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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Foreign > Germany > Thriller > Murder > Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ (1931/Criterion Collection Blu-ray)

Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ (1931/Criterion Collection Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: C+     Extras: B+     Film: A-



Fritz Lang was one of the most important, successful filmmakers in silent film, so when he was to make his first sound film, what would he do?  He picked the tale of a child murder and cast Peter Lorre as the killer and ‘M’ (1931) was an international hit that proved Lang’s instant mastery of sound on film.  We previously reviewed the film in an import version a while ago and you can read more about it if you are unfamiliar with it at this link:





The film has been a popular classic for nearly 80 years now and Criterion has issued it since the old 12” LaserDisc days.  Though their initial DVD version was controversial (reissued later), it was good, but this new Blu-ray is by far, the best version you are likely to ever see of the film.  Lorre became an international star and eventually horror legend thanks to this film.  It remains as suspenseful, intelligent and powerful as it ever did and the actual crime in the film is still a major problem today that has not found as much resolution as it should have by now.


When the Criterion DVD came out, it was the best copy ever issued in the U.S., but some felt some other copies (like the Eureka! DVD import another one of our writers covered at the link above) was a bit better and many film fans would get multi-region players just to have any copy of a key film elsewhere to get the best copy.  Blu-ray has killed that distinction and the Criterion Blu-ray of ‘M’ surpasses all previous DVD copies.


The 1080p 1.19 X 1 digital black and white High Definition image (bookended on the sides by black bars) was lensed by Lang’s great Director of Photography Fritz Arno Wagner and this was sadly one of their last films before WWII had both men going their separate ways.  While even the PAL import had some softness, there is no such problem throughout this amazing transfer and the booklet included explains the 35mm fine grain print from the restored camera negative was used to make a new HD master via a Spirit Datacine telecine machine.  The result includes Video Black is great, Video White in is more than good enough to join it and make this look like an actual film print, impressive shadow detail so key to a classic like this, as much detail as you could hope for from a film this age and even depth in scenes that only a good film print could equal.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 German Mono (the long lost English version of the film, is also included here) is interesting in that is may show the age of the sound source, but it is relatively the warmest, cleanest, richest version of the film’s groundbreaking sound mix you will ever hear.  It comes from original optical sound elements that survived, were restored and transferred at 24-bit digital sound while cleaned for pops and clicks.  Except for purists who might think the sound is ever so slightly compressed, it lines up with the terrific high definition picture to bring home (figuratively and literally) the look, feel and mood of the film showing what an amazing film it really is and will always be.


Extras include a booklet with tech information, illustrations, four essays (one by Lang), a Missing Scene piece and Interview with Lang, while the Blu-ray has a rich feature-length audio commentary track by critic/writer/film scholars Anton Kaes, author of the BFI Film Classics volume on M, and Eric Rentschler, author of The Ministry of Illusion: Nazi Cinema and Its Afterlife, William Friedkin’s 50-minutes-long interview with Lang, Stills gallery with behind-the-scenes photos, and production sketches by art director Emil Hasler, a documentary on the physical history of M, from production to distribution to digital restoration, Claude Chabrol’s M le Maudit, a short film inspired by M, an interview with Chabrol by Pierre-Henri Gibert about Lang’s filmmaking techniques, classroom audiotapes of editor Paul Falkenberg discussing M & its history accompanied by clips from the film and a video interview with Harold Nebenzal, the son of M producer Seymour Nebenzal.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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