Despite being released over 75 years ago, M is still the best film dealing with a child murderer/molester. Peter Lorre does an excellent job portraying the killer Hans Beckert. His pathetic and gentle nature fit the profile of a real life child killer. Lorre’s froglike eyes give off the intensity of an uncontrollable murderer. I believe Killer Hans when he says he can’t control his behavior. His mannerisms are uncontrollably suspicious to say the least.
Nazi propagandist Fritz Hippler utilized Lorre’s end speech for his failed propaganda film The Eternal Jew. The reason for this was that it confirmed Jewish “degenerate art” and mental illness. It was also used as evidence that Jews were prone to criminal behavior and showed no desire to take responsibility for their crimes. Peter Lorre is probably most famous for his role in American propaganda film Casablanca. Quite interesting that Lorre played a part in both sides of wartime propaganda (whether he agreed to or not).
One of the most telling scenes of M is when the child murderer Hans takes refuge in the shadows of a clustered room. He is a scared and pathetic individual. You almost even feel sorry for the killer. However, his horrible acts are unforgivable. Director Fritz Lang ultimately seems to blame the parents of the children as expressed in the M’s conclusion. I really hope Lang wasn’t an apologist for criminals of the worst type.
M has a feeling like no other. The film is set in a shadowy city that feels undeniably claustrophobic. As M progresses, you feel that the capture of Hans is inevitable. He has nowhere to hide. The networking used by the citizens (most being criminals themselves) hunting the murderer makes for an intense capture. When the murderer is finally caught excitement reaches it’s climax.
Fritz Lang is my second favorite German expressionist director (F.W. Murnau being my favorite). His varying range of cinematic achievements confirm Lang as being one of the most interesting and innovative directors in film history. Peter Lorre’s voice would later be the inspiration for Ren Höek of the now classic The Ren and Stimpy Show. Fritz Lang’s M is without doubt one of the greatest films ever made. David Fincher and his film Se7en need to take notice!