M (Fritz Lang, 1931) Rating: NNNN
M is the archetypal serial killer movie, film noir before there was film noir and the template for dozens of inferior films. In his film debut, Peter Lorre plays a man in the grip of uncontrollable forces that lead him to kill children. Because he's bad for business, the city's underworld takes up the chase. Lang structures the film as a parallel pursuit, police and criminals as explicit mirror images tracking down the killer. Lorre's performance is fascinating, but Lang's real interest is in the slow closing of the trap. In the Expressionist night world of Weimar cinema, Lang has the precision of an engineer.
Still a great film 75 years on. An historical note: on coming to power, the Nazis banned Lang's Testament Of Dr. Mabuse and offered him a chance to run the German film industry. After hearing Goebbels's offer, Lang caught the next train to Paris and ultimately America, where he directed Fury, Ministry Of Fear and The Big Heat. (February 26, Revue Cinema)