Reel Classics

M: The Criterion Collection (1931) - Blu-ray Review

M: The Criterion Collection

Madness.  Mayhem.  And, of course, MURDER.  This is what follows the anti-archetype characters of M.  It is a thriller that is meant to unsettle the viewer with its hunt for a serial killer, making it an unforgettable REEL CLASSIC.

"M is a masterpiece of shocking emotion"


You want complicated?  I see your Christopher Nolan-sized PULP fiction and will raise you the Fritz Lang offering of M, a 1931 German thriller in which Peter Lorre plays a SERIAL KILLER of kids.  Yes, children.  And you know what?!  Even the criminal underground is after him.  That’s how paranoid the fleeing Hans Beckert gets in Lang’s first sound film.

Now, you might think that this black and white flick might show a whole lot of creaking and cracking in its rollout of old BONES.  Thinking like this is where you fail, my friends.  M is anything BUT dated and that extends to its multi-layered themes and complex characterizations.  Ironic, too, considering its condemnation of mob mentality in the dawn before Pre-Nazi Germany.

And all as the sound of whistling haunts the streets of Berlin, leading to the murder of little girls.  Lang was no stranger to brutality.  He had seen it all during World War One and, having lost an eye during battle, wore his eye patch like the mark of “M” upon Lorre’s character.  And that pathos we feel for the MURDERER is real.  

We are clued in to the murders with the entrapment of Elsie (Inge Landgut).  Balloons. Candy. Everything a little girl could EVER want.  There is palpable fear in the air as Lorre’s child predator antics finds a new target.  And that whistling?!  Could “In the Hall of the Mountain King” be any creepier?  Or memorable?  No.  Just ask the blind balloon seller.  M: The Criterion Collection   

Anxious parents abound in this GROUNDBREAKING thriller and their bloodlust matches that of the killer.  Elsie’s murder might be one of the most haunting scenes captured on film.  The empty seat at the table.  The child’s ball rolling to no one in particular.  The recently purchased balloon tangled in the power lines overhead.  All of it makes us cringe with the same fear her parents face in the wake of her disappearance  

M is a progressive film where fluidity absolutely lives and SHINES as Lang keeps the camera moving thanks to long tracking shots and the use of interesting sound techniques as so much is left to our imaginations and heard off-screen.  It all works to create a haunting film experience that is definitely NOT easy to shake off.  And that is due to the KILLER performance of Gustaf Gründgens, as Schränker, the leader of the underworld gang and Lorre himself, who used this part to launch an international career in film.

M is a masterpiece of shocking emotion.  You might even be surprised and DISGUSTED by your own reaction to Lorre’s plight.  As a film, M’s legacy is embedded deep in film lore.  Just look at all the imitators that followed in its wake.  Hell, there is an argument to be made that the blueprint for the serial killer movie begins with what Lang did here.

M is now on blu-ray thanks to Criterion Collection’s newly restored transfer from a nitrate print preserved by the British Film Institute.

5/5 beers

 

M: The Criterion Collection

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- May 11, 2010
Screen Formats: 1/29:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
German: LPCM Mono: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

A simple, haunting musical phrase whistled offscreen tells us that a young girl will be killed. “Who Is the Murderer?” pleads a nearby placard as serial killer Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) closes in on little Elsie Beckmann . . . In his harrowing masterwork M, Fritz Lang merges trenchant social commentary with chilling suspense, creating a panorama of private madness and public hysteria that to this day remains the blueprint for the psychological thriller.

Video:

Framed in the original aspect ratio of 1.19:1, Criterion’s work here is impressive as this release marks a newly restored version of the film.  The blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer.  Beads of sweat are visible, wet city streets, textures in clothing, and even the dirt in the pavement is all visible with fine textures throughout. Shadows, while not too terribly detailed, are thick and atmospheric throughout. All in all, Criterion’s crisp handling makes the 110-minute film look and act like the champion it is.

Audio:

The original uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition has been restored.  Fans will be ecstatic to know that this release includes the long-lost English-language version of M, from a nitrate print preserved by the British Film Institute, as well as new and improved English subtitle translations.

Supplements:

Commentary:

Special Features:

Including an essay by film critic Stanley Kauffmann, a 1963 interview with Lang, and, for the Blu-ray edition, the script for a missing scene and three contemporaneous newspaper articles, the special features are loaded with insight concerning the legacy of M.

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

5/5 stars


Film Details

M: The Criterion Collection

MPAA Rating: PG-13 on appeal for crude sexual content and language.
Runtime:
99 mins
Director
: Fritz Lang
Writer:
Thea von Harbou, Fritz Lang
Cast:
Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut
Genre
: Thriller | Crime
Tagline:
IT STAGGERS THE SENSES!...SHOCKS the Imagination - It will leave you Gasping - It is the Sensation of 3 Continents!
Memorable Movie Quote: "There are more policemen on the street tonight than whores."
Theatrical Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
March 31, 1933
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 11, 2010.
Synopsis: When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.

Art

M: The Criterion Collection

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