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  • 'M'

    I rented 'M' this week and watched it for the first time. I had heard about it for many years but had never seen it for some reason. This film, as you may know, was made in 1931, not that long after the execution of Peter Kurten, upon whom it was based. This is relevant to JTR in that Peter Kurten emulated some of the Ripper's methodology during the commission of his own crimes, which were mainly against children.

    The film is marvelously atmospheric and quite realistic in its depiction of life in pre-Hitler 1930's Berlin. One amazing thing is that practically every adult that you see in the film is always smoking. All dialogue is in German, with English subtitles, but I found these to be of no distraction.

    The film is not graphic, and the murder of a small girl near the film's beginning is handled about as tastefully as possible, there being only implied actions. Peter Lorre makes a convincing killer, and the acting is very well done on the whole. Language is sprinkled with the same four-letter words common today, which is surprising for a film made in 1931.

    The arresting scene that Howard mentioned, of a policemen talking on the phone, is indeed quite odd. The camera is underneath the man's desk, looking up at him for a minute or two, and the central focus seems to be on the man's crotch. My wife expressed her disgust at this bit, and I really don't understand its purpose myself; I am pretty sure that the seeming emphasis of his privates really wasn't the intent of the director.

    The ending was somewhat of a disappointment, however, as the film more or less just stops. This was my only disappointment, although the film drags quite a bit during the time that the underworld is chasing Peter Lorre through the building in which he is hiding.

    The theme of this film, in which the Berlin underworld hunts down a child-killer for reasons of their own, is one of my private theories concerning JTR - that maybe the same kind of thing happened to him. In the novel The Return of Moriarty, this is exactly what happens to the Ripper - he is hunted down by Professor Moriarty's criminal organization, executed, and disposed of in the Thames.

    Anyway, I give it a **** rating out of a possible *****. Check it out for yourself - it is head and shoulders above From Hell.

  • #2
    As a film buff, I thoroughly agree with Tim on "M". I likewise found the abrupt ending a letdown. This is one film that I wish would be remade by modern film makers. Lang perhaps was constrained by the social standards of the day ( Depression-era Weimar Germany ) . I also liked the premise that if the cops can't nab the likes of Peter Lorre ( real name Laszlo Lowenstein, from Hungary ! ) in his excellent portrayal,then the criminals will have to ! .....I give it **** 1/2 out of *****.


    • #3
      'M' is a fantastic movie and only overshadowed by 'Metropolis' in Fritz Lang's repertoire. As a list guy, for those who know me, I would place 'M' in the top 25 of foreign films ever made. Of course, 'Metropolis' would be in the Top 10 and possibly crack the Top 5, although it is nowhere near as good as my Top foreign film, which would fight with Casablanca for the spot of best film ever made.


      • #4
        Man, you guys can find movies like this on DVD to rent? Must be nice.

        Yours truly,

        Tom Wescott


        • #5
          Ive had M for many years at home.
          One of the finest moments in it is the focus on the balloon floating away following the disappearance of the child.


          • #6

            Here's a URL which mentions DVD rental of the film.

            "M" is available on DVD at Blockbusters & Hollywood Video joints up here.

            I'm sure buying it would be a better option...but just in case.

            I've got it on VHS.



            • #7

              A lot of those classics are available in a Criterion Collection DVD for purchase. They are a bit expensive though, however the selection is phenomenal. I'd have to say my favorite American Criterion Collection DVD is "The Third Man". Such a great movie.

              The bad news is that because they are expensive smaller video stores will not invest in them. I'm sure a company like Netflix has a number of them.



              • #8
                'M' is definitely a classic and a masterpiece. I would hate it if it was remade, though. The whole charm of the movie lie in the old German semi-expressistic style and its atmosphere; it seems unlikely for me that any modern remake of it would be able to catch that same thrilling magic.

                Being an early talklie, it's story-telling style and its direction is still infleunced by the silent movies and some parts can appear a bit slow and unnecessary obvious for those not used to those types of films, but the atmosphere is great, as well as the psychological portraits and the story itself. Some parts of the photography is ingenious and quite chilling.

                All in all, a movie that doesn't leave you untouched.

                I agree partly with what's been said about the ending, though. One easily gets the feeling that they either ran out of money or film. But I wouldn't say it matters too much for the overall perception of it.


                • #9
                  Dear Glenn:

                  If any of the old classics were ever remade ( excluding the Lodger,which of course would be nice to see done with a different sort of suspect. )....I chose "M" because of its relevance to today.

                  You can't let kids cross the street in some areas. They might not come back. We live in the wrong century,Glenn.


                  • #10
                    Yes, I see what you mean.
                    It is interesting, because the film's subject -- a pedofile and child murderer -- must have been VERY controversial at the time.
                    Much of the psychological issues it brings up is also relevant today. So I agree with that.

                    However, from an aesthetical point of view, the very expression of the film lies in the German, neurotic film style and its atmosphere. I doubt if it would give the same strong impression if it was remade and in general I am against remakes of the old expressionst films. The remakes of Nosferatu and The Lodger, for example, have not really been up to match compared to the originals and they never will be.

                    Personally, I would rather prefer that they did a completely different movie on the same subject rather than remaking those particular films. Because if you try to remake those films -- which all have a very special cultural expression -- they will be so completely different anyway. All they manage to do is to rape and desegrate the original.

                    But again, just my opinion.

                    By the way, I actually got hold of The Lodger and watched it last night. Unfortunately, as I was warned, the DVD was based on a bad technical film copy and not digitally restored at all. And the bad reviews regarding the Eldgar music was right -- it just doesn't feel right. But besides that, it was quite a good film, with some great moments. I actually got pleasantly surprised over the story based on the novel. Not bad at all. Rather good acting as well for its time, not to mention some innovative photography a la Hitchcock.
                    It has some flaws but could surely be recommended for those who are into this kind of stuff, like I am.


                    • #11

                      I think it would be impossible as well as undesirable should any attempt to imitate the Lang version surface. If its not broke,don't fix it. And the Lang version is superior to any potential remake anyway. I think any proposed remake would be best done if with as little dialogue as possible to heighten tension. Just an opinion.

                      Coincidentally,last week I was able to get a VHS version of the 1926 Hitchcock "Lodger". The same complaint about Elgar's music applies to this format as well,Glenn.

                      The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari,to me,falls into the "do not touch!' category. Werner Krauss was excellent as Caligari and you'll never get a stage set like that again.


                      • #12
                        Hi Howie,

                        I absolutely agree, on all counts.

                        As for The Lodger, it kind of amazes me that no one has bothered to produce another digitally restored DVD version, with a more suitable score (unless I've missed it). One would think that it being the work of a giant director like Hitchcock would make this relevant enough. I like the eyes of Novello, though, in some scenes. He can really look crazy.

                        As for Caligari -- now, that's a weird one. German expressionism in its most extreme form. A unique classic, I agree.


                        • #13

                          Well...we can forget about Bernard Herrmann ( actually my favorite musician/composer in the genre of incidental music...) whose last work was in the Scorcese film,Taxi Driver. Herrmann passed away in the late 1970's. Damn it.

                          It may be a case,similar to the vinyl LP made by "The Who" entitled "Live at Leeds" from 1970....where any further attempt at putting that music in a different format ( disc or another digitalized format ) will have to include the analog "errors" ( pops and crackling ) that are endemic to the album.

                          Scoring any remake of the Lodger would be a major consideration Glenn...I agree. The score is usually taken for granted nowadays since so many are generic and rock music oriented.

                          But not for our baby. Its gotta be the best !


                          • #14
                            M Remakes

                            Hello Everybody,

                            Sorry to bring bad news, but M has been remade - twice. The first was a 1951 American movie called M directed by Joseph Losey, starring David Wayne as the killer, Howard Da Silva as the policeman and Martin Gabel as the underground boss. The second was an Argentine film called El Vampiro Negro, directed by Román Viñoly Barreto, starring Olga Zubarry, Roberto Escalada and Nathán Pinzón as the killer.

                            Caligari was remade in 1962 as The Cabinet of Caligari with a script by Robert Bloch and again in 2005.

                            How about Nosferatu? Remade in 1979 as Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht by Werner Herzog with Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani.

                            Nothing is sacred.



                            • #15
                              Hi Eduardo,

                              Ha! Well, what do you know.
                              I had no idea 'M' and 'Caligari' had been remade several times.
                              I find it hard to believe they would in any way be comparable to the originals, since the very special style of 20s and early 30s German film making is so characteristic and important to the films themselves.

                              I knew about the Nosferatu remake with Klaus Kinski, though, and I've seen it as well. As usual, competely without the chilling, atmosphere and style that expresses the original. Max Schreck can never be replaced.

                              BTW, Eduardo.
                              Finally got hold of 'The Lodger'! Just when I was about to take your edvice and order one from the Spanish site, I found one on Amazon for a good price.
                              I was actually pleasantly surprised of the story and the acting. Not bad movie at all. And some chilling effects and atmospheric scenes.

                              But yes -- the DVD was not in any way digitally restored and based on a technically extremely bad film copy and the Elgar score is... well, let's just say it's a bit odd for the context.
                              But I was determined not to let it ruin the film.
                              Man, that Novello guy really could display a strange look in his eyes. No wonder he freaked out the inhabitants of the house.