Movie Information

In Brief: Fritz Lang's first talkie, 1931's M, definitely shows its age in terms of the technical aspects of early sound — though there's no denying it's a big improvement over his final silent, The Woman in the Moon (1929), which I've been working my way through for years. However, it still has the power to grip an audience more than many slicker movies. As a story, it’s the perfect blending of Lang’s penchant for serial-like melodrama with something that has more on its mind. In this regard, as a successful fusion of the two elements, it’s probably only second to his next film, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933). It is also probably not accidental that the two films are connected by the presence of Otto Wernicke as the same character, Inspector Lohmann, in each. On the one hand, M is a crime-thriller with a twist. Not only do we have the police on the hunt for a serial child murderer, Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre), the criminal underworld joins in as well. This is not from any altruistic motive, mind you. The underworld has grown tired of too much interference from the police (thanks to their increased presence in the search for the murderer), so it follows that his capture is in their best interest. Lang is fascinated by the mechanics of both forces engaged in this manhunt, but he’s equally interested in the psychology of Beckert himself — a character who manages to generate a measure of sympathy because he can’t help himself. No film had previously dealt with the idea of a serial killer like this — and few films have ever topped it for psychological perception. It’s entertaining, exciting and distinctly disturbing.
Genre: Crime Thriller
Director: Fritz Lang
Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Theodor Loos, Ellen Widmann
Rated: NR

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present M Friday, May 6, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 828-273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “M

  1. Ken Hanke

    By the way, I forced myself to finish Woman in the Moon. Well, the last hour is decidedly better than the first (nearly) two. Still not high on my Lang list.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.