MovieChat Forums > Video > At The Movies (ATM): M (1931)

At The Movies (ATM): M (1931)


The movie I have picked for us to discuss is the classic 1931 German film M, directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre. The film is available on Youtube and on Criterion dvd/blu ray and may be on other streaming sites. Some possible questions we can discuss:

1. What did you think of Lorre's performance?
2. What would you rate the film out of 10?
3. Does it hold up today?
4. What is the message (if any) of the film?
5. What are your overall thoughts, feelings, and response to the film?

I have seen the film before and loved it, but I will watch it again next chance I get and then add some thoughts and comments to the thread. Whenever you guys want, you can watch M and comment in this thread. If for some reason, you don't wish to watch M, that is fine too.

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I would say Lorre did a good job. I think some of the exaggerated expressions were a holdover from the silent era. Lorre was a unique actor. I don't know of anyone to compare him with.
I especially liked him in Casablanca.

I think it was a good movie, and would give it a 7/10.

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1. It's hard to judge the acting of an era so long ago, because it seems so over dramatic and exaggerated compared to standards today, and many of Lorre's facial expressions seemed almost cartoonish and comical, but different times called for different measures, so his portrayal of fear, compulsion and angst must have been quite mesmerizing at the time.

There was a small sliver of doubt in the mind to keep you not sure if he was the killer or not due to the second girl referring to him as 'uncle'. Enough to wonder if the girl he bought the balloon for was a case of mistaken identity by the blind seller, who never saw her. Was it all a big mistake after all?

2. I would give the film 7/10 for it's boldness of story, innovative camerawork (great piece where it zoomed into the room through the outside window in one shot) and enough to keep you intrigued.

3. Story-wise, it would hold up today but it felt odd watching a film with no music in the background, great silences every so often (some used well while others were annoying) and too many people shouting at each other. The smoking definitely would not be a part of any remake. Also the blaming of the mother's for not keeping an eye on their children 24/7 was out of order.

4. I think it's main message is showing how many monsters there are in society and the hypocrisy of some of them. He knew he was a monster but claimed he couldn't stop himself. The main thief saw nothing wrong that he himself had killed 3 people.

Also, the thieves were more concerned for their own livelihoods being ruined than the deaths of the children themselves, and only organise and go on the hunt for the killer so life can return to normal for themselves.

It also brings up the dilemma of what to do with a person of such disposition. If they truly are not responsible for their actions then a death sentence is unfair, but so is ever letting the free again, especially when it comes to crimes against children. However, he was aware enough of what he was, yet sought no help for himself, even when knowing what a danger he was to children. He claims to have felt guilt but not enough to want to stop himself doing it again.

5. Overall I enjoyed the film more than I thought I would, given the foibles of the era. It had some good camerawork, thought provoking plot which is left in your hands to guess what his fate was and also a slight touch of humour here and there.

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Thanks for your insightful comments, keybored. I really liked Lorre's performance and I personally think he was better than a lot of critically acclaimed performances in recent years. I never felt that he was cartoonish, but I can understand why some viewers today might see that. It is interesting that you mention a sliver of doubt about his guilt. In my mind, I always thought Lorre's character was the killer. I personally would rate M a 9/10. I thought it was excellent in its performances and direction. I really like your comments about the message of the film and I think I would agree with you. Thanks for your comments and I look forward to hearing from everyone else.

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I did think he was up until the point that the 2nd girl called him uncle. His odd behaviour till that point made it look like it was supposed to be him but when she called him uncle, it made me doubt if he was just an odd character that really was just her uncle.

Surely parents had warned their children to stay away from strangers, so the doubt was injected as to whether if he was genuinely her uncle (and could still be the killer), or just someone who was mistaken as the killer. It was the blind man that claimed he recognised him, but being blind, he could not have known what girl who the balloon was bought for looked like nor the dead girl.

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That didn't occur to me honestly, they'd translated it as "Mister" in the subtitles, so I just assumed Germans also refer to strangers as "Uncle" (God knows I've been referred to as "The Aunty" on a few occasions, and I'm not even that old).

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It said 'uncle' in the subtitles I had. Would have to get a German speaker toconfirm which was the correct translation. Does change the whole scenario with a mistranslation.

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Oh my god! This is a stunning, AMAZING movie! I had seen it a long time ago, but will watch it again.

To everyone, this movie can be seen on youtube. Just search for "M 1931".

Also, I had planned for the thread for each movie to be opened in the respective movie forum, but I suppose we can overlook it this time?

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I'm re-watching the film after 13 years! I'm done watching the first half the movie. To those who may feel bored, you should know that the movie keeps getting more gripping as it nears the end. Trust me on this one!

This is an excellent movie to start "At the Movies" with.

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How can we open a new thread in the respective movie forum? We don't know the new film a member is proposing until the member has told us. We would not know where to look. Wouldn't they need to post it here in our quiet "home away from the trolls"? Shouldn't we keep all of our threads here in our home base? Then we would not have to go all over the place to reference past movies we have discussed. This would help keep things simple imho.

Besides, if our members are curious as to what others have said about the movie they can check the movie's individual board before commenting here on "our" board.

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I have not seen it, 'try to get a chance to watch this weekend...

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Thanks for your first post on this topic, Allaby. "M" is a good choice.

I haven't seen it in years, but I remember loving Lorre's performance, which I thought was incredible: truly going through the gamut of emotions and showing what a wretch the character truly was. It is just superb.

Unfortunately, I don't feel the same about the rest of the movie. As I wrote elsewhere, "I find M (1931) dreadfully, and deathly, dull, in spite of Peter Lorre's brilliant lead performance and the famous balloon scene. In fact, while I approve of his work in theory (paranoids in a world of those actually out to get you), I find most of Fritz Lang's movies to be dull. I really only liked Ministry of Fear (oh, and Metropolis too!), and, even then, there were elements to criticize."

The concept of "M" is first-rate, but I don't think Lang's execution is particularly good. I would have to take another look at it and get back to you to go into greater detail.

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Salzmank,
I just saw your post on Golden Age Horrors on my crazy quest. Perhaps someone there can solve this mystery for me.

Thank you so very much. I really appreciate your continued help. You are an amazing friend!

U DA MAN!!

MovieManCin2

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First, thanks for the too-kind words, MovieManCin2! Very much appreciated.

Second, I'm hoping so too, but no one has yet gotten back to me there, despite 153 views, for the last three days. I'm hoping someone knows it.

Salzmank

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We'll just need to be patient. Thanks again.

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Would you guys mind one more? Right now alot of drama is going on that I thought was finished and want to find a group free from that. Movie discussions wouldn't be bad. I can praise and point out flaws unbiasedly. I do it for alot of films I do love.

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Strannger,
I don't think anyone would object to your joining our little group, so welcome aboard. Our lineup bats in alphabetical order, so you would bat after Sentient Meat.

The revised batting order is: Allaby (just batted), Beto, Dreamersxdisease, Godeway, Kazak, Keybored, MinaVladimir, Moviefan225, MovieManCin2, Quetee, Salzmank, Sentient Meat and Strannger.
MovieManCin2

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Excellent.

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Thanks guys. So we are watching m. I'll go catch up right now. Do we have a format to follow of just wrote a review?

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Just check out what the other folks have said, and then if you wish, add your two cents worth.

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Jump in Strannger! The more, the merrier :)

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Great choice Allaby! I’ve been meaning to see M for a very long time.

I didn’t particularly like Lorre’s overall performance. Maybe it’s his distinct eyes that made his expressions look a bit over-exaggerated. But I found his final monologue very engaging. I guess I found it a big over the top, but maybe that was the desired effect and I just missed it.

I think it holds up today. The story is still relevant. The filmmaking is inventive and interesting. I found the pace a little slow, but that’s something that films today also have, so I don’t think it’s something that’d date it.

Regarding the message, I thought there were a few.

How mass hysteria and the mob mentality could make people act reactionary or irrationally (can’t figure which term is more fitting). People become paranoid and look at those around them with suspicion, and how some act violently based purely on those suspicions, without any proof. And that led pretty much to a People’s Court, that dispensed death sentences on sentiment alone.

Inadequacy of and mistrust in the authorities. How many murders were committed before the authorities really started making an effort and held a meeting about strategy? Not to mention they had him (correct?) in a mental hospital and released him. It took the criminals organizing a mass effort to cover every inch of the city for the man to be caught, and even then the authorities were pretty oblivious and came in at the last second. And the people at the trial didn’t want to give him over to the police, because they didn’t trust they’d punish him effectively.

Hypocrisy and the nature of a killer. Lorre’s character acted on impulse, so could he really be held fully accountable for his actions? He was clearly ill, and though he should be put away and punished, his crimes can’t be judged the same way other’s are. Now the Safecracker was also a murderer. And he was pretty nonchalant about killing (occupational hazard he called it at one point). And that was the man in charge of the trial. Where Lorre had a compulsion, the others committed crime in a more calculated and removed manner. They can avoid it, but chose not to. And also Lorre’s character I thought felt a bit of remorse, I didn’t see much in the other criminals.

Those are maybe more themes, than messages I guess lol. But a true message is “Look over the children”. Not just when there’s a murderer on the loose, not when it harms your business. But all the time. This all could’ve been avoided if people were cautiously vigilant and paid attention to the children all the time. This is evident in the woman telling the children not to sing that song in the opening scene (maybe I read it wrong, so feel free to correct me). She was paying attention to what they were doing. And the end with the mother saying “This won’t bring back our children”. What’s the use of justice after the fact, if harm’s already been done? What’s useful is prevention.

Overall I liked it. Thought it did move a bit slow for me and at points was a bit dull. But the trial at the end was very griping, I couldn’t look away. And the lack of music, and sound at some places, was a bit odd. I couldn’t figure why that was done. Visually I found it very interesting. The compass drawing the area they were investigating, and all the bits of visual storytelling. I also liked the parallel editing of the meetings of the authorities and the criminals. And the little bits of humor here and there were nice.

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An excellent analysis, Mina.

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Marvelous post. Wonderful read! I agree with everything.

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1. Lorre's performance was excellent. Sure, by today's standards it might be considered over the top but remember that all the actors from this era were pioneers in portraying particular archetypes and most people had never seen mentally ill people as there were no documentaries or even movies on the subject, only written accounts. He had to create an image of a deranged person from scratch.
2. 10/10
3. Yes... it feels like an abbreviated form of The Wire for Germany during the thirties. The parallel narratives of the underworld, the politicians and police underscore the similarities of their infrastructures more than their differences. The mass hysteria, suspension of civil liberties, desire for vigilante justice are just as relevant today as they were 86 years ago.
4. I think Lang hedges his bets by saying we must look for the welfare of the children. I think he believes it's morally wrong to kill a mentally ill person, but it's also clear that he doesn't trust the system to ultimately protect the population.
5. It's an extraordinary document/time capsule of 1931 that perhaps lends insight into the personality of the German people... how their meticulous detail oriented society could achieve great things but also how their emotional nature combined with this efficiency could ultimately create the Nazi regime. I don't know how people can rate this any less than a 9 or a 10... it's period detail alone, especially regarding the processes of the German police are absolutely fascinating.

ETA: I received some alert a few days ago that led to a dead end. You might want to revisit your alert system as I didn't even see this thread until two days later.

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Great post! The parallels you drew between German in those times and today's times got me thinking. I will also look that dead end in that alert. Sorry about that.

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Moviefan,
You're up. Time to pick a film.
MoviemanCin2


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Can I pick a double feature? Two movies in two different languages both focusing on the same theme and have us compare and contrast the two?

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Sure. Sounds like an interesting concept.


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