Movie Review – M

Posted: June 9, 2013 in Movie Reviews

The year was 1931. Fritz Lang’s first talkie. The Mother of all thrillers. I use the word mother intentionally. At that time even looking at ladies is taken in a bad notion here is the guy who takes movie about a serial killer,the word much unknown during those times.


Satire is set up right at the start of the movie. With kids playing a game similar to oh pillar caterpillar involving a song about the murderer. The kids stop playing when their mom asks them to stop but continue as soon as she starts talking with her neighbor. It was funny. We don’t see the serial killer that soon. When someone describes him we see in mirror the image of the serial killer. We are almost sure of the killer. Thanks to all those serial killer movies we’ve seen these days it wasn’t tough to guess.

Though the films theme involves a serial killer we don’t see what really happens so we don’t get that horrifying Dr. Hannibal Lecter effect. The film is more about the public reactions and the people who want to get rid of him for various reasons.

The police have their own method of tracing the thief by finger print method and handwriting method (was the scene in Tamil Movie Indian inspired or copied from this scene?) considered advanced technologies during those times. It’s tough for us to change our mindset to early 1930’s and look at these scenes with awe. But I won’t go so far to call this scene silly but definitely lacks the impact in modern age where advancement has happened to a great level. But back then it’d have created the impact that ‘The Matrix’ had on us.

Then there are scenes involving men from underworld who are even more advanced than the police. They are street smart,literally. They get to the beggars association device a plan to catch the killer. All methodologically done and with great finesse. It’s even better option because they don’t have to incur high labor cost. They do surveillance in a metre by metre fashion. It finally pays dividends when a blind beggar (he has a board written as blind and he hangs that up on his neck. I don’t know whether that is parody or beggars really were like it back then) gets the Murderer by finding him out through his whistling tone ‘In the Hall of the Mountain king.’

If there is one intense scene in the movie which even at this stage makes you sit up at the edge of our seat it is the scene where Peter Lorre gets caught in the office building. Preceding that scene is the epic ‘M’ scene which can’t be discussed but only enjoyed. Though by now though we are used to all this heroic/villainous speech at the ending. This film sowed the seed for it with the words of Lorre saying, “Who knows what it’s like to me.”

But even then I wasn’t blown away by that final performance or sympathizedLorre. But as I said the film was more about the public reaction than the actual killing. The way people react and the actual parents react. After this film almost none of the films have handled stories regarding the public impact. Most of the movies are based mostly on the killing and after effects of it.

One more reason the movie is not as hard hitting as other serial killer movies because the killing is not actually shown. It’s only through public’s word of mouth, the hanging balloon on the wire, the ball rolling on the floor we come to know something terrible has happened. And till climax I wasn’t very sure whether Lorre had actually killed. Only after his speech I was sure that he has killed and he’s a lunatic.

All said and done this movie has a great potential to be remade. My choice would be Paul Giamatti as serial killer, Tommy Lee Jones as underworld don and Gary Oldman as Inspector. And to make it little intense Giamatti could be made a pedophile instead of just being a child murderer. 


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