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M (1931)

When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.
Original title: M - Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder

(NR, 110 min.)


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

7:00 PM

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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. [Janus]

Starring: Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut
Director: Fritz Lang
Genre(s): Crime, Mystery, Thriller

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"[An] important film which rightly deserves its success."

— Mordaunt Hall, New York Times

"You'll never look at a novelty balloon in the same way again."

— David Jenkins, Little White Lies

"Lang's razor-sharp dissection of crime and punishment never puts a foot wrong."

— Mark Kermode, Observer (UK)

"This astonishing movie represents an unsurpassed grand synthesis of storytelling."

— Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

"Few films are gripping and effective 82 years after their original release, but this one surely is."

— Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

"Lorre's performance as a desperate killer who insists he can't help himself remains his finest hour on film."

— John Hartl,

"It's an impeccable film -- a model of psychological suspense and a stunning display of Lang's power and skill."

— Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle

"Be afraid. Be properly afraid. The greatest creation of Fritz Lang's career remains one of the most disturbing movies of his, or any, film-making era."

— Kevin Maher, Times (UK)

"Lang's movie is that rare thing, a nail-biting soul-searcher. While M steers clear of analyzing deviance, it is startling in its musings on which punishment fits an inhuman crime."

— Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer

"The moral issues are complex and deftly handled: Lorre is at once entirely innocent and absolutely evil. Lang's detached, modified expressionist style gives the action a plastic beauty."

— Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

"The film doesn't ask for sympathy for the killer Franz Becker, but it asks for understanding: As he says in his own defense, he cannot escape or control the evil compulsions that overtake him."

— Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"Fritz Lang's acute use of objects, symbols, letters, and codes to decrypt a relatively simple narrative remains as perfect an example of pure cinema in the sound era as one is likely to find."

— Chris Cabin, Slant Magazine

"Arguably Fritz Lang's greatest cinematic achievement, this unnerving tale of deranged child-killer Hans Beckert (Lorre) stalking the dingy alleys and shadowy playscapes of Berlin is as riveting a piece of filmmaking as you're ever likely to see."

— Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle