One of the earliest and best psychological crime films – Fritz Lang’s M – is to be screened around the UK and Ireland starting early September. The British Film Institute is releasing a newly restored version of the German movie, promising pin-sharp picture quality and chilling audio.
M stars Peter Lorre as the child murderer Hans Beckert. On the face of it, he’s as normal as the man next door, but his inner torment causes him to abduct and kill children from a Berlin neighbourhood, and confess his crimes in an anonymous letter to the newspaper.
While the police try to hunt this violent and compulsive killer, beggars on the city’s streets work out what Beckert is up to and start to tail him. The city’s criminals begin their own manhunt. All the while, Beckert’s sanity deteriorates further and further. The film depicts the underbelly of Berlin in 1931, during the Weimar Republic and two years before Adolf Hitler’s ascent to power.
One of the first true psychological thrillers, M was shot in Fritz Lang’s German Expressionist style, with light and shadow used to heighten the drama. It influenced later American classics like The Night of the Hunter and countless other crime and horror pictures. M is regarded as a precursor to the film noir movement. Peter Lorre and Fritz Lang both left Germany during the rise of fascism in Germany, finding new work in America’s growing film industry.
Screenings begin in London, Glasgow and Dublin on 5 September. You’ll find a full listing here, along with a trailer.
Watch for our upcoming feature on the best classic crime fiction films during Classics in September 2014, here on Crime Fiction Lover.