#388- M

Quick recap: A child murderer is on the loose and everyone wants to see him caught: parents, the police and especially the criminals, whose good name is being ruined.

Fun (?) fact: Several groundbreaking techniques debuted in M, like voice-over narration and a musical theme to signify a character.

Bonus fact: Director Fritz Lang hired real criminals for the criminal court scene and several were later arrested.

Thoughts and Observations:

So, M was not the movie I expected at all. Not that I expected much because all I knew before watching it was that it was German and made in the early 30s. I pictured a mix of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Jazz Singer. Boy, was my face red when the very first scene was of a group of children singing a song about a murderer butchering them to bits! I still wasn’t quite sure what I had gotten myself into until a few scenes later when the little girl’s body has been dumped in a clearing and the camera focuses on her balloon, no longer tethered, drifting into wires above.

like most things made for children back then, this balloon is a whole other level of creepy

I would be simplifying things too much by calling M a ‘murder mystery’. Yes, murder takes place but Fritz Lang not only wanted to show how different sides were impacted but to get the audience to empathize with each one:

The parents: the first scene of a mother lovingly making lunch while waiting for her child to arrive home from school (which never happened) was especially heartbreaking to watch.

The citizens: The entire town was in a frenzy and willing to suspect literally anyone talking to a child but at the same time, they were dealing with a serial killer who left zero clues.

The police: It’s always fascinating to learn how police solved crimes before DNA matching. In this case, they had one fingerprint and……that’s about it. And the longer it took to catch the murderer, the greater change the city would lose their collective mind and more children would be killed.

The criminal underworld: Did NOT see this one coming but it makes sense. The police began raiding bars every night and rounding up anyone without papers because they had nothing else to go on. As a result, the criminals weren’t able to do their various illegal activities- plus, they are pickpockets not child killers.

and finally, the murderer himself, a former asylum patient released as cured but very much still sick. Played perfectly by Peter Lorre ( a little too perfectly because he had trouble shaking the role even years later), the murderer is so very creepy as he whistles ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’. But I couldn’t help but have sympathy for him as he tried to outrun the mob. His most powerful scene comes during the ‘trial’ with the criminal underworld as he begs for mercy because he couldn’t help himself. And as disgusted as I was by his actions, I believed him. In the final few minutes of the film, the police arrive and arrest him before mob justice is carried out. He gets the treatment he needs but the parents are left asking if justice was really served. It’s a question we still ask to this day without any clear answer.

Watchability score: 5/5

Up next: Gabbeh

#384-The Naked Gun

Quick recap: Detective Frank Derbin is on the case to catch the person trying to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II.

Fun (?) fact: Queen Elizabeth II did attend a real baseball game years later and thankfully was not assassinated.

Thoughts and observations:

What a true delight! This was my first time watching a Leslie Nielsen film ( I KNOW! Not even Airplane) and I can’t wait to watch more because this kind of humor is right up my alley. It reminded me of doing art projects as a kid- you throw glitter on everything and shake off the excess to reveal something truly beautiful. That’s Nielson in this film- throwing all the jokes and puns and visual comedy he can into every scene and the audience will pick something to love. It goes without saying but there were so many gags and one-liners I missed because I was focusing on some other joke. There isn’t much of a plot here but there doesn’t need to be. As is usually the tradition with comedy films I review, here is a list of some of my favorite scenes and jokes:

  • The first scene as the cop car light goes into the home and eventually on a roller coaster

 

  • The student driver scene

 

  • ‘Anyone catch the license plate?’ after Derbin’s own car drives away without him and causes a lot of damage

 

  •  The sex scene between Derbin and Jane Spencer

  • The baseball montage

Watchability rating: 5/5

Up next: Sabotage

 

#372- Beauty and the Beast

Quick recap: Stockholm Syndrome is alive and well in this classic fairy tale of a Beauty being made to fall in love with a Beast.

me, knowing that Monday is just around the corner

Fun (?) fact: Many, many people preferred the Beast to his alter-ego prince that he transforms into at the end of the film. Upon viewing this movie, actress Greta Garbo is said to have screamed, ‘ Give me back my beast!’

Now he’s just another white guy!

My thoughts: Of all the Disney princesses, I think Belle is my favorite. It used to be Ariel but at some point I realized how very stupid she is and so she was eliminated from the ranking. Sorry, 5 Year Old Me. This version of Beauty and the Beast is not sanitized like the cartoon version but there are still many similarities between the two. In fact, Walt Disney wanted to do a cartoon version of the fairy tale back in the 40s but once he saw this film he thought it would be pointless. When the animated feature was released in the early 90s it had several homages to this version, like the castle design and the magical items.

I wasn’t all that impressed with this movie right after watching it because it just seemed like yet another fairy tale brought to life. But, some of the scenes have really stuck with me, almost to the point of wanting to rewatch because I think I missed so much the first time. For one thing, there is a wonderful horror element I didn’t know existed but it totally fits. All of the candles in the castle are held up by torsos and arms and the statues have eyes that blink and follow Belle but they never talk or interact with her in any other way. When she arrives to take her father’s place, I love how she glides down the corridor, mist billowing around her and blowing the curtains. And then there is this sexual element that I completely missed. As the Beast falls for Belle, his hands start smoking when she is near. He is literally hot for her. And there is a bunch of symbolism about him giving her his ‘key’ to his ‘treasure’ which just went over my head completely. Put it all together, though, and you get this fairy tale that has so much more depth than I gave it credit for at first. There are a few nit-picky things about the plot that confuses me, such as why it was so easy for Belle to break her promise to the Beast when she knew how evil her sisters were. But every story has its holes so I’ll just let it be for once and  enjoy a good tale.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Judge Priest

 

#371- Bringing Up Baby

Quick recap: A woman with a pet leopard forces a hapless scientist to fall in love with her. Congrats?

It happens to the best of us

Fun (?) fact: Bringing Up Baby was considered a commercial failure at the time. It was so bad director Howard Hawks was fired from RKO Pictures and Katherine Hepburn was considered ‘box office poison’.

All cats interrupt phone calls, no matter how big or small they are

My thoughts: Bringing Up Baby is the original ‘screwball comedy’ because literally everyone is insaneHoward Hawks, in discussing why the film did so poorly, hypothesized it was because there’s no straight man to calm things down. Everyone, from the constable, to the housekeeper and to the main characters has their own ridiculous personality. Susan, played by Hepburn, exists as pure chaotic energy. She’s the first Manic Pixie Dream Girl! Everything she does sets off consequences (usually negative) to those around her, especially David, whose only fault is that he engaged with her. After that, it was all over. From what I’ve seen, it’s this frenetic pace that also helped turned audiences off. It was too witty, there were too many jokes being thrown around and too many characters who needed the spotlight. I’ve seen all sorts of comedies and this movie was ridiculously fast even for me.

But I still loved it. The main draw for me is the attraction Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn had. They were perfect to play opposite each other. Grant was a seasoned Vaudeville actor so slapstick comedy was nothing new for him, but Hepburn had never done anything quite like this. I think what makes her so successful is that she truly enjoyed herself. You can see how much fun she is having causing all this trouble and seems perfectly at ease in front of the camera. It’s hard not to fall in love with her. I enjoyed all of the acting, really, because in this movie, there was no such thing as over the top. And of course the leopard was just icing on the cake. I was worried he would be used to do tricks and would be seen throughout the whole film, but that wasn’t the case. He’s integral to the plot but he really isn’t shown all that much.

Despite how well Susan and David worked together, their romance made me all sorts of uncomfortable. I know that’s the joke but she really did ruin so much of his life in 24 hours, including the final scene when she destroys his life’s work in a matter of seconds. Still, he tells her that their time spent together was the happiest in his life so far so maybe this will be the beginning of changes for him. One can only hope.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Beauty and the Beast