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M (2d-Fritz Lang)

Director(s): Fritz Lang

Theatrical Release: 1931

Cast: Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut, Gustaf Grundgens, Friedrich Gnass, Paul Kemp

Genre(s): Thriller, psychological, crime, classic, Criterion Collection

Countries: Germany (East/West)

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Ant Rating
Running Time: 110m.

Fritz Lang's classic early talkie crime melodrama is set in 1931 Berlin. The police are anxious to capture an elusive child murderer (Peter Lorre), and they begin rounding up every criminal in town. The underworld leaders decide to take the heat off their activities by catching the child killer themselves. Once the killer is fingered, he is marked with the letter "M" chalked on his back. He is tracked down and captured by the combined forces of the Berlin criminal community, who put him on trial for his life in a kangaroo court. The killer pleads for mercy, whining that he can't control his homicidal instincts. The police close in and rescue the killer from the underworld so that he can stand trial again in "respectable" circumstances. Some prints of the film end with a caution to the audience to watch after their children more carefully. Filmed in Germany, M was the film that solidified Fritz Lang's reputation with American audiences, and it also made a star out of Peter Lorre (previously a specialist in comedy roles!). M was remade by Hollywood in 1951, with David Wayne giving a serviceable performance as the killer. ó Hal Erickson (


Criterion Collection 2-DVD Set #30 Special Features:

! New, restored high-definition digital transfer, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.19:1

! Audio commentary by German film scholars Anton Kaes, author of the BFI Film Classics volume on M, and Eric Rentschler, author of The Ministryof Illusion: Nazi Cinema and Its Afterlife

! Conversation with Fritz Lang, a 50-minute film by William Friedkin

! Claude Chabrolís M le Maudit, a short film inspired by M, plus an interview with Chabrol by Pierre-Henri Gibert about Lang's filmmaking techniques

! Classroom tapes of M editor Paul Falkenberg discussing the film and its history

! Interview with Harold Nebenzal, the son of M producer Seymour Nebenzal

! A physical history of M

! Stills gallery, with behind-the-scenes photos, and production sketches by art director Emil Hasler

! New and improved English subtitle translation