left biblioblography: The Movie ‘M’ – Definitely One For The Collection

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Movie ‘M’ – Definitely One For The Collection


I kept seeing this pop up on my Netflix recommended list – and finally I thought, “Hey, what the hell?” and rented it.

Like most modern viewers, I tend to skip items that are black ‘n white in favor of something more up to date. But when I read the blurb -

German-American director Fritz Lang presents his first "talkie" -- and cinema's first serial killer -- in this 1931 classic. Plump pedophile Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre), propelled by a compulsion he can't control, escapes the eye of the law -- but not the wrath of the Berlin underworld being blamed for his crimes. The character of Beckert was later used in Nazi propaganda films to illustrate the evils of sexual deviance.

I thought, “Hmmm…okay.”)

It’s all black and white, there’s no music theme, and none of them thar fancy See-Gee-eye ee-fects, so anyone under the age of 18 would probably treat this the same way they treat classical radio stations – time to change the dial! There’s no sex, gratuitous nudity, or blood ‘n guts fight scenes. There’s some cussing. Sounds like a real snorer, no?

No.

Well, the long and short of it, is that this was a fantastic movie. As it turns out this was Peter Lorre’s breakout movie. Children keep showing up dead, everyone starts freaking out (understandably), and the Berlin underworld decide to hunt him down, and put him on trial. There is one scene where an old man chats with a little girl, cautioning her to be careful as she runs off, and he gets jacked up by this HUGE guy who demands to know what is his interest in a child. A crowd forms, and almost becomes a mob. One of the smaller shocks in the movie is when the Berlin police raid known underground hide-outs – a cop is physically hauling a hooker up to the street, and she’s shouting ‘Put me down you god-damned bastard!’ (It was filmed in 1931, which is why I double-blinked.)

And no GOD-NODS – nobody appealed to the sky, no priests, it was an entirely secular film.

Peter Lorre’s character (Beckert) eventually gets nabbed by the Berlin mob, and put on trial. Beckert’s ‘trial’ scene is magnificent, with M bellowing his pain and sickness at the crowd in German (and hey, you don’t need to speak it to appreciate it – it IS in subtitles).

And Lorre was nothing short of magnificent. Whenever he’d see a child and his compulsion took hold, he’d whistle ‘Peter and the Wolf’ (the only music in the whole flick). You could actually see the ugly desire take over, or when he was afraid, you believed it. Truly an actor’s actor.

But hey, rent it for yourself. I give it a full fist up.

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1 comment:

heather said...

I agree completely.
Fritz Lang's Metropolis is fantastic too.