A Review of M

Fritz’s Lang’s  M and other such films from the era represent a problem.  They are important films, but are they still good films?  After all, a computer from the 1960s can be considered important in the history of developing the internet, but cannot come close to being considered useful.  Many older films (I name Gone With the Wind as the greatest offender) retain importance but also are far to connected witht eh time period that they were made in.  Today’s audiences need no longer recommend them except as a museum piece.

Originally, I actually believed M fell into this category.  It was an interesting piece that was quite a remarkable look at early film noir.  But that was about it.  Other noir films had come out that managed to top it.  Other serial killers depicted on film have been far more effective at conveying that sense of fear.  The influence was obvious.  Even serial killers in real life have borrowed from this film.  But was it still effective?  Not really.  That is, not until the final act, where everything clicked into place.

The film is about a child murderer (and possibly pedophile, although that is never explicitly said.  The serial killer has panicked a German town and affected all the lives.  Even the children play a game based around the killer.  The police are under an enormous amount of pressure to capture him and restore public order.  So, they turn to the beggars on the street to monitor the people and find the people.  The situation rapidly degenerates as the paranoia that is sweeping the town causes innocent people to be accused of the murders.

The plot is all well and good.  And the scenes are effectively chilling (particularly the use of “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”)  I want to emphasize that I didn’t believe this was a bad film.  What I did want to say is that other, later films have used the premise and the material to far superior results.  Just because something is first does not make it the best.

But then, the final act came, in which the murderer is actually captured.  Played by Peter Lorre, this murderer does not come across as a great monster.  Instead, he is a bug eyed, frightened man who seems aware that what he is doing is monstrous.  He can no longer control his id, and his ego has been shattered because of it.  But that is not what makes the film.  The murderer is put on trial by the very beggars who were searching for him.  They demand he be killed.  Lorre begs and pleas, trying to explain his actions.  This monologue is why the film is still relevant today.  Lorre’s performance actually made me applaud.  I cannot remember the last time I have ever done that in the film.  Lorre’s character shouts, but never moralizes.  He tries to explain himself, but we do not forget that he is a murder.  It is a wonderful performance.

So, one man saves the film.  I normally despise when this happens.  But I must emphasize that this was not a bad movie.  The design was wonderfully atmospheric (it is a Fritz Lang film) and it was a delight seeing how much the film has been mined.  But, as stated, there were other films that have used the material to much better ends.

Should one man have to carry the film?  In this case, yes.  Lorre’s performance is incredible enough to warrant a recommendation. It has aged better than many of the other films from the time period.  Oh, and if you wish to look further, that I would highly recommend Jon Muth’s wonderful graphic novel based on the film.

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31 Responses to A Review of M

  1. laurentkelly says:

    ‘But, as stated, there were other films that have used the material to much better ends’

    First of good review but I must ask for some examples of films that have used the material to better ends than this one. M is an extraordinary achievement from opening frame to last. The scene where the mother keeps staring up at the clock whilst beocming increasingly anxious about her missing daughter is excruciating to watch because of the way it is paced and the suspense that emerges because of its very gradual and haunting progression. The film also manages a number of qualities that a huge ton of modern films could learn from and that is it tells its story through the power of imagery rather than relying in dialogue to fill in for plot holes and get across important information.
    I very much agree with what you said about how the first film of its type shouldn’t always be regarded as the best but I think to call this film a one man show is very harsh, the whole cast are terrific and the director Fritz Lang creates a haunting arena that still looks utterly compelling and awe inspiring.
    I enjoyed the read though, it’s good to see other people who are willing to give old films the time of day.

    • pred3000 says:

      Thank you very much for the comment-I appreciate it.

      That review was based on my first viewing of the film. The third act made me see that there was something special in it. I have since watched the film again and read the graphic novel that was based on the film. It is certainly a good one. What I was saying was that, even though the film is very well executed, it has been used so many times that the elements do not feel as fresh as they once did. Most “classic” films suffer from that. To answer your question, I feel that films like Double Indemnity, Straw Dogs, The Third Man, and Rear Window all use the material to make as great (or even greater) statements about the fall of old order and human paranoia and mental instability. It is not until the third act that I saw the greatness in the material through the performance of Peter Lorre-and I felt my personal review had to reflect that.

      I would also like to say that you have a very wonderful website.

  2. laurentkelly says:

    Hey man, Sorry for late response, my dashboard didn’t alert me that you had responded for some reason. I much enjoy your site too- some very good write-ups. I am actually working on a new project at the moment entitled the media observer – if you ever want to collaborate on some of the multi-collaborative features that we are planning to run, just give me a shout. We are currently planning a GREATEST FILM OF ALL TIME TOURNAMENT seeded according to the IMDB’S top 32 films so number 1 takes on 32 in the first round for example and the site’s writers each suggest which film they would like to progress – should be a good laugh.

    Regards,
    Laurent

    http://themediaobserver.wordpress.com/

    • pred3000 says:

      Sure, I would definitely be interested in working on any multi-collaborative features you may have. The bracket certainly sounds fun; I would like to know more about it. Are you declaring who the winners are on overall quality or on specific traits?

  3. lkelly9 says:

    Yeah it’ll be judged on quality – typical example would be as follows:

    GREATEST FILM OF ALL TIME TOURNAMENT: ROUND 1

    (1) THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION VS CITIZEN KANE (32)

    INTRODUCTION TO BATTLE:

    BIO ON SHAWSHANK AND A PROS AND CONS LIST:
    BIO ON CITIZEN KANE AND A PROS AND CONS LIST:

    JUDGE 1 – i.e. CITIZEN KANE
    JUDGE 2 –
    JUDGE 3 –

    OVERALL DECISION:

    The three judges would vary according to which people had seen the films being put up for competition. If I sent you the first round match-ups could you let me know which ones you would be okay to collaborate on…. should I write it on your blog here or would you prefer an e-mail.

    Regards,

    Laurent Kelly, Editor – THE MEDIA OBSERVER
    laurentkelly@hotmail.co.uk

    • pred3000 says:

      It would be fine to just go ahead and post them here. If I have any other questions, I will go ahead and email you. Thank you very much.

  4. lkelly9 says:

    (1) THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION VS NORTH BY NORTHWEST (32)
    (16) FIGHT CLUB VS CITY OF GOD (17)
    (8) ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST VS THE MATRIX (25)
    (9) THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK VS THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (24)
    (4) THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY VS LOTR: THE TWO TOWERS (29)
    (13) CASABLANCA VS REAR WINDOW (20)
    (5) PULP FICTION VS IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (28)
    (12) STAR WARS VS THE USUAL SUSPECTS (21)
    (3) THE GODFATHER PART II VS SUNSET BOULEVARD (30)
    (14) SEVEN SAMURAI VS RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (19)
    (6) SCHINDLER’S LIST VS MEMENTO (27)
    (11) LOTR: THE RETURN OF THE KING VS PSYCHO (22)
    (2) THE GODFATHER VS DR STRANGELOVE (31)
    (15) GOODFELLAS VS LOTR: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (18)
    (7) 12 ANGRY MEN VS SE7EN (26)
    (10) THE DARK KNIGHT VS ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (23)

    Some mouthwatering clashes right there. I need to watch Sunset Boulevard, Dr Strangelove, Seven Samurai and need to re-watch the Star Wars films (been many years).

    • pred3000 says:

      Oh yea, there definitely are. The Casablanca vs Rear Window one will be particularly exciting. I need to view Once Upon a time in the West myself. Best of luck with your interviews and let me know when you want to get started.

  5. lkelly9 says:

    I am away for interviews over the next 4 days but as soon as I return I’ll be getting set on the tournament.

  6. lkelly9 says:

    Hey man, I will get in touch shortly about the tournament – thanks for your patience.

  7. pred3000 says:

    No problem. Take your time.

  8. lkelly9 says:

    Hey bud, we are getting started over the next couple of days but the concept has slightly changed to a film world cup format – hope this means that you are still interested – here is the line up:

    (1) US REPRESENTATIVE: THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION vs CANADIAN REPRESENTATIVE: A CHRISTMAS STORY (16)
    (2) ITALIAN REPRESENTATIVE: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY vs INDIAN REPRESENTATIVE: GANDHI (15)
    (3) JAPANESE REPRESENTATIVE: SEVEN SAMURAI vs RUSSIAN REPRESENTATIVE: THE RETURN (14)
    (4) BRAZILIAN REPRESENTATIVE: CITY OF GOD vs CHINESE REPRENTATIVE: CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (13)
    (5) AUSTRALIAN REPRESENTATIVE: THE MATRIX vs MEXICAN REPRESENTATIVE: AMORES PERROS (12)
    (6) BRITISH REPRESENTATIVE: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA vs SWEDISH REPRESENTATIVE: THE SEVENTH SEAL (11)
    (7) POLISH REPRESENTATIVE: THE PIANIST VS SPANISH REPRESENTATIVE: PAN’S LABRYINTH (10)
    (8) FRENCH REPRESENTATIVE: AMELIE VS GERMAN REPRESENTATIVE: M (9)

    Some of these films I haven’t seen but I am going to be tracking them down on you tube to see if some friendly person has uploaded them and you can check out the tournament preview post which I’ll put on later today – cheers bud.

    • pred3000 says:

      Hey

      Yes, I am definitely still interested. I must say, this is quite a clever set up. If you want, I could get started on an article and have it somewhat ready by the time it needs posting. Which one would you want me to do?

  9. lkelly9 says:

    Well basically – what I want to start with is a week’s build-up so that I can advertise the hell out of this thing on IMDB, Facebook and Twitter and what not… so what I wanted to get started on was roughly 600-800 word articles giving a brief history of cinema within different nationalities.

    So for example – A LOOK AT…. THE CANDIAN FILM INDUSTRY
    1ST PARA: INTRODUCING THE WORLD CUP ENTRANT AND GIVING A LITTLE BACKGROUND ON IT / CRITICAL SUCCESS / ANY INTERESTING FACTS ETC

    2ND PARA: BRIEF RUN THROUGH OF CANADIAN FILM – WHAT INFLUENCES THEY HAD ON THE INDUSTRY (IF ANY) WHAT ARE THE FAMOUS FILMS, ACTORS, ACTRESSES, DIRECTORS ETC

    3RD PARA: SOME STATS IF APPROPRIATE

    If you could do something like this for a few of the countries then I’d be most grateful.

    • pred3000 says:

      I will start tonight and email them directly to you. If you would please credit them to “The Corner Critic” and give them a link to my blog, I would appreciate it.

    • pred3000 says:

      How goes the advertisement?

      On Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 3:01 PM, Daniel Suddes wrote:

      > I will start tonight and email them directly to you. If you would please > credit them to “The Corner Critic” and give them a link to my blog, I would > appreciate it. >

  10. lkelly9 says:

    Yeah will do. Thanks a lot for your help.

  11. lkelly9 says:

    Yeah not too bad mate – didn’t get as much activity as I wanted from the IMDB Boards (especially considering how many views I got by linking my article on The Office but I have managed to get a fair few views from adveritising on facebook.)

    Just wondering which match-ups you were interested in being on the panel for. We have four confirmed panelists for the entire tournament but only need three for each match-up so I’m just trying to work out whose going to do what…..

    • pred3000 says:

      France vs Germany and Brazil vs China look the most interesting; I would love to be on the panel for those. I could also do Poland vs Spain.

    • pred3000 says:

      Those are merely my top choices. I could also do Australian vs Mexico and the U.S. vs Canada. I am trying to get access to some of the films myself. Hopefully this weekend I can really catch up.

      On Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 12:37 PM, Daniel Suddes wrote:

      > France vs Germany and Brazil vs China look the most interesting; I would > love to be on the panel for those. I could also do Poland vs Spain. >

  12. lkelly9 says:

    Oh damn, just realised I hadn’t shown you the updated list – basically I had forgotten all about Lord of the Rings and so had to include New Zealand – the new list looks like this –

    Shawshank vs A christmas Story – same
    Good, bad and the ugly is now facing The Return
    Return of the King is now facing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    Seven Samurai is now facing Amores Perros
    City of God is now facing The Seventh Seal
    The Matrix is now facing Pan’s Labryinth
    Lawrence of Arabia is now facing M
    The Pianist is now facing Amelie

    It was just one new inclusion but unfortunately it messed the whole thing up lol. Anyway I hope this doesn’t effect the match-ups you can do because I would like for you to do as many as possible.

    I just watched Pan’s Labryinth and was left pretty gobsmacked (and that’s only on first viewing – normally it takes me a while to really notice a masterpiece), which of the films do you need to watch, I might be able to find a a few for you on you tube – I know A Christmas Story is on there as is Lawrence of Arabia (which I haven’t seen for years)…… sorry about the inconvenience of the new matches but I couldn’t really leave Lord of the Rings out due to its overwhelming mainstream popularity.

    • pred3000 says:

      Lawrence was one I was looking for. I have not seen Amelie or the Return but have access to them. I also assume Ghandi is out – I do not see it on the new list. Anyway, I would still be willing to be on the panel for Return of the King vs Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, City of God vs The Seventh Seal, and the Matrix vs Pans Labyrinth. Those are my top choices. I could also do the Shawshank vs Christmas Story as well as The Pianist vs Amelie, once I see Amelie.

      Yea, same here. I loved it and am trying to recommend it to everyone I see.

  13. lkelly9 says:

    Cool, if you could do all those matches that you named above that would be fantastic.

  14. lkelly9 says:

    Hey bud, we are starting on Monday with NEW ZEALAND (RETURN OF THE KING) versus CHINA (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON). Could I possibly have your thoughts on which of these films you would like to see progress… you can do this however you like and there is no word count. Just to give you an idea as to how the match will be formatted here is an example I e-mailed to one of the other panel members earlier:

    Okay basically –

    The fixture will be announced – the national anthems will be played, witnesses will be called up (snippets from film reviews) to give their views on the two competing films, a great moment from each film will be shown for the panel and then there will be a short break (music video type deal) before

    THE PANEL

    LAURENT KELLY: My view is that………

    once choice has been processed it will light up a scoreboard for example SHAWSHANK 1-0 A CHRISTMAS STORY 0

    PRED 3000: It….

    And finally…

    BREK THE DAVID: ……………………

    Obviously I will have asked for your thoughts before the article goes up…… it’s all very geeky but should be a lot of fun….

    • pred3000 says:

      Hey. I will get started right away. Are you receiving the emails I send directly to you? I will be sending everything to your email address provided (themediaobserver@hotmail.co.uk) with all updates. Is this the best way to contact you? If not, please let me know the best place to send it asap. I should have my opinion by tomorrow night.

  15. lkelly9 says:

    Oh crap, sorry thought I’d given you my e-mail address for laurentkelly@hotmail.co.uk – sorry about that – no keep sending to mediaobserver@hotmail.co.uk – I will post the stuff you sent as soon as I can.

  16. lkelly9 says:

    Just read the articles, their fantastic and I will post them all up tmr. Cheers for the effort.

  17. lkelly9 says:

    http://themediaobserver.com/2010/06/06/the-italian-film-industry/#more-172

    Hope this looks okay. Let me know if you want anything changing around….

  18. lkelly9 says:

    Hey man, had a horrible headache all day at work today (feels like a train is running through) so don’t know if I have it in me to be creative this evening and post the world cup encounter – I read your article however and it was fantastic. I should however be able to post one or two of your other articles about different nationalities as this just requires technical stuff on my behalf….
    Thanks for all the help so far, now I think I’m going to go and lye down and get better…….

  19. lkelly9 says:

    http://themediaobserver.com/2010/06/08/the-french-film-industry/

    Hope you don’t mind me calling you a film historian but man you seem to really know your stuff so I thought it seemed appropriate….

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