Sunday, September 15, 2013

M (1931)

Today's film is M,  which is just as relevant today as it was in 1931.  Someone is going around town killing kids, and the police are at a total loss.  So, assuming he's a regular criminal, the police raid the criminal areas night after night.  So, the criminals are upset at this, since they can't do "business" they'll go broke, not to mention they are tired of being harassed.

The leaders of each criminal organization meet and come up with a brilliant plan.  They will find the killer themselves.  They enlist the help of the beggar's organization to keep watch on the streets.  They have a great system of communicating with each other through the streets, by sounds and whistles, like an old-fashioned twitter.  The blind balloon seller recognizes the killer's whistle and tells a friend to follow and mark him.  The killer was whistling the same tune when he bought a balloon for a girl named Elsie, who became one of his victims.  The man marks his coat with the letter M for murderer so everyone can spot him easily.  The killer, Beckert, realizes this and takes off.  The criminals track him down to an office building and search for him.  They use their talents to break in and search each room.

About the same time the criminals find the killer, the police have enough clues to arrest Beckert.  But he's gone from his house, hiding in the office building.  After a watchmen in the building trips the alarm, most of the criminals flee, carrying Beckert away.  The police catch a stranded thief and question him.  I did not like the upward crotch shot of the detective while he was talking.  What an odd angle.  Anyway, Beckert has been taken to a court set up by the criminals.  He pleads that he is paranoid and is compelled to kill.  The lead criminal doesn't want him to go to a real court, where he can plead insanity and be taken care of by the state.  Which I agree with.  I am reminded of the case of Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children and now resides in a LOW security mental hospital in Texas.  A child killer just like Beckert.  Beckert pleads for his life, but the women of the court speak out about losing their children to him.  The criminals rush toward him but are stopped by the police.  The final scene show them in a real court, with the mothers telling each other they have to still watch their children.  Because you'll never know when he'll be released and start killing again.

I thought this movie was great and was well-made.  I enjoyed every minute of it.  It started a little slow, but it built up until the final scene.  So I will give it a 9/10.


  1. Yeah, this is a great film. On my top 10 of the thirties for sure. I actually liked the beginning. The fear and the panic of the mother when her child fails to show up. That is the nightmare of any parent. The ball that rolls away or a ballon flying off to indicate the death of a child is... horrifying.
    There are also hints at policestate methods pointing forward to the nazi regime with everybody suspecting everybody and of course the suspense of the manhunt.

    1. You're right, the images of the balloon flying off and the ball rolling was powerful. I thought it was even more powerful than if they would have shown gore. Movies about serial killers made today have so much gore and are less interesting.