M

M
(1931)

Rating: ******
              5/6

Directed by Fritz Lang
Starring Peter Lorre

M is an old horror film,
From 1931.
The filmmakers used the scariest topic
That they could have done.

Fritz Lang is the director
Of this controversial film.
He filmed it while still in Germany,
And he was at the helm.

The main antagonist is played by
A young Peter Lorre,
A man who had not long before
Earned his psychology degree.

His knowledge of mental illnesses
Helps better his performance,
Though you won’t think that he’s acting,
Since his skill is so enormous.

The film starts with a little girl
Playing by herself.
From offscreen and behind her,
A man starts whistling to himself.

The tune he chose is haunting,
A short piece from Peer Gynt.
It begins to set the mood
For his character a hint.

You see part of his coat,
But his face is still out of sight.
The camera frame is centered on
The little girl’s height.

“What a pretty ball,” he calmly states,
As a way of introduction.
He asks her name and other things
Before beginning her abduction.

In the next scene all we see of her
Is her pretty little ball.
It’s in the middle of nowhere in a farmer’s field,
And the girl is not seen at all.

There are no buildings near that field,
Nor a single human being.
If a child needed help here,
No one would hear her scream.

The newspapers report this murder,
But also many more.
All of Germany’s in a panic.
Their children aren’t safe anymore.

The people get suspicious.
They don’t trust their fellow man.
The women guard their children,
All on alert for any strange man.

The police keep getting phone calls.
They’re all false accusations.
The people are getting paranoid,
Despite their protestations.

This can’t go on for much longer.
The masses are living in fear.
They might be roused to action
If a suspect doesn’t near.

The Underworld is having problems
Of a very similar kind.
The People have been whispering about them,
As if they’re the masterminds.

Now it’s true that they’ve been known
To engage in prostitution,
And gambling, and robbery,
And, if pressured, restitution,

But kidnapping and killing kids
Is not what they’re about.
That’s the kind of reputation
They can certainly do without.

They thus decide to use their men
To try and find the slayer.
Like the police, they want him now.
They want him in a chair.

The judge’s chair is electrified.
Theirs would be subdued.
After they affix on him
Some cement overshoes.

The search begins. Two groups look hard,
Around and through and under.
They’re technically working together,
Though they oft oppose each other.

The Mob finds him first. He’s peeling an orange
With the knife that he uses to kill.
A cute little girl is with him.
His watcher grows determination and will.

With a piece of chalk from his pocket,
The man who found him wrote
The letter M on his hand
And marks the killer’s coat.

Then he spreads the word,
And gathers a large group of fellows
Who slowly start following the murderer,
Silently. Nobody bellows.

The killer is oblivious
To the approaching army of men,
Till eventually he notices
That his coat has been marked with an M.

Then he leaves the girl and runs,
With the goons in hot pursuit.
You can see the panic in his face,
Once he sees the M on his suit.

He’s quickly caught, and they lead him down
Into some building’s basement.
The men are unsympathetic
To their captive’s new abasement.

“Animals!” he screams at them,
Though he knows it will do no good.
He knew that once he was captured,
Someone would place on his head a hood.

For some strange reason, the Underground
Gives this man a trial.
It’s biased and he cannot win,
But they let it play out a while.

They give him an ersatz criminal lawyer
To play the Devil’s Advocate.
In fairness, he makes a good defense,
But it doesn’t matter a bit.

The accused can see the hate-filled faces
He will never be able to stare down.
He sees not a single welcoming look,
Just anger, hate and frowns.

He tries to plead for mercy,
Saying he has urges he can’t control.
The prosecution brings the women out,
Filling the parents’ role.

“What about the mothers?” they ask,
Words that should end the trial right there.
No one has an argument for that,
And the killer knows that his end is near.

What no one at the trial knows
Is that one of their gang—a thief—
Was captured by the lawmen
And is telling all to the police.

When the policemen hear that the Underground
Has captured the child murderer,
They run like mad to get there first,
Before they commit another murder.

The authorities need to find this man.
The masses need to be assured
That the Law has prevailed yet again,
By having captured this man, for sure.

The trial over, they all close in.
The antagonist is doomed.
His lynching will be brutal.
He’ll receive no reprieve from these goons.

Just in time, the cops show up
To rescue this unworthy,
Worthless piece of human trash
—An act that’s quite newsworthy.

We next see part of another trial,
The really big one that most matters,
But the camera pans to the women who lost what they loved.
Their lives are now in tatters.

“What about the mothers?” they ask.
“What about the mothers?”
They will have to share the suffering
Of countless weeping mothers.

Justice will no more lighten their grief
Than a piece of the finishing cord.
A hanging, rotting criminal
Is too little reward.

Nonetheless, such evil acts
Can never go unpunished.
They’ll hang the monster legally,
Though his legacy leaves the area punished.

The only solution this movie offers
Is not to trust the ruling class for protection,
But rather to keep a better watch over your kids,
Because you are their best protection.

This movie is gloomy and this movie is dark,
But well-crafted and well executed.
Mr. Lorre’s performance is fluid and stark.
For this role, he is perfectly suited.

He’s repulsive and weak,
Yet commands sympathy in his plight.
It’s a difficult performance to do with success.
His character’s comparable to Walter White.

Both these characters are horrible,
Selfish, evil people,
Played by actors so great and capable
The audience would swear that they are real.

It’s a fascinating movie,
That keeps me quite transfixed.
The subject is always current.
I’m giving it a five out of six.

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