Fritz Lang’s first sound film and his penultimate German movie, M is loosely based on a number of serial killers in 1920s Germany. The people of Berlin are in a state of mob like panic as an unknown man is killing little girls in the city. Everyone is a suspect and the police are getting nowhere despite thousands of (conflicting) eye witness testimonies. With unwanted attention falling on the ‘innocent’ criminal fraternity, local crime bosses take it upon themselves to capture the killer and use the large homeless and beggar community as their spies, watching little girls in the hope of discovering the man behind the attacks.
M is often, and rightly, considered as one of the first masterpieces of the sound era. Not only is it a terrific, tense and surprisingly violent film but its use of sound is up there with the best of the period. Realising that sound could be used for more than mere dialogue Lang employs it as part of the plot and has sound off screen along with long periods of silence interrupted by loud noises which together with a deep and complex score and haunting whistle help to make M one of the best of the early talkies. The film also features Lang’s famed use of light and shadow and a fantastic central performance from Peter Lorre.