It is hard to imagine what cinema might be without the German expressionist movement of the 1920's. Visionaries such as Lang and Murnau who pushed the boundaries of the format, painted the screen with vivid portraits and drove a story forward with compelling and spellbinding images. They set many 'standards' that are adhered to today, not only of the horror genre but of film itself, such as frame compositions or camera movements and direction. They also knew how to tell a story and were not afraid to shy away from a subject. Take for example a story of a child murderer. Even now, such a story provokes emotion. Add to that a prevailing sense of unease and a killer that expresses no remorse, nor ends on a happy note. Imagine such a film now. Would it even be made?
Well made it was, in 1931, by Fritz Lang, and called simply, M. In a year that brought us such fantastical horror delights such as Frankenstein, Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from Hollywood, Lang, still in...[Read the complete movie review]
Brought to life with a Region locked B, original aspect ration of 1.19:1, 1080p/24fps using the AVC Mpeg 4 encode. Being locked to B usually means that the print has been licenced by Eureka and not restored by them, and it shows, whilst not being bad by any means it is nevertheless not as bright or as engaging as City Girl. What we do have is a ninety year old film that has been incredibly well cleaned up but still shows is age. The image is crisp and there is decent detail to be seen, whether that is skin, clothing or set design. Look at the various posters, or the map used by the criminals, look also at all the contraband seized by the police in the midnight gin raid, bags of detail here. Brightness and contrast show decent enough grading and the greyscale is good, but there is never any true black which tends to shorten the frame somewhat, there is, however, some shadow detail to be seen.
The print retains some grain, which is good but does contain the odd mark, blemish and tram line; these are not enough to distracting, mind you, rather they bring a kind of presence to watching a 'film'. Brightness fluctuations tend to show up occasionally too, but there is no shimmer or frame movement. In all this is a fine representative of how to restore an aging film and it is streaks ahead of any DVD version, even the 2004 Criterion. If City Girl hadn't been so good I might have lent more towards reference, as is it the picture gains an 8 from me.
Picture score : 8
Only the one German DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo track for the main feature, which, like the picture does show its age a little. The track is somewhat thin and tinny in places, voices having little depth to them. Effects are good and sharp when needed and the silences, which are meant to be there, are suitably eerie. Unfortunately it does have an underscore of hiss and crackle that is heard below everything, excepting the silences. Whilst it could be argued that this adds to the atmosphere of the piece, and indeed it does, when turned up it does become quite noticeable.
Sound score : 6
- Audio Commentaries
The first is by German film scholars Anton Kaes and Eric Rentschler and was first recorded for the Criterion release back in 2004. What these two don't know about Lang, this film and the era it was made is simply not worth knowing. Information can come thick and fast, each bringing their own particular knowledge to the chat. There is a decent enough rapport, but can seem a little dry in places and does occasionally contain the odd pause, but will take at least two intent listens to fully absorb all the information given.
The second features film restoration expert Martin Koeber, filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, historian Torsten Kaiser and includes excerpts from Bogdanovich's 1965 interview with Lang; it was first recorded for the 2003 Eureka DVD release. Again plenty of detail to be found here with plenty of background material regarding the film and the restoration process. When you take a look at the English dub below you get to know exactly how bad this print was before all the work was done. The parts with Lang himself are difficult to understand due to the recorded nature, but are nevertheless pertinent to the scene they accompany.
- British Version of M
Recently discovered and in a woeful state we have the English dub of this famous film, with newly shot scenes with different actors and Lorre speaking his part in English. This print is a 1080p upscale and runs at 93 minutes. Very interesting to see and have a laugh at some of the accents given to the criminals!
- Zum Beispiel Fritz Lang - 21 mins
The interview with Lang conducted by Erwin Leiser seen on previous DVD editions; has Lang walking about while being interviewed about his early filmmaking in Germany. A deal is spent on how he got into the business and ends on his discussions with the Nazi regime, specifically Josef Goebbels, and how he ran from the country rather than be part of the propaganda machine.
- 48 Page Booklet
In what is becoming standard for Masters of Cinema releases, a short book with various essays about the production of the film, including information of the 'missing scene', behind the scenes pictures and drawing. Thoroughly entertaining read giving up even more information about this classic of cinema.
Considering the wealth of extra material available for this film, what we have here is a rather merge effort. It's possible that copyright played a part in the lack of extras since Eureka themselves has provided plenty of other material on earlier releases. A shame as this is the definitive picture and sound, it would have been great if this was the definitive extras package also.
Extras score : 7
It should come as no surprise that I whole heartedly recommend M as compulsory viewing. It is a lesson in film making from a master of the form. The story is one of pure terror and it is told through a medium that grips you and refuses to let go. The fact that there is no salvation and ultimately no 'ending' leaves you with the distinct feeling of unease; how many modern films can claim that? With innovative techniques, a powerhouse performance from its cast and a truly horrific premise, M cannot be ignored and is rightly deemed a classic of cinema.
As a Blu-ray package Eureka has provided a terrific (considering its age) image with sound that matches the visuals. Whilst the extras package is not as extensive as it could have been the inclusion of the English dub is nevertheless a coup while the rest is well worth listening to. But having M on Blu-ray far outweighs any shortcomings in this area.
Just you wait, it won't be long. The man in black will soon be here. With his cleaver's blade so true. He'll make mincemeat out of YOU!
Overall score : 8
1,047 word review written by Simon Crust.
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