Tag Archives: M (1931)

The Set of 400: #247 – My Favorite Scheingericht

Today! Because I have no control over this, this evil thing inside of me, the fire, the voices, the torment –

(1931)

Directed by Fritz Lang

Starring Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut, Paul Kemp, Georg John, Gustaf Grundgens, Theo Lingen, Fritz Odemar

The shortest title on the list, and quite possibly the greatest movie ever made, is far from a cuddly story. A German city is beset by a whistling child murderer, and loses its collective mind with fear. The movie follows the town’s descent into paranoia and vengeance, hunting this faceless killer, as the police and the town’s other criminal elements concoct their own strategies to ferret him out.

The wonderfully gloomy atmosphere, highlighted by the dark, dank streets and perpetual shadows, adds to the almost unbearable tension of the pace, as society verges on collapse through mutual distrust and frustration. But then, when the plot feels like it has to spiral off in a different direction lest risk the movie boiling over, the targeted manhunt commences. Peter Lorre will never get the due he deserves as an actor, and never is he better than as the soft, baby faced killer, driven by his ugly, confused desires and desperation to escape the howling mob. Lorre would become famous stateside for his roles as weasel-y con man and lowlifes in Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and Arsenic and Old Lace, but he was capable of much more, including this almost pitiable monstrosity, Hans Beckert. Old time radio fan that I am, if you want some really great Lorre performances, seek out his Mystery in the Air anthology series from the late ’40s, sponsored by Camel cigarettes!

Many are available on YouTube, or wherever you listen to quality radio programming of seven decades ago!

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