld criminals who are feeling the official fallout for his crimes. This riveting, … see full wiki

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1 review about M - 2 Disc Special Edition - (The Criterion...

It is the very model of a modern police procedural!

  • Jan 22, 2007
  • by
"Who knows what it's like to be me?"

An anguished cry from a tortured man, one that can't help elicit sympathy, despite the fact that the man in question in a serial killer.

"M" is a revolutionary, incredible movie in many ways. It began the career of Peter Lorre. It was the last gasp of German Expressionism before the Nazi takeover. It is, in many ways, Frtiz Lang's best film. It's haunting, moving and memorable like few other movies ever are.

Many people today forget what a major impact German cinema had on the development of movies. Starting with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Special Collector's Edition) in 1920, and moving up through movies by greats like F W Murnau (Nosferatu, Faust, Sunrise - A Song of Two Humans) and Fritz Lang (Metropolis (Restored Authorized Edition), The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse - Criterion Collection), Germany manged to put forth some of the best, most amazing images ever projected up onto a screen. Who can forget the arrival of the plague ship in "Nosferatu", or Rotwang's robot in "Metropolis"? These images are iconic in our society, a fact made all the more interesting when you consider that not long after "M" another German would make the Swastika a very memorable and iconic image.

"M" tells the story of a serial killer who preys on children. We see him meeting a young girl as she goes home from school. We see him buying her a balloon. We see her mother wondering why she isn't home and calling out her name as the camera focuses on the pathetic place setting for a lunch the girl will never eat. We see her ball rolling away into the dirt near some bushes. We see her balloon rise up into the telephone wires.

As the populace gets more and more concerned about these killings, the Berlin police get more and more frustrated, as does the criminal element. Sales of their various wares are down. Business is hurting. They resent being lumped in together with this child murder and even consider taking out an add in the papers to say that he isn't one of them.

Eventually the criminals decide to act and begin to hunt for the killer themselves. What happens after they catch him is something that needs to be seen to be believed, as a kangaroo court of crimal masterminds puts the killer on trial, saying that many of them are quite well informed of the way the legal system works.

"M" can be viewed as the start of two major genres; film noir and police procedural. Much like in The Silence of the Lambs (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) and The Fugitive, you see the slow, steady process the police use as they try to track down a killer before he strikes again. And the film's status as the earliest form of noir is obvious to anyone who has ever seen any movie in that particular genre.

"M" is at times a hard movie to watch. You will find yourself feeling sympathy for Peter Lorre's character, vile though he is. His performance occupies maybe 20 minutes of screen time, but was so memorable that it resulted in him being typecast for the rest of his career. Given how good he was in those roles, maybe we should be thankful for that.

"M" was released on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection. The two-disc set can be bought for a surprisingly reasonable price on Amazon.com and is well worth purchasing, if for no other reason than the fact that you're not likely to find it in your local Blockbuster (though you can get a basic copy from Netflix). It includes many extras. The German dialogue with English subtitles may turn off some poeple, but it frankly adds an air to the film that dubbing would miss.

To conclude: If you're a fan of movies like this, or just enjoy a good film, I highly recommend you make time for "M".

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