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230 of 238 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Again? ...but well, I've got to buy this one...
I'm sorry for those who already own the former 1999 Criterion DVD of M (including myself, of course....) but this one is a must-buy item.

After more than 7 decades since its making, Fritz Lang's M remains a poignantly modern film; a striking portrait of the contemporary human world as we live in.

Fritz Lang, who always regarded M as his best film and...
Published on January 4, 2005 by Toshifumi Fujiwara

versus
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In all fairness to Criterion
This movie sounds VERY intriguing to me and I will probably purchase it... however, in fairness to the complaints about the Criterion transfer specifically, the lines at the top of the frame, I sent an email to Jon Mulvaney (who responds nearly immediately to ANY questions you have about Criterion releases) and I quote his reply:
"The line that you are referring...
Published on June 7, 2002


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230 of 238 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Again? ...but well, I've got to buy this one..., January 4, 2005
This review is from: M (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
I'm sorry for those who already own the former 1999 Criterion DVD of M (including myself, of course....) but this one is a must-buy item.

After more than 7 decades since its making, Fritz Lang's M remains a poignantly modern film; a striking portrait of the contemporary human world as we live in.

Fritz Lang, who always regarded M as his best film and the one by which he would be remembered, used to call it "a documentary". It is one of the first films about serial killers, and already Lang goes beyond depicting the pathology of such criminal; what M examines is the pathology of our contemporary society of urbanization, mass politics, and mass media: it's also a film about a 20th century metropolis of mass society and mass media culture.

The former Criterion DVD edition of M was made of the best available material back then-- a print restored from many different sources, re-establishing as close as possible, Lang's original release cut. It was also a good transfer for a standard, NTSC digital medium.

But what sometime happen in the world of film restoration is, some materials that have been considered to be lost are suddenly be re-discovered. This new edition of M is created (for the most parts, expect for one reel which was missing) from the original camera negative, and transferred to HD video master. The result is-more details, less scratches, finer grains, and more subtleties.

The earlier DVD was a bare one. This new edition presents Lang's portrayal of social pathology of the 30's also with an audio commentary by Anton Kaes and Eric Renteschler. Kaes's book about M published as part of BFI classics series had already revealed Lang's freighting vision, pointing out how much of M was based on real events and real details of Berlin, including some underground figures played by actual underground celebrities of Berlin. With audio commentary, his points can be more articulately appreciated.

The supplements on the second disc can be seen as a testimonies of how many filmmakers and critics regarded M as a their contemporary film, how much inspiration M has been provoking in film history. But they have seen the film in far less complete versions than we can do now; for M has constantly victim of censorships, banning, alternations and mutilations over the years. The DVD also includes that history, including the Nazis who banned the film using segments of it in a propaganda film accusing "decadent art".

Watching M again on this new DVD was again a real inspiration. Though it is an early sound film, with very limited resources compared to the modern sophisticated technologies...well, it testifies how much one can do with the medium of cinema.
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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic every film lover should see, December 1, 2000
This review is from: M (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
"M" has everything you could hope in a great film. The acting by Peter Lorre, Gustaf Gründgens, Otto Wernicke, and the rest of the cast all perfectly convey the different personalities in this complex story. The use of black & white and shadows is very moody and haunting. The use of sound is very important since it will tell you things the camera isn't showing. The camera work itself is amazing. I especially love the long shot in the beginning of the scene of the beggars are signing up to watch the streets where the camera moves back and forth, up and into a room through a window without a cut.
"M" offers so much for the viewer -- thrills, suspense, humor, terror! I enjoy it more and more with every repeated viewing. Fritz Lang does more than just give ideas on insane criminals. He compares and contrasts the police and the underworld criminal systems. You learn about the "state-of-the-art " systems of that time. And the last words harken a most important message that unfortunately is still true today. Also, if you look deeper, you can even sense Lang's anti-Nazi sentiments.
It's a Criterion Collection DVD, so I had high expectations. I was disappointed with a lack of extras, but I happily noticed scenes that weren't on my VHS version. The picture was mostly clear with white lines rarely popping up. There were long passages of no sound at times, but it's possible it's supposed to be like that. (I no longer have my VHS version to compare.) The subtitles were clear and easy to read. There's interesting details on the film in the liner notes. And not like this would influence anyone's buying decisions, but I also loved the design on the case and the disc.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In all fairness to Criterion, June 7, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: M (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
This movie sounds VERY intriguing to me and I will probably purchase it... however, in fairness to the complaints about the Criterion transfer specifically, the lines at the top of the frame, I sent an email to Jon Mulvaney (who responds nearly immediately to ANY questions you have about Criterion releases) and I quote his reply:
"The line that you are referring to was caused by the optical printer during the creation of the original film elements of M. Most video versions have cropped out the line, therefore deleting almost 25% of the picture. We choose not to, making our decision in consultation with the restoration group who did the work from original film elements in Germany. We've tried to correct the problem as much as possible, but no matter what, it can be distracting. Even Fritz Lang knew about this."
As you would expect from them, Criterion did the best they could do (as ALWAYS!).
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive considering the film's age., January 6, 2000
By 
Stephen Barbe (Raleigh, NC USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: M (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
Another reviewer here has covered the plot of the film and how good a film it is quite well, so I will concern myself with the merits of the DVD itself. The transfer is very good for a film that is nearly 70 years old. It is clear and reasonably free from defects. There is one small place in which the film appears to fold over on itself, but this lasts for only a moment. It is presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the standard at the time the film was made. The soundtrack is mono and presented entirely trough the center channel. The dialog is easily heard and understandable (if you speak German) and the subtitles are well done. The whistling of the piece from Grieg's Peer Gynt suite is a bit high and tinny at times, but that merely adds to the jarring effect that it is meant to (and does) have on the viewer. This film is a masterpiece from the earliest era of sound motion pictures, and it holds up well to this day. The presentation is not perfect, but it is pleasing and given the age of this film, I don't know that it could be done any better.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and unforgettable masterpiece., December 28, 2000
By 
David Grant (Lancaster, PA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: M (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
When sound was first introduced into film, the natural response from filmmakers was to use it as much as they possibly could. For Fritz Lang, however, it was to be used sparingly, more like punctuation then narrative. The story of 'M' should be familiar to those who have seen Spike Lee's magnificant 'Summer Of Sam'. There's a killer on the streets, kidnapping and slaying young children, and the police and the underworld of criminals have both set their sights on him. The film doesn't really concern itself with the killer, although he does have a few striking scenes (especially at the film's end where he pitifully tries to plead his case before the kangeroo court of criminals before him) but more so with the dividing line between criminals and police. Both want the killer caught for different reasons. The police want him to end the murders, the crooks want him caught so the cops will ease off their nightly patrols. The film makes these comparisons strikingly clear. It is a powerful film about desperation and fear, justice and innocence. Peter Lorre is remarkable in the role of the killer, his bug-eyed face twisting and contorting with considerable creepiness. His ending monologue is one of the greatest moments in the history of film. Fritz Lang's direction is near-perfect and again his use of sound is breathtaking. The shrill whistling of a tune has never been so frightening before. For all those interested in seeing just how great a film can be, this is one of those must-have films in your collection.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fritz Lang's Masterpiece of Suspense & Justice Restored., March 14, 2006
This review is from: M (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
Released in 1931 by independent production company Nero Films, at the height of director Fritz Lang's career in Germany, "M" was Lang's first sound film and is second in renown only to his 1927 film "Metropolis". A serial child-killer who may have abducted and murdered as many as 8 little girls is on the loose in a German city. Citizens have become cautious, paranoid, wary of innocent conversations, suspicious of strangers, and quick to accuse anyone at the slightest provocation. The police have looked under every rock, combed through every blade of grass, arrested every miscreant with no consequence except an exhausted and overworked police force. The criminal underworld, frustrated by the constant police raids and resulting loss of income, decide that the only solution is to find the killer themselves. So two simultaneous manhunts ensue, one by the police and one by the criminals.

Because this was his first "talkie", "M" was also the first film that Fritz Lang did not edit himself. Editor Paul Falkenberg does a great job of cross-cutting between the police and underworld strategy meetings and of letting Hans Beckett's pathetic speech before the kangaroo court run. The editing really makes those scenes memorable. Comparing this edit of "M" to some of the other, choppier versions that were released over the years highlights Falkenberg's good judgment. The criminals' "kangaroo court" is a powerful sight, and it gives actor Peter Lorre the opportunity to define Hans Beckett late in the film. Lang used real members of the Berlin underworld as extras and was forced to get his footage in time for them to elude the cops, who had been tipped off. The tune that Hans Beckett whistles was actually whistled by scriptwriter Thea von Harbou, Fritz Lang's wife at the time, by the way. To Lang's irritation, Peter Lorre could not whistle.

"M" is often cited as the first film in which a monstrous criminal was portrayed in a sympathetic light, as a feeling person compelled by an almost irrestible compulsion. But what Fritz Lang was trying to say in "M", if anything, has long been the subject of debate. The debate took on political significance in Nazi Germany. Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels admired "M" because it advocated the death penalty, but "M" was later used in an anti-Jewish propaganda film accusing Peter Lorre of trying to create sympathy for child-murders with his portrayal of Hans Beckman. Fritz Lang did advocate the death penalty and, in interviews, didn't seem to agree that Beckman was depicted sympathetically, so I don't think "M" was intended in the way it is often taken today. It may be unlikely that a film would be received in the spirit it was made 75 years later and several cultures apart. But today's viewers either find Hans Beckman sympathetic or they do not, just like audiences in 1931.

The DVDs (Criterion Collection 2004 2-disc set): There have been many different edits of "M" over the years, initially on account of language difficulties in distributing the film outside of Germany. This 111-minute version of the film is as close to Fritz Lang's original as we will ever get, barring the discovery of earlier prints, which editor Paul Falkenberg says contained a few more scenes. This transfer retains the film's original aspect ratio, the short-lived 1.19:1, so it is pillarboxed, meaning that there are thin black bars on the sides of the screen (the opposite of letterboxing). The print has been restored, with major flaws removed, but there are still white specks and lines in a few scenes. Sound is good. The film is in German with optional English subtitles.

All bonus features are on Disc 2: "Conversation with Fritz Lang" (48 min) is a 1975 interview filmed by director William Friedkin. Lang recalls his time in Brussels and the beginning of his film career in Vienna, 1917-1918. He talks about "Metropolis", "M", and recounts the famous story of Goebbels alleged offer that he head the German film industry and Lang's subsequent departure to Paris. "Claude Chabrol's 'M le Maudit'" (11 min) is a condensed version of "M" made for the French television program "Ciné-Parade" in 1982. A useless exercise really. "Harold Nebenzal Interview" (14 min) is an interesting 2004 conversation with the son of "M" producer Seymour Nebenzal about his family's pioneering independent film studio Nero Films and recollections of Fritz Lang. "Peter Falkenberg's Classroom Tapes" (35 min) are excerpts of Falkenberg's lectures about "M" at The New School University in New York, 1976-1977. He talks about filming and editing "M" as we watch the first half-hour of the film, taking questions from students, and then it jumps to the final scene. "A Physical History of M" (25 min) is about the restoration and all the "chopping, splicing, and reworking" that created so many different versions of the film since 1931. We see examples of those versions that sometimes called for re-shoots and dubbing as well as re-editing. "Stills Gallery" includes production stills, behind-the-scenes photos, and production sketches by art director Emil Hasler. English subtitles for the film clips are optional.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb restoration of a great film, December 11, 2004
By 
W. Levine (Evanston, IL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: M (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
I have always had the greatest respect for this film, ever since I first saw it in a blurry print almost 30 years ago. I've acquired no less than four versions over the years: an early VHS dub, the much better Janus Collection VHS version, the still better first Criterion version, and now this one. I have to say that this new version is a tremendous accomplishment. M was a very early sound film, and was shot in a peculiar, almost square, non-standard aspect ratio, and every version prior to this one had technical problems dealing with it, as I understand it, to some extent because many of the existing prints chopped of the top of the frame. This restoration is presented exactly as it was filmed, and it is breathtaking. Lang made great use of every bit of the frame, which can be appreciated now like never before.

While they were at it, the restorers did amazing things with the soundtrack. It is vastly clearer. If you understand German, you will hear things you never heard before, and if you don't, you still benefit from the improved subtitling (the subtitlers heard things they hadn't heard before, too).

If you have the previous Criterion version, don't hesitate for a second to acquire this one as well. It is a revelation.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsurpassed Lang picture, December 8, 1999
This review is from: M (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
'M' was a film that was as beyond its time as it was enigmatic in title. Who could have imagined that 1931 audiences would have been able to stomach witnessing the harrowing descent in the fortunes of a Berlin paedophile-homicide? The answer to that could well lie in Peter Lorre alone. The instant he is shown, he clicks in our minds as the template for any pervert-sociopath conjurable by any society. He is as pathetic as he is depraved, the near-two hour run of the film lending tremendous scope to the spiralling crash course he is on. Stripping away the heavy warning overtones inherent to 'M', the viewer is really left to gape at a horrific piece while feeling sprawled, reeling from an almost self-negating mix of want for Lorre's destruction and the dread of capture to be found in any set of chase sequences. The suspense surmounts as the minutes wear by, begetting terror that is just too great to abstract from and contemplate. The viewer is also left in a confused state because there is no protagonist body at all to identify with, only a bruised satisfaction of evil quashed by an unknowing coalition of societal elements being there to fill the emotional void. There are but four players in this work: the Molestor, the Mob, the Law and the Victims, each one turning like a set of gear-wheels in a machine, but all at the same desperate, frenetic rate. The pervert's capture and Mob trial are particularly intense areas of the story (this is a part Lorre was created by God to play), the overpowering sense of dread conveyed by the deluge of realism Lang's camera injects. Still, the Mob itself is a phenomenon. These are REAL gangsters whom Lang utilised to maximise effect and some of whom were arrested in real life during filming. The mob trial they facilitate is too real to watch, too demanding on the senses to appreciate as being merely an essential portion of the film. Peter Lorre is a wounded, thrashing wolf one moment and a gibbering tangle of Freudian/Durkheimian/Jungian cables the next.'M' is a documentary-film, not the other way round. As for the product itself: the print is as good as any from the early Thirties. Several versions of the 1931 'M' are in circulation and I don't think that this is the longest (try Eureka videos in the UK). Given the merits of the work it contains, the price is fair. This is really a more unsung hero in the Lang celluloid vault. It's interesting to note that the 1951 French remake, while capable of holding water as a film in its own right, just can't hold a candle to the shock-value of this. This was Fritz Lang as Christopher Columbus, discovering a territory in film that was not only unknown before but also forbidden.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is the very model of a modern police procedural!, January 22, 2007
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This review is from: M (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
"Who knows what it's like to be me?"

An anguished cry from a tortured man, one that can't help elicit sympathy, despite the fact that the man in question in a serial killer.

"M" is a revolutionary, incredible movie in many ways. It began the career of Peter Lorre. It was the last gasp of German Expressionism before the Nazi takeover. It is, in many ways, Frtiz Lang's best film. It's haunting, moving and memorable like few other movies ever are.

Many people today forget what a major impact German cinema had on the development of movies. Starting with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Special Collector's Edition) in 1920, and moving up through movies by greats like F W Murnau (Nosferatu, Faust, Sunrise - A Song of Two Humans) and Fritz Lang (Metropolis (Restored Authorized Edition), The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse - Criterion Collection), Germany manged to put forth some of the best, most amazing images ever projected up onto a screen. Who can forget the arrival of the plague ship in "Nosferatu", or Rotwang's robot in "Metropolis"? These images are iconic in our society, a fact made all the more interesting when you consider that not long after "M" another German would make the Swastika a very memorable and iconic image.

"M" tells the story of a serial killer who preys on children. We see him meeting a young girl as she goes home from school. We see him buying her a balloon. We see her mother wondering why she isn't home and calling out her name as the camera focuses on the pathetic place setting for a lunch the girl will never eat. We see her ball rolling away into the dirt near some bushes. We see her balloon rise up into the telephone wires.

As the populace gets more and more concerned about these killings, the Berlin police get more and more frustrated, as does the criminal element. Sales of their various wares are down. Business is hurting. They resent being lumped in together with this child murder and even consider taking out an add in the papers to say that he isn't one of them.

Eventually the criminals decide to act and begin to hunt for the killer themselves. What happens after they catch him is something that needs to be seen to be believed, as a kangaroo court of crimal masterminds puts the killer on trial, saying that many of them are quite well informed of the way the legal system works.

"M" can be viewed as the start of two major genres; film noir and police procedural. Much like in The Silence of the Lambs (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) and The Fugitive, you see the slow, steady process the police use as they try to track down a killer before he strikes again. And the film's status as the earliest form of noir is obvious to anyone who has ever seen any movie in that particular genre.

"M" is at times a hard movie to watch. You will find yourself feeling sympathy for Peter Lorre's character, vile though he is. His performance occupies maybe 20 minutes of screen time, but was so memorable that it resulted in him being typecast for the rest of his career. Given how good he was in those roles, maybe we should be thankful for that.

"M" was released on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection. The two-disc set can be bought for a surprisingly reasonable price on Amazon.com and is well worth purchasing, if for no other reason than the fact that you're not likely to find it in your local Blockbuster (though you can get a basic copy from Netflix). It includes many extras. The German dialogue with English subtitles may turn off some poeple, but it frankly adds an air to the film that dubbing would miss.

To conclude: If you're a fan of movies like this, or just enjoy a good film, I highly recommend you make time for "M".
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion offers best print yet, March 26, 2005
By 
Marc A. Coignard (Denver, CO United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: M (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
This is more a review for the justice Criterion has done for Frtitz Lang's 1931 criminal masterpiece than it is a review of the film. Chances are if you're reading this review, your already have an interest in this film and have heard of how incredible it is, so therefore an in depth study of it from some amateur film buff like me will do you little or no good. Just see it and you'll know all you need to know about what makes it an unmistakebale clasic.

My hat goes off (if I wore one) to the Criterion Collection, who have released an amazing print of this movie. Not only are the German subtitles more involving and in depth, making the story easier to follow and all the expressions easier to understand, but the actual footage you see is so clear it is hard to believe this film is over 70 years old! Even Kurosawa's IKIRU from the 1950s doesn't have such a high quality print available! I've watched this film for several years (almost 10 now--since I was a teenager) and every time I see a new version of it, from video to DVD, it gets better and better. The version Criterion presents is easily the longest of them all, and following the feature a breif description of the restoration and the time is presented just so you realise you've seen as close to the original film as you possibly can. The other versions of this movie that I've seen were all shabby, at best. I remember in 98 or 99, a video was released of the film that at the time was one of the most complete available, including the short finale just after the criminal kangaroo court scene, which had been deleted for many years. Not only is that scene included in this DVD, but it is presented much more clearly, with much a better translation available. Before, I'd thought that extra scene felt out of place, and now I know why; it hadn't been handled properly. Thanks to Criterion's amazing job completing this classic, its being shown that way it should be.
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M (The Criterion Collection)
M (The Criterion Collection) by Fritz Lang (DVD - 1998)
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