Alright, beasties. It’s that spooky time of year again. For this edition of Spooktober, I’m going to do a post a day but, like a great haul after trick or treating, I’m hoping to mix it up and deliver some surprises. There’ll be reviews, new or old, seen/unseen, TV or film. Depending on my wicked mood, there may also be lists, audio, or video. I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember: stay spooky.
This iconic thriller from Fritz Lang is one that hits not only on the anxiety-driven note of a serial killer in Berlin who preys on children but also the mentality and reaction of the city’s inhabitants as they demand justice and take things into their own hands. The fear in the streets is affecting everyone, police, grieving parents, and even those in the criminal underworld, who can’t run their businesses because of the police force and patrol. Wide-eyed Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) continues his assault, without being suspected for a time. Lorre’s insane Hans is a standout, from his moments of inability to contain his twisted impulses, to his expressions and body language.
Written by Egon Jacobson and Fritz Lang, Lang crafts a genuinely stunning piece of work that would continue to shape films for years to come. Technically, it is very impressive with the use of long tracking shots and some scenes with little sound, and terrific editing, that makes each moment feel like we’re on the hunt as much as everyone else. Its use of low lighting and shadows gives us what would inspire many noirs of the future. Our first introduction of the identity of the killer comes early and is through his reflection in a window, and his reasoning for being caught is a whistle that Lorre does, and then an “M” is marked on his back. Some of those simple but intentional choices make M a film that impressed and whose impact hasn’t been lessened since its release in 1931.
There’s a menacing unfurling of tension that’s a bold work of expressionism that utilizes every person and object in each scene. It makes its runtime full of taut and edgy moments.
Exceptional performances, packed with social commentary, M is a nail-biting thriller that is brought to life through its expert direction and techniques. A prime example of a must-see classic masterwork ahead of its time.
M is currently streaming on HBO Max