on 3 January 2016
No matter what you think of the film itself ( I think it was groundbreaking), this Criterion release is quite amazing considering it was made in 1931. It's been cleaned up unbelievably well and the German dialogue is clear with new English subtitles. Extras go on forever including a wonderfully inciteful commentary by Professor Anton Kaes and Professor Eric Rentschler. Also included is a 93 mins English version! Absolutely indispensable.
Fritz Lang, probably better known for the masterful `Metropolis', is responsible for this rather disturbing and thought provoking study of a serial child killer in mid war Germany. The story has been compellingly constructed by a master craftsman. From the earliest scenes of a mother waiting for her child to come home, through the police hunt for the killer, then the trial at the end, with Peter Lorre's defence, this is gripping stuff.
The story centres around Peter Lorre as the disturbed and disturbing killer. I was more familiar with his later, more comedic roles in America, and was totally blown away by this incredible performance. His performance is perfectly nuanced, playing the frightened man to a tee.
The story is shown in a series of set pieces. The film starts with images of a child playing in a street, and her mother waiting for her to come home. The child never arrives, and the scenes of Mother waiting in her flat with dinner on the table, and eventually receiving the news are emotionally charged. There is hysteria in Berlin, and a police search for the killer. The police procedures are shown in amazing forensic detail, and are totally gripping. The action shifts to the criminal underworld, who are being hurt by the police intrusion into their activities during their hunt for the killer. They decide to take their own action, tracking down the killer in a series of totally gripping scenes, then comes the films masterstroke - the criminals put Lorre on trial and he is forced to defend himself in front of the `court'. His defence is brilliant, his explanation for his crimes utterly disturbing - we are left feeling that we have been given insight into the mind of a real murderer. Then, finally, Lorre ends up on trial in front of a real court, and we are left devastated at the end with the Mother's reaction to the sentence handed down.
I've never been so gripped or disturbed by a film. Supposedly based on the atrocities of Peter Kurten, the so called `Vampire of Dusseldorf' this is a fascinating study of the criminal mind. Lang did his research well, and has some genuine insights to offer here.
This is yet another superb presentation from Eureka. The film has been nicely restored, with several sections of previously missing film reconstituted. The film is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio, and the picture is as clean and sharp as possible. There is a mono soundtrack in German, with English subtitles. There is a second disk with a series of nice documentaries about the making of and restoration of the film. A ten out of ten presentation for an eleven out of ten film.
Definitely recommended to fans of psychological thrillers and classic cinema.
NB - As is Amazon's wont, they have bundled together the reviews for various editions of this film (the Criterion and Masters of Cinema DVD and Blu-ray releases all have different extras). This review refers to the Eureka Blu-ray.
Surprisingly rarely revived on television or event cinematheques these days, making it the kind of film you have to seek out and buy if you want to see these days, M comes with such a legendary reputation that it just seems to invite disappointment. Yet more than eight decades since it revived Fritz Lang's failing career after the twin failures of Metropolis and Woman in the Moon and making Peter Lorre's name as the pathetic child murderer hunted by an entire city, it's still both a remarkably gripping and powerful movie that leaves a lasting impression and a surprisingly exhilarating and at times breathless thriller that never lets its dark subject matter batter the film down or turn it into a sermon.
With the remarkable visual sense that Lang's American films were never really able to duplicate as his work became gradually smoothed away into polished studio system product, it's a surprisingly energetic film as it crams a whole city into its 110-minute running time (it was originally 117 minutes, but seven - dealing with attention-seekers confessing to the murder - are still missing). There's a fascinating use of both sound and sequences of uncomfortable and prolonged total silence that's even uncannily devoid of the usual `room noise,' creating a unique atmosphere that's surprisingly disorientating (the music and effects that were added for these mute scenes for later reissues have been removed for the Blu-ray). The contrast between the panic of searching the office building for the hiding murderer and the stillness of the silent shots of the chaos they leave in their wake is particularly striking. But it's not just a case of Lang demonstrating his mastery of technique - you can believe these people are flesh and blood even though most of them have little screen time. Despite the heavy subject matter it's not without a sense of humor either, be it a crook ringing up the speaking clock to set the time on his stolen watches or a detective's bluff about a `dead' watchmen cutting away to the hale and hearty victim swigging a pitcher of beer and tucking into a sausage
Structurally it's surprisingly ambitious: for much of the running time there is no main character - even Lorre is only briefly glimpsed in the first hour. Instead it paints a vivid picture of a city in fear, its camera veering from precise control to lengthy prowling as the film moves through all stratas of a society turning on itself as friends accuse each other, anonymous letters point the police in the wrong direction, tireless forensic work yields no viable clues and the underworld is put under such intolerable pressure by constant raids and identity checks that they resolve to catch the murderer themselves so they can get back to business as usual.
Crosscutting between the organized crime leaders and the police as the debate what measures to take to restore normality, the ebb and flow and tempo of both meetings almost identical, Lang spends much of the second half of the film showing the two as mirror images with similar methods, sentiments and morality. While the police raid dives and red light districts, the criminals raid an office block where the murderer is hiding - their leader even donning police uniform to do so - and hold their own trial. Meanwhile the police resort to deception to crack the case as the dividing line between them all but disappears.
It's not a flattering picture of either group - but then this is a picture that doesn't flatter any of its characters in what can be seen as a state of the nation piece in a nation on the brink of losing its sense of morality. Indeed, that split can be seen in the very cast and crew: Lang and Lorre would go into voluntary exile when Hitler came to power. Lang's wife supported the Party while one of the film's prominent co-stars, Gustaf Grundgens, would become the darling of the regime and the inspiration for Mephisto (which he didn't take kindly to, getting the book banned as libellous even though it was written by his own brother-in-law). His leather-jacketed criminal certainly displays the kind of ruthless pitiless efficiency the Gestapo would have admired. The Nazis themselves had more mixed feelings towards the film. He may have had the film banned in 1934 but Goebbels certainly admired the film's lack of human sentiment, implying that much of its box-office success in Germany may well have been from people reading the wrong things into it
Eureka's Blu-ray also includes a 20-minute German TV interview with Lang where he talks about his German films and recounts, at length, his debunked claims that Joseph Goebbels asked him to head the German National Socialist film industry and become propagandist in chief for the regime. But then Lang always was an unreliable source: he just as frequently claimed the film was not inspired by infamous child murderer Peter Kuerten, yet there's plenty of documentary evidence that he researched the case in detail and even consulted the detectives who tracked him down. Yet perhaps it's that determination to find a better story than the ones real life provides are part of why he was such a great filmmaker.
Aside from two scholarly audio commentaries and an impressive booklet featuring articles and old interviews with Lang and a script extract for the deleted scene, the only other extra is the English version of M (Eureka's previous two-disc DVD and Criterion's DVD and Region A-locked Blu-ray releases are much better endowed with supplements, though only Criterion's Blu-ray also includes the English version).
The English adaptation is cut by 25 minutes from the original German version and makes a few changes in the script, most notably stressing that Lorre's character is a foreigner ("probably a Russian"). Most of the cuts seeming to be to up the pace in the first half of the picture, although some of the underbelly of the city hits the cutting room floor, narrowing the scope of the film, and the `rules of engagement' between criminals and cops - the idea that getting killed in the act of committing or preventing a crime is an acceptable professional risk - is changed to a bit of spiel about criminals living `like gentlemen' on their ill-gotten gains. Most significant is a striking bit of visual shorthand where the letters on the `Murder Bureau' board become a succession of huge close-ups until the letter M fills the screen and an the alternate ending, replacing the final shot of the mothers of the dead children with one of children at play that was presumably part of the British reshoots.
These reshoots are surprisingly brief. Although a couple of roles are clumsily recast with English speaking actors in the phone call montage, for the most part the English version is dubbed, which is technically swell done but suffers from disastrous miscasting of very posh actors attempting to speak slang in received English pronunciation accents that is unintentionally comic: when awfully, awfully well spoken gels who've been to finishing school deliver lines like "Tayke your hand orf me, yew dirty rotten copper!" or frightfully decent-sounding beggars say things like "Aye should say so!" it sounds like one of Harry Enfield's Chalmondley-Warner sketches (at least Friedrich Gnab's unlucky burglar gets a more appropriate Scottish accent). Even Lorre is dubbed in his first appearance as a shadow but thankfully when he finally gets to speak at length, he genuinely gives his performance in English, albeit with different and slightly shorter dialogue. Lorre also shot these scenes again for a French version where he was dubbed, but Eureka's disc doesn't include any extracts from this.
Unfortunately Eureka's Blu-ray lets itself with that all-too-common problem with Blu-rays - ridiculously small subtitles that are rendered all the more difficult to read by not having enough of a drop shadow and often placed against a white background. They're not a problem on a 40inch screen, but anything less and you'll probably be leaning forward and squinting.
on 14 April 2010
Case Type - Slimmer U.S type case.
Disc - AVC, BD50, Region B locked.
Video - 1.19:1 aspect ratio in a 16:9 frame (black bars appear at the left and right of the screen). 1080p/24fps. Black and White.
Audio - Original German language. 2.0 dual mono DTS-HD Master Audio.
Subtitles - Optional English subtitles.
Commentary with German film scholars Anton Kaes and Eric Rentschler.
Commentary with film restoration expert Martin Koerber, filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, historian Torsten Kaiser and excerpts from Bogdanovich's 1965 audio interviews with Fritz Lang.
20 minute interview with Fritz Lang (box says documentary, but its more of an interview).
Shorter 1932 U.K theatrical release version (in English language and upscaled to 1080p) - features alternate takes, and different actors.
48 page booklet.
Censorship? - No censorship or cuts have been made to the film on this disc. The BBFC have given the film a PG Certficate. The film contains disturbing subject matter and infrequent mild bad language. This is the longest version of the film (110 minutes) that has been available since the films premiere.
'M' is a superb thriller, and possibly Fritz Lang's finest film. Considering the time it was made it is quite disturbing, and i can imagine audiences in the early thirties were shocked when they saw this film in the cinema. Peter Lorre is excellent as the child killer and the films final moments are extremely powerful. The picture quality is easily one the best i've seen for a film this old. Plenty of grain and no digital tinkering as far as i know. The audio is equally as good (note: there are a few scenes that are completely silent - this was director Fritz Lang's intent). The commentaries are very informative, and so is the short but excellent Fritz Lang interview(He talks about Hitler wanting him to make films for the Nazi's and why he fled Germany to live and work in America). The booklet is also of high quality. The inclusion of the 1932 U.K cinema release version is a welcome one. It is dubbed in English and contains a few alternate scenes. The picture quality is no way near as good as the main feature but its worth a look if your a fan of this film.
The U.S Region A locked Criterion Collection edition contains a couple of addtional featurettes, a short film 'M le Maudit' inspired by Fritz Lang's M and also a stills gallery. It misses one of the commentaries from this U.K release and the Fritz Lang interview as well (although it does feature a different one). If you own a multi-region Blu-ray player then the U.S release may be the best one to get, however thats not to say the U.K edition is no good (far from it!)
A masterpiece of a film given a 1st class treatment for Blu-ray. Highly recommended.
Rewatching Fritz Lang's 1931 film M again recently I was (once again) in awe of its cinematic virtuosity and, indeed, of the film's profound influence on many genres of world cinema that followed it. It's really very difficult to know where to start when contemplating addressing the film's qualities - technical, narrative, acting, etc - and, of course, ultimately they all blend together to give Lang's seamless whole, but I was particularly struck by the film-maker's all-consuming approach to storytelling. Of course, rather like (but even more so than) his contemporary Hitchcock, Lang's silent cinema heritage pervades the look and feel of M and its highly controversial tale of Peter Lorre's titular child-murderer, as the director (and cinematographer Fritz Arno Wagner) 'guide us' through the nefarious goings-on and the increasing despair of Ellen Widmann's mother Frau Beckmann via a series of carefully choreographed shots (empty dinner table, rolling ball, balloon in telegraph wire, empty sweet wrapper, etc), an approach whose subtlety simply adds to the film's (still today) potent sense of evil foreboding.
Indeed, Lang's acute visual sense (realised by much technical innovation) is always to the fore, but never in an overly obvious or gratuitous way, rather always in support of the development of the narrative or the film's dark ambience - whether this be through the use of chiaroscuro and shadowing as the film's three main protagonists are introduced (Lorre's creepy 'ghoul', Otto Wernicke's calm, wryly comic police inspector, Karl Lohmann, and Gustaf Grundgens' bowler-hat and glove-bedecked suave 'head criminal', Der Shränker (`The Safecracker')) or, via direct talking to camera and innovative cutting between scenes, as the hackles are raised among the general populace in the wake of M's murderous spree. Lang's depiction of 'mob mentality' is one of M's many standout features, as accusations fly at all and sundry and innocents are accosted in the street. Similarly impressive is the film-maker's (literally) forensic take on the mechanics of criminology and psychoanalysis during the film's engrossing first half. Of course, despite the film's dark themes, Lang still manages to provide the ironic (and intriguing) narrative device of Der Shränker and his fellow criminals, realising that M's activities might put their own 'business' at risk, attempting to track down the murderer themselves (with the help of the local tramps).
In the end, though, we are, of course, left with Lorre's tour-de-force 'explanation of his illness' to the massed ranks of Der Shränker's criminal underworld (in another stunningly visual scene) - a performance of quite astonishing maturity for Lorre's 25-year old budding screen actor. And, although controversial at the time, it is the feelings of empathy engendered by M's mass murderer that make Lang's denouement so emotionally engaging - as well (no doubt) as prompting a good deal of debate around the film's messages of 'keeping a closer watch over the children' and the equivocation over the merits and demerits of capital punishment.
Needless to say, the Masters Of Cinema DVD of the film contains many interesting extras, including 2 film commentaries and a version (probably of most interest only to completists) of the `long lost' English language version of the film.
As you've probably gathered most of the reviews are for the 'DVD' version of the 1931 pre code-of-conduct killer classic “M” - starring the incomparable Peter Lorre. And the BLU RAY is available in a number of territories. But which issue to buy if you're a UK fan?
Unfortunately the uber-desirable USA Criterion release is REGION-A LOCKED although it doesn't say so on Amazon.
So it WILL NOT PLAY on most UK BLU RAY players unless they're chipped to play 'all' regions (which the vast majority aren't).
Don’t confuse BLU RAY players that have multi-region capability on the 'DVD' front – that won’t help.
Luckily the “Masters Of Cinema” REGION B release uses the same restored elements and will play on UK machines.
So check you’re purchasing the right version before you buy the pricey Criterion release...
on 16 October 2003
M is Fritz Lang's true masterpiece, even outshining the more famous METROPOLIS. Finally a DVD has come along that does it considerably more justice than Peter Lorre, starring as Hans Beckert, seems to be getting in the films famous climactic scenes.
Inge Landgut, as Elsie Beckmann, Beckerts victim at the start of the film is an excellent young actress, who portrays the naivety of youth superbly, and the way in which Lang "shows" her murder is handled with an understated style that makes it far more frightening than later, more explicit horror films.
The package put together by Eureka is spot on, the remastered film shining through in awesome quality, the cover grabbing you, making you want to see the film, and the documentaries and extras being of a remarkably consistent standard throughout.
A great film far ahead of it's time, and always worth watching.
on 23 November 2014
Just an outstanding film.
I chose to watch the German version with English subtitles as that's the original format. There is also a version shot in English and filmed simultaneously but some scenes use different actors.
Clearly no one had mobile phones when this was made, or instant tv news to watch for updates about a child murderer but the plot stands up really well considering how old the film is. The plot, which I won't go into detail on is very different to just about every othe film I've seen and had me gripped from start to finish which just wouldn't happen with a modern Hollywood blockbuster.
Watch this film and then consider how it would be made today. Hollywood would do it very differently and would give it a different ending IMHO......which would completely ruin the film. There is a complete honesty about this film which in one scene is brutal 'stripped to the bones' honesty.
I've done my best to just recommend it without any plot spoilers which was difficult :)
I'd say just watch this film, and even though it's eighty years old it will have an impact on you!
on 19 February 2014
This series from Eureka is simply fantastic, blu-ray and dvd in one neat package, with a booklet too.
Having not seen this film since 1997 in a small art house cinema, I was itching for this release. The film is by far my favourite Lang film. Peter Lorre is superb in his debut starring role. I don't want to leave spoilers for anyone who may not have seen the film before, so will assume that most people reading this know the film and appreciate its excellence. If you haven't seen it, then you must!!
The transfer on Blu-ray is very good to my untrained eye. I have a 50 inch LED, and this film has never looked better. The Subtitles are nice and sharp too. I have not played the DVD version yet or the extras, so cannot comment on those yet.
on 29 July 2013
An extraordinarily modern film by any standards made in 1931 at the start of talking pictures. Razor sharp documentary style film details the pursuit of a child murderer in Berlin. Reflected a real life trial that was taking place when the film was released.
Very disturbing film that looks at the compulsions of a serial killer and the reaction of a city to his crimes.
Very influential film both in its style, content and photography. The use of sound is masterful at adding atmosphere.
Lang's greatest achievement in his own opinion.
Bluray MOC release looks and sounds excellent.
The commentary with Kaes and Rentscheler really gives backround that adds to the film.
Really a must-own for anyone interested in cinema.