M (1931)

     On May 11, 1931, Fritz Lang’s classic film M was released in Berlin, Germany.  Besides being on most lists for the top 100 films of all time, Fritz Lang believed his finest film was M (1931).  The film is the story of a series of child murders that are occurring in Berlin.  The police are determined to catch the killer before any more children are murdered.

     Inspector Lohmann, played by Otto Wernicke, leads the effort to catch the killer.  The police raid criminal den after criminal den until “The Safecracker”, played by Gustaf Grundgens, organizes the criminals to catch the murderer as well.  The police and criminals are racing to catch the killer and end the panic.

     M almost did not get made.  The original movie title was Murders Among Us.  One of the executives at Nero Films thought the title referred to the Nazis.  While the Nazi Party had not taken control of the government yet, it was becoming a political power.  The executive was a member of the Nazi Party and was not going to allow Lang to make the film.  Once Lang shared the plot with the executive, Lang was allowed to make the film.

fritz-lang-thea-von-harbou

Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou Working In Their Apartment in the 1920s

    Lang would later run afoul of the Nazis after he made The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933).  Even though Lang’s wife and Nazi sympathizer, Thea von Harbou, wrote the screenplay, Joseph Goebbels felt that Lang turned the film into an anti-Nazi film.  The film was banned in Germany and Lang would leave Germany.  Lang also divorced Thea von Harbou, who stayed in Germany.

     The Nazi Party would also adversely affect the career of other actors in M.  Otto Wernicke married a Jewish woman.  Wernicke was only allowed to continue acting after making a sizable donation to the Nazi Party and acting in several propaganda films.  Some sources also stated that Jewish actor Georg John, who played the blind balloon seller, was sent to the Jewish ghetto in Lodz, Poland, where he died in 1941.

     M is available on Hulu Plus.  The feature film runs about an hour and a half.  It is part of the Criterion Collection.

     Is M the best film directed by Fritz Lang?  Why or why not?  You can leave a comment or ask a question about this or any post on my Facebook pageTwitter profile and Google+ page.

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