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1 review, 10 user ratings

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M (1933)
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by Kevin Thomas

"Hardly easy viewing, but no less essential for it."
4 stars

In today’s paranoid world, ‘paedo’ is synonymous with ultimate evil. Doesn’t matter what suffix the sound has, whether it’s ‘phile’ or ‘iatrician’, once that key sound has been uttered, the owner is at the mercy of the vigilante. Luckily, Lang is skilled enough to explore the area without resorting to sensationalism.

This is another area where people are far too scared of the possible implications to investigate the grey area of the subject matter. Mob justice is only possible when people think it’s black and white.

But as far back as the 1930’s, brave directors have risked their careers by daring to deny that anything in life is ever black and white, including anything as disturbing as this .‘M’ is the story of the murders of a number of young children is Berlin, the ensuing efforts to catch the killer and, finally, the fate of ‘M’ when the mob of angry parents actually catch up with him. Hardly a happy tale, but one told with compassion and depth for both sides of the argument. Lang handles the story deftly, and gets the best out of Peter Lorre, by making him both human and inhuman in a chillingly perfect balance. Lorre is a brilliant actor who is sadly underrated in his English-speaking annoying supporting roles in movies such as ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ (with Cary Grant) and ‘Casablanca’ (with Humphrey Bogart).

Any director that can handle such subject matter in a delicate enough manner that the movie is neither exploitative or sensationalist deserves recognition. Though the ending may be a little hard to swallow (where the mob corners him in a warehouse, but still gives him a trial of sorts, rather than the far more likely ‘jumping on him and beating his face in with a crowbar’), the rest of the movie is fantastic. The paranoia that runs through the streets as the killer claims more victims. The witch hunting mental state of the population. The genius angle where the police are helpless to catch him, but their increased presence and activity causes the drug barons to apprehend him themselves to take the heat off. Everything is just as relevant today as it was in the 1930’s, leading it to act as a bleak indication of the future of our society.

A dark and mysterious atmosphere is maintained throughout the movie from the first scene. The restraint shown in how the story progresses is admirable; the murderer is a shadow, or a whistle, and the deaths are floating ballons and recently dropped rolling balls. The fact that nothing is shown creates a cinematic experience that can truly resist ageing (special effects will always be superceded and rendered obsolete, but the power of the viewers imagination will never be dulled), in the same way as Jaws and Alien succeeded by their title monsters' lack of exposure, and not their over-exposure.

This movie provides an essential point of view that needs to be seen in today’s world of atrocities whose disturbing nature is only surpassed by the shallow and exploitative way they are presented to the world by the media.

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originally posted: 04/12/04 11:32:01
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User Comments

11/15/09 harry wills still holds up pretty well 5 stars
10/12/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess A masterpiece! 5 stars
2/15/06 Carlos Idelone Scary, elemental 4 stars
11/08/05 tatum Really fantastic, creepy and understated 5 stars
10/22/04 Daniel one of my favorite, possibly lang's best- cant get some images out of my head, Incredible 5 stars
2/17/04 Mr. Blonde Masterful direction, a sharp plot, and a disturbing Peter Lorre make up for some dull bits. 4 stars
2/02/04 R.W. Welch Photography is awesome. Style now a bit archaic in some respects. 4 stars
8/25/03 Blade_Runner2.0 Okay Here And There 3 stars
7/27/03 Jack Sommersby A qualified masterpiece from a master director. Disturbing and unforgettable. 5 stars
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  02-Apr-1933 (NR)



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