#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

#385- Sabotage

Quick recap: A movie theater owner somehow gets involved with a terrorist group who want to SABOTAGE London. His wife and her little brother get dragged into the mess as well, which is usually how these things go.

The opening scene is a ‘Webster’s dictionary defines…’ trope

Fun (?) fact: Sabotage is not to be confused with the title ‘The Secret Agent’, the book the film is based off of. And also not to be confused with The Secret Agent, also directed by Alfred Hitchcock the same year but about something completely different.

Not many dames in this movie and only one spinning newspaper

Thoughts and observations:

This feels like my millionth Hitchcock film and although there were several director tropes I recognized, Sabotage still feels novel. I think what sold me is that the audience knows who the bad guys are from the very beginning so the tension comes from finding out when they will get their comeuppance. I really enjoyed the characters although I never really understood the relationship between Mrs. and Mr. Karl Verloc. They were married, obviously, but the two didn’t seem to match at all. Plus, there’s the dirty business of not knowing that her husband was a wannabe terrorist.

The best part of Sabotage is how dark it goes for a movie made in the 1930s. SPOILERS AHEAD. YOUVE BEEN WARNED.

I connected with Stevie, the little brother, early on in the film and appreciated how he could bring light into some really dark scenes. When Verloc told him to drop off the film canisters (along with the bomb) at Piccadilly Circus, I wasn’t worried because Hitchcock is known for building suspense. I actually just assumed that the bomb would be a dud so I audibly gasped when it went off and blew the bus up (along with Stevie). Hitchcock said he regretting killing a character the audience had learned to sympathize with and promised to never to do it again. Until Psycho, that is.  It’s a dirty trick but really effective.

The end of the movie was also a whirlwind that I’ll keep from spoiling except to say that although there is a resolution, people were still killed and harm was done. I appreciate when the main characters don’t live happily ever after but are instead left to pick up the pieces.

Watchability score: 4/5

Up next: Alice

 

#375- The Ear

Quick recap: A Czechoslovakian couple finds their house bugged by the Communist party and they fear Ludvik, the husband, is about to be taken away.

No matter who is after you, there is ALWAYS time to pose

Fun (?)fact: You’d better believe this film was banned! 20 years actually, not seeing the light of day until 1989.

maybe it was censorship and maybe it was because the world wasn’t ready for newspaper hats

Thoughts and Observations: 

  • This movie was as if someone watched Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and said, ‘ This is fun, but what if we added Communists?’
  • But unlike that film, the couple in The Ear didn’t seem believable as a real couple and there were way too many mood swings to keep up with
  • On the other hand, their house really was bugged with listening devices which would add stress on any marriage
  • My favorite aspects of the film were the flashback scenes as Ludvik recalls every conversation he had, looking for clues that they are on to him. A simple question from a friend takes on an ominous tone and everyone seems in on the deception. But are they really?
  • Although listening devices were found, the end of the film has Ludvik being offered a promotion so I guess that’s a happy ending? It sure didn’t seem like it was.
  • And I still wonder if Ludvik was actually working against his party or if he was just really paranoid? He burned a lot of documents but he didn’t seem to know if they were incriminating.

Final review: 2/5. I liked the tension build up but there was so much talking and fighting that the action took a backseat and I became bored.

Up next:

Earth

#357- Goldfinger

Quick recap:   Goldfinger! He’s the guy who loves that gold! Goldfinger! He makes James Bond wear a duck on his head! Goldfinger! There’s actually someone named Pussy Galore!  Goldfinger! Nothing makes sense!

Fun (?) fact: Sean Connery wore a toupee as James Bond since he started going bald at 21

Ewan McGregor and Sean Connery are the only men allowed to wear this.

My thoughts: This is only my second James Bond film, after watching Spectre in 2015 (I KNOW). Now I can compare that first experience to arguably the best of all Bond films, Goldfinger. 

The very first scene is of a duck floating in a bay and I thought a very nice calming moment before all the mayhem. But then Sean Connery as James Bond emerges from the water and it turns out to have been a disguise! What a twist and I’m only 3 minutes into the movie! Let me tell you, it was a rollercoaster from then until the closing credits. Everything was over the top ridiculous, but only in the best possible way. I’m not even going to pretend that the plot made sense to me but I don’t think it matters because we are all in it for Bond. The audience wants him to win even if we don’t quite understand the gravity of the threat. Goldfinger was such an interesting villain because he was so obvious about his love for gold but also he apparently went to great lengths to show off how dastardly he was. I absolutely loved the scene where he gets all the crime bosses from the major cities and shows off his master plan to rob Fort Knox. How much time do you think went into building that room and the very detailed model and then turning it into a gas chamber?? Say what you will, but Goldfinger really cares about those little touches. He’s like the Martha Stewart of villains.

I’ve never been one for hunky guys like Channing Tatum or various Hemsworths and I figured Sean Connery as Bond, James Bond would fall into that category as well. As a progressive woman it annoyed me that he wanted to make out with literally every woman but also, I totally would’ve made out with him on the spot. He’s one of those jerks that just has to smile and it’s all over. I can’t imagine anyone ever coming close to this level of hotness and I can say that as an expert now, having watched a total of two Bond films.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: La Dolce Vita