M (1931 movie)

M ( German : M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder – M – A City Searches for a Murderer ) is a 1931 German drama – thriller directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre . The film was written by Lang and his wife, Thea von Harbou , and was the director’s first sound movie . [2]

The film revolves around the actions of a serial killer [3] of children and the manhunt for him, conducted by both the police and the criminal underworld . [4]

Now considered a classic, the film was deemed by Fritz Lang to be his finest work. [5] [6]


A group of children are playing an elimination game in the courtyard of an apartment building in Berlin [7] using a song about a murderer of children . A woman sets the table for dinner, waiting for her daughter to come home from school. A wanted to warn of a serial killer preying on children, as anxious parents wait outside a school.

Little Elsie Beckmann leaves school, bouncing a ball on her way home. She is approached by Hans Beckert , [8] who is whistling ” In the Hall of the Mountain King ” by Edvard Grieg . He offers to buy a balloon from a street-vendor blind and walks and talks with her. Elsie’s place at the dinner table stays empty, her ball is shown rolling over a patch of grass and her balloon is lost in the overhead lines. [9]

In the wake of Elsie ‘s disappearance, anxiety runs high among the public. Beckert sends an anonymous letter to the newspapers, taking credit for the murders and promising that he will commit others; the police extract clues from the letter, using the new techniques of fingerprinting and handwriting analysis . Under construction pressure from city leaders, the police work around the clock. Inspector Karl Lohmann instructs his men to intensify their search and to check the records of recently released psychiatric patients, focusing on any history of violence against children. They stage frequent raids to question known criminals, disrupting underworld business so badly that Der Schränker(The Safecracker) calls a meeting of the city’s crime lords . They decide to organize their own manhunt, using beggars to watch the children. [10] Meanwhile, the search engine Beckert’s rented rooms, find evidence that he wrote the letter there, and is in wait to arrest him. [11]

Beckert sees a young girl in the reflection of a shop window and begins to follow her, but stops when the girl meets her mother. He encounters another girl and befriends, but the blind sells his whistling. The blind man is one of his friends, who looks after the others. Afraid that Beckert will get away, one man has a wide M (for Mörder , ” murderer ” in German) on his palm, pretends to trip, and bumps into Beckert, marking the back of his overcoat. [12]

Once Beckert realizes that the beggars are following him, he hides inside a large office building just before the workers leave for the evening. The beggars call Der Schränker , who arrives at the building with a team of other criminals. Becker in the attic, Becker in the attic. When one of the watchmen trips the silent alarm , the criminals narrowly escape with their prisoner before the police arrive. Franz, one of the criminals, is left behind in the confusion and captured by the police; Lohmann tricks him in the face of Beckert and revealing where he will be taken. [13]

The criminals drag Beckert to an abandoned distillery to face a short kangaroo . He finds a wide, silent crowd awaiting him. Beckert is given a “lawyer”, who plays in his defense but fails to win any sympathy from the improvised “jury”. Beckert Delivers an impassioned monologue, Saying That he can not control His homicidal Urges, while the other criminals this break the law by choice, and further Top questionnaire Why They’re criminals believe They Have Any right to judge _him_ by Stating: ” What right have you to speak? Criminals! Perhaps you are proud of Even Yourselves! Proud of being white reliable safes to crack into , [14] or climb into buildings or cheat at cards . All of qui ,It Seems to me , You Could Easily have just give up , if You Had Learned Useful something , or if You Had jobs , or if You Were not Such lazy pigs . I can not help myself! I have no control over this evil thing that is inside me – the fire , the voices , the torment! ” [15]

Beckert pleads to be handed over to the police, asking: ” Who knows what is it? ” His “lawyer” points out that the presiding “judge” is a Totschlag (manslaughter, a form of homicide in German law), and that it is unjust to execute an insane man. Just Beckert, the police come to arrest both him and the criminals.

As a panel of judges prepares to deliver a verdict at Beckert’s real trial, the mothers of three of his victims weep in the gallery. Elsie’s mother says that ” No sentence will bring the dead children back “, and that ” One has to keep closer watch over the children “. The screen fades to black as she adds, ” All of you “. [16]


  • Peter Lorre as Hans Beckert . M was Lorre’s first major starring role, and it boosted his career, even though he was typecast as a villain for years after movies like this Mad Love and the movie adaptation of Crime and Punishment . Before M , Lorre was mostly a comedic actor. After fleeing from the Nazis , he landed a major role in Alfred Hitchcock ‘s first version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), picking up English along the way. [17]
  • Otto Wernicke as Inspector Karl Lohmann . Wernicke made his breakthrough with M after playing many small roles in silent movies for over a decade. After his part in M , he was in great demand due to the success of the film, including returning to the role of Karl Lohmann in The Testament of Doctor Mabuse and he played supporting roles for the rest of his career. [18]
  • Gustaf Gründgens as Der Schränker ( The Safecracker ). Gründgens received acclaim for his role in the film and established a successful career for himself under Nazi rule, later becoming director of the Staatliches Schauspielhaus (National Dramatic Theater). [19]
  • Ellen Widmann as Mother Beckmann
  • Inge Landgut as Elsie Beckmann
  • Theodor Loos as Inspector Groeber
  • Friedrich Gnaß and Franz, the burglar
  • Fritz Odemar as Cheater
  • Paul Kemp as Pickpocket with seven watches
  • Theo Lingen as Bauernfänger
  • Rudolf Blümner and Beckert’s defender
  • Georg John as Blind balloon-seller
  • Franz Stein as Minister
  • Ernst Stahl-Nachbaur as Chief Police
  • Gerhard Bienert as Criminal Secretary
  • Karl Platen as Damowitz, a night-watchman
  • Rosa Valetti as Innkeeper
  • Hertha von Walther as Prostitute
  • Hanna Maron ( uncredited ) in the beginning
  • Heinrich Gotho pass-by who tells a kid the time
  • Klaus Pohl as Witness / one-eyed man (uncredited) [20]


It would be a starring one in the 1930s that his next film would be Mörder unter uns ( Murderer Among Us ) and that it was about a child murderer. He immediately began working on the space at the Staaken Studios . When Lang is confronted with the head of the studio to find out why he has been denied access, the studio informed him that he was a member of the Nazi party and that the party was supposed to be part of the Nazis. [21] This book is based entirely on the film’s original title and the Nazi party relented when told the plot. [22]

M was eventually shot in six weeks at a Staaken Zeppelinhalle studio, just outside Berlin. Lang made the film for Nero-Film , rather than with UFA or his own production company. It was produced by Nero studio head Seymour Nebenzal who later produced Lang’s The Testament of Dr. Mabuse . Other titles were given to the film before ” M ” was chosen; Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder ( A City searches for a Murderer ) and Dein Mörder sieht Dich an ( Your Murderer Looks At You ). [23]While researching for the film, Lang spent several days in a mental institution in Germany and put several child murderers, including Peter Kürten . He used several real criminals in the film and eventually 25 cast members were arrested during the film’s shooting. [24] Peter Lorre was cast in the lead role of Hans Beckert, acting for the film during the day and appearing on stage in Valentine Katayev ‘s Squaring the Circleat night. [25]

The role of the author is to strengthen the individual’s position in the field of violence. [26]

Peter Lorre and Hans Beckert, gazing into a shop window. Fritz Lang uses glass and reflections throughout the film for expressive purposes.

M has-beens Said, by various critics and reviewers, [27] to be one based serial killer Peter Kürten -the “Vampire of Düsseldorf ” -whose eu lieu crimes in the 1920s. [28] Lang denied that he drew from this case, in an interview in 1963 with film historian Gero Gandert; “At the time I decided to use the subject matter of M , there were many serial terrorizing killers Germany- Haarmann , Grossmann , Kürten , Denke , […]”. [29] [30] Inspector Karl Lohmann is based on the famous Ernst Gennat , director of the Berlin criminal police.[31]


M Was Lang’s first sound movie and Lang Experimented with the new technology. [32] It has a dense and complex soundtrack, as opposed to the more theatrical “talkies” being released at the time. The soundtrack includes the narrator, the sounds of the off-camera, the sounds motivating action and the suspenseful moments of the silence before sudden noise. Lang was also able to make cuts in the film’s editing, since it could be used to inform the narrative. [33]

The Film Was one of the first to use a leitmotif , a technology borrowed from opera , Associating a tune with Lorre’s character, Who whistles the tune ” In the Hall of the Mountain King ” from Edvard Grieg ‘s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 . Later in the movie, the sound of the song lets the audience know that he is nearby, off-screen. This association of a musical theme is a staple. [34]Peter Lorre could not whistle and Lang’s wife and co-writer Thea von Harbou is heard in the film. [35]

Release and reception

premiered in Berlin on 11 May 1931 at the UFA-Palast am Zoo in a version lasting 117 minutes. [25] The original negative is preserved at the Federal Film Archive in a 96-minute version. In 1960, an edited 98-minute version was released. The film was restored in 2000 by the Netherlands Film Museum in collaboration with the Federal Film Archive, the Cinemateque Suisse, Kirsch Media and ZDF / ARTE., With Janus Films releasing the 109-minute version of its Criterion Collection using prints from the same period from the Cinemateque Switzerland and the Netherlands Film Museum. [36]A complete print of the French version and selected scenes from the French version were included in the 2010 Criterion Collection releases of the film. [37]

The film was later released in the US in April 1933 by Foremco Pictures. [38] After playing in English with English subtitles for two weeks, it was pulled from theaters and replaced by an English-language version. The re-dubbing was directed by Eric Hakim, and Lorre was one of the few cast members to reprise his role in the film. [25] As with many other early speeches from the years 1930-1931, Mwas partially reshot with actors (including Lorre) performing dialogue in other languages ​​for the translation of the original language. An English-language version was filmed and released in 1932 from an original script. An edited version was also released but despite the fact that it was dubbed. [39]

Variety Review said that the movie was “a little too long.” “There are a few repetitions and a few slow scenes.” [25] Graham Greene compared the film to “looking through the eye-piece of a microscope, through which the tangled mind is exposed,” and “love and lust;” nobility and perversity, hatred of itself and despair jumping at you from the jelly “. [26]

In 2013, DCP was released by Kino Lorber and played theatrically in North America [40] in the original aspect ratio of 1.19: 1. [41] Critic Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called this “most-complete-ever” version at 111 minutes. [42] The film was restored by TLEFilms Film Restoration & Preservation Services (Berlin) in association with French Film Archives – CNC (Paris) and PostFactory GmbH (Berlin). [43]


This section needs expansion . You can help by adding to it . (August 2017)

Lang considered M to be his favorite of his own films because of the social criticism in the film. In 1937, he told a reporter that he made the film “to warn mothers about neglecting children”. [32]

A Hollywood remake of the same name was released in 1951, shifting the action from Berlin to Los Angeles . Nero Films head Seymour Nebenzal and his son Harold produced the film for Columbia Pictures . Lang had once told “People ask me why I do not remake M in English I have no reason to do that. [24] The remake was directed by Joseph Losey and starred David Wayne in Lorre’s role. Losey stated that he had seen Min the early 1930s, and again, but only recently, it has been unconsciously rehearsed in terms of the atmosphere, of certain sequences. ” [24] Lang later said that when the remake was released he “had the best reviews of [his] life”. [26]

The original 1931 M was ranked at number thirty-three in Empire magazines’ “The 100 Best Movies Of World Cinema” in 2010. [44]

In 2003 M Was adapté for radio by Peter Straughan and is broadcast BBC Radio 3 on February 2, later re-broadcast is BBC Radio 4 Extra is 8 October 2016. [45] Directed by Toby Swift , this drama won the Prix Italia for Adapted Drama in 2004. citation needed ]

Jon J. Muth adapté the screenplay into a graphic novel in 2008: M . [46]

See also

  • Trial movies
  • List of movies featuring surveillance
  • List of movies with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes , a movie review aggregator website


  1. Jump up^ ” M (A)” . British Board of Film Classification . May 24, 1932. Archived from the original on|archive-url= requires |archive-date=( help ) . Retrieved 30 July 2013 . Unknown parameterignored ( help )|arcrhivedate=
  2. Jump up^ “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep: A Brief History of Child Murder in Cinema” . Bloody Disgusting! . Retrieved 19 April 2016 .
  3. Jump up^ Monsters of Weimarp. 296
  4. Jump up^ Monsters of Weimarpp. 296-298
  5. Jump up^ Archive-Extract Reader: 1997/970808 / M [ permanent dead link ]
  6. Jump up^ Kauffman, Stanley. “The Mark of M ” . The Criterion Collection . Retrieved 27 April 2012 .
  7. Jump up^ While the location is never mentioned in the movie, the dialect used by the characters is characteristic of Berliners, and a police inspector’s map labeled “Berlin” and a policeman’s order to take a suspect to the “Alex”, Berlin’s central police headquarters on the Alexanderplatz, make the coming clear.
  8. Jump up^ “Fritz Lang’s M: The Blueprint for the Serial Killer Movie” . bfi.org.uk.
  9. Jump up^ “Fritz Lang’s M: The Blueprint for the Serial Killer Movie” . bfi.org.uk. December 5, 2016 . Retrieved 16 May 2017 .
  10. Jump up^ theguardian.com
  11. Jump up^ Monsters of Weimarp. 297
  12. Jump up^ Monsters of Weimarp. 297
  13. Jump up^ tvtropes.org
  14. Jump up^ “M (1931)” . classicartfilms.com.
  15. Jump up^ Monsters of Weimarp. 298
  16. Jump up^ Garnham, Nicholas (1968). M: a film by Fritz Lang . New York: Simon and Schulster. pp. 15-108. ISBN  9780900855184 .
  17. Jump up^ Erickson, Hal. “Biography” . Allmovie . Retrieved 2007-01-14 .
  18. Jump up^ Staedeli, Thomas. “Otto Wernicke” . Cyranos . Retrieved 2007-01-14 .
  19. Jump up^ Staedeli, Thomas. “Otto Wernicke” . Cyranos . Retrieved 2007-01-14 .
  20. Jump up^ Garnham. p. 13.
  21. Jump up^ Jensen, Paul M ..The Cinema of Fritz Lang. New York: AS Barnes & Co., 1969. SBN 498 07415 8. pp. 93
  22. Jump up^ Wakeman, John. World Film Directors, Volume 1. New York: The HW Wilson Company. 1987.ISBN 0-8242-0757-2. pp. 614.
  23. Jump up^ Jensen. pp. 93
  24. ^ Jump up to:c Jensen. pp. 94.
  25. ^ Jump up to:d Jensen. pp. 93.
  26. ^ Jump up to:c Wakeman. pp. 615.
  27. Jump up^ Ramsland, Katherine . “Crime Library TV Serial Killers Movies” . Crime Library . Archived from the original on 3 November 2006 . Retrieved 28 October 2006 .
  28. Jump up^ Morris, Gary. “A Textbook Classic Restored to Perfection” . Bright Lights . Retrieved 2007-01-12 .
  29. Jump up^ “Fritz Lang onM: An Interview”, inFritz Lang:M-Protokoll, Marion von Schröder Verlag, Hamburg 1963, reprinted in the Criterion Collection booklet.
  30. Jump up^ Monsters of Weimarp. 293
  31. Jump up^ Kempe, Frank: “Buddha vom Alexanderplatz” ,Deutschlandfunk Kultur, 21 August 2014 (in German).
  32. ^ Jump up to:b Jensen. pp. 95.
  33. Jump up^ Jensen. pp. 103.
  34. Jump up^ Costantini, Gustavo. “Leitmotif revisited” . Filmsound . Retrieved 10 May 2006 .
  35. Jump up^ Falkenberg, Paul (2004). “Classroom Tapes – M” . The Criterion Collection . Retrieved 2007-08-08 .
  36. Jump up^ M, Janus Films, Criterion Collection, closing credits.
  37. Jump up^ Review of 2010 Blu-ray M / DVD release (region 2), DVD Outsider.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  38. Jump up^ “The Daesseldorf Murders” . New York Times . April 3, 1933 . Retrieved September 28, 2017 .
  39. Jump up^ “Extra DVD: Peter Lorre’s long-lost English-language debut” . New York Post . March 4, 2010 . Retrieved September 28, 2017 .
  40. Jump up^ Erik McLanahan (2013-04-09). “Fritz Lang’s’ M is a great entertainment, but it’s also a mashup genre . ” Oregon Artswatch . Retrieved 2014-05-20 .
  41. Jump up^ “M (Thursday 9PM)” . The Charles Theater [Baltimore, Maryland]. Archived from the original on 20 May 2014 . Retrieved 2014-05-20 .
  42. Jump up^ Kenneth Turan (2013-04-09). “Critic’s Choice: ‘M’ stands for masterpiece” . Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2014-05-20 .
  43. Jump up^ “M” . Kino Lorber. Archived from the original on 16 July 2014 . Retrieved 20 May 2014 .
  44. Jump up^ “The 100 Best Movies Of World Cinema: 33. M” . Empire .
  45. Jump up^ “Fritz Lang and Thea from Harbou – M – BBC Radio 4 Extra” . Retrieved 21 October 2016 .
  46. Jump up^ https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8109-9522-2

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