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"M" - {Blu-Ray}
Reviewer:
Taylor Carlson
Studio: Criterion
Genre:
Drama
Release Date:
5/11/10
Special Features:

Commentary, Conversation with Fritz Lang, Physical History of M, M Le Maudit, Harold Nebenzal Interview, Paul Falkenberg's Classroom Tapes, Stills Gallery, English Version, Booklet

Review:

M is directed by Fritz Lang (Metropolis), and stars Peter Lorre (Casablanca), Otto Wernicke, Gustaf Grundgens, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut, Theodor Loos, and Friedrich Gnass. ***

In a German town, a child murderer is on the loose. This predator has killed numerous children, prompting everyone in town to become increasingly suspicious of one another. The police step up their activity by launching a massive investigation, which greatly affects organized criminal organizations in the area. The criminals, knowing this murderer could ruin their way of life, ally themselves with a group of beggars in an effort to bring the child murderer down - which would eliminate public panic and get the police off their backs. ***

Fritz Lang is a filmmaking genius, and M marked his first step into the world of talkies (or non-silent films.) What he creates with M is a masterpiece for the ages - one that must be seen to be appreciated. ***

Despite this being his first sound film, Lang employs a number of filmmaking techniques that work beautifully. He isn't afraid to use total silence to depict the mood of certain scenes, and uses imagery to depict certain actions - a prime example is seeing a balloon he bought for a little girl caught in telephone lines, amidst total silence as her mother calls out to her. Imagery like this makes the move work, and even 80 years after its release, it still works beautifully. The killer also whistles “In the Hall of the Mountain King” throughout the film, it serving as something of a “theme” to his character - not at all unlike the “shark” music from Jaws. Believe me, after you watch the movie, you will never look at that Grieg's most famous piece of music the same way again! ***

The killer is played by Peter Lorre, later known for roles in English language films such as Casablanca. Following the movie's release, all kinds of Nazi activity took place in Germany and the movie was banned. Both Lorre and Lang fled Nazi Germany not long after the film. ***

Perhaps one of the greatest things about M is just how well it has aged. In many ways, it feels like something of a precursor to modern police hunts for predators. Even the criminal organizations of the film come off as interesting, developed groups of characters - and we can definitely relate when overzealous police crews throw a wrench into their operations. Despite running nearly 2 hours, the movie never feels boring or dragged out. ---

Image And Sound: Criterion is, hands down, the best company out there when it comes to restoring classic films. Their work on M is no exception. This disc is even an improvement over the already-impressive DVD release. The picture quality is extremely sharp and detailed - far more so than I would EVER expect from an 80-year-old movie! Contrast is solid, and the only real flaws to speak of are some print damage that comes about throughout - but as Criterion states in the booklet, this is the absolute best the movie could be made to look without employing annoying enhancements. The movie is presented at its original aspect ratio of 1.19:1, which was a common ratio for films of the day. ***

The audio appears as a mono 1.0 track, and still manages to sound quite impressive. Sound effects, music, dialogue - everything comes across perfectly, showing that Criterion can restore audio just as well as video.

Special Features:

Once again, Criterion pulls out all the stops and gives us a wealth of bonus material Most of this stuff had already appeared on the SD-DVD release, but it is all extremely informative and more than welcome here. No stone is unturned - if you watch all of this material, you will gain a great understanding of what went in to making this masterpiece - and the legacy it has left behind. Perhaps most interesting amongst the bonus material is a recently discovered English language version of the film! Long story short, Criterion doesn't disappoint in this department, either.

Final Words:

M is one of the greatest films ever made, and quite possibly Fritz Lang's finest hour (though I'm sure there are some Metropolis fans that would be willing to debate that.) Criterion delivers a Blu-Ray disc with amazing audio and video quality, plus a boatload of bonus features. Do I even have to say it? This disc gets my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

 

 
 
 
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