M / Brand-New DCP Restoration!

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Grieg’s “The Hall of the Mountain King,” from Peer Gynt, is whistled off-screen, little girls disappear, and both polizei and the underwent (that is, cops and crooks) start separate manhunts for the child-molesting murderer. The cinema’s first serial killer story and still perhaps the most terrifying, German auteur Fritz Lang’s first sound film — and his own personal favorite (“I prefer M,” he boldly declared in Godard’s Contempt) — paved the way for decades of horror films to come. Upon first release, it also met Nazi resistance under its original title, Murderers Among Us, until Lang informed them it was based on the real-life Düsseldorf murderer Peter Kürten — and not them. Erstwhile Brecht regular and future Hollywood character actor extraordinaire Peter Lorre became world-famous overnight as the squealing, pathetically helpless murderer, despite his own inability to whistle (the dubbing was by Lang himself). Innovative in its use of sound and image juxtapositions, as well as its ultimately sympathetic portrait (“I can’t help myself!”) of a sexual psychopath, M proved on its original release too rich for the blood of the New York Times critic, who squeamishly complained, “More horrible than anything that has so far come to the screen … too hideous to contemplate.” Despite its world-classic status, M has been all too often seen through the years in multi-generational dupe prints, generally missing the final scene and frustratingly under-subtitled in typical early- 30s style. This stunning new version includes new English subtitles and footage missing from earlier restorations, making this the most complete version of this classic thriller to appear onscreen since its original release over 80 years ago. (Dir. by Fritz Lang, 1931, Germany, in German with subtitles, 111 mins., Not Rated) Digital