This is an excellent movie - Fritz Lang's - M is must see material (rated in the top 50 movies all time by IMDb and many others). Peter Lorre stars as Hans Beckert, a sick, twisted man who is a child murderer. When the hoodlums in the underworld of Berlin grow tired of all the police searches ruining their business, they decide to catch the child killer themselves - forget about the police. They enlisted the help of the homeless as their eyes and ears and then.... you'll see! watch it! This is the original masterpiece, German with subtitles. And Lorre's performance as Hans is remarkable - every bit as chilling as Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of The Lambs. Don't take candy from a stranger takes on new meaning.
Directed by - Fritz Lang
(1931) - B&W - 99 min
Starts out with some kids singing a little ditty about the child killer currently on the loose in Berlin. We meet the killer, Hans Beckert, played by Peter Lorre - who decides to write the press, instead of the police, to brag and tell them to expect more. Hans delivers on his promise, say goodbye to Elsie Beckmann - a remarkable scene. Remember the balloon - it comes back later!
Peter Lorre as the child murderer
Otto Wernicke as Inspector Lohmann
The police are doing everything they can to try and catch the killer, but so far - they got nothing. Meanwhile the people start turning on each other and everyone is a suspect. Police shakedown bars and beer houses, and search innocent people's homes. As this is pre-war Berlin, one can't help but think of the nazis, and the terror to come. How the film shows mass psychology and mob behavior is also compelling, especially given the period, and the complex issues that the movie deals with. You should also read Peer Gynt, Isben's literary masterpiece, that has been made into countless plays. This film makes reference to several characters from the play, and of course uses the same song - Hall of the Mountain King, by Grieg.
The mob decides to get the bastard
Off we go to the Organization of Beggars - where thehomeless men are hanging out eating sausages and counting bratwursts. The criminal underground assigns areas for these "invisible" men to patrol. The police continue to track every lead and follow up on any scrap of evidence. Meanwhile, Hans continues his evil ways and stalks another child.
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With modern sleuthing, circa 1931
Well it seems the beggars have found their man - and they follow Hans at a safe distance as he attempts to lure a young girl to her death. One of the beggars writes an M with chalk on his hand and slaps Hans on the back, branding him for the other beggars so he won't get away. Hans gets suspicious and attempts to flee - and finally hides in an old office building!
The mob passes judgement
The criminal underground meets at the office building and ties up the night watchmen. Eventually they hear Hans trying to break out of a locked room - but then one of the guards pulls an alarm - so they must hurry or risk being caught by the police. Lots of suspense as time is running out - but no one wants to let the child murderer get away.
The Blind Beggar's Brand - like Nathaniel Hawthorne's A (The Scarlet Letter), only much, much worse!
The criminals quickly get Hans all tied up and leave the office to hold trial for the child murderer. Meanwhile, one of the criminals left behind at the office is being questioned by police - who figure out that the underworld has the murderer. Meanwhile, back at the warehouse, the trial of the century - as the criminals hold court. Peter Lorre's acting in this scene is remarkable, chilling and unforgettable!