Otto Wernicke

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M Review


Essential
Critic David Thomson called him "the squat, wild-eyed spirit of ruined Europe, shyly prowling in and out of Warner Brothers shadows, muttering fiercely to himself." The Peter Lorre thus described was the Hollywood character actor familiar to Americans for his buggy looks of astonishment and his singular, rasping speech. But the wild-eyed spirit Thomson writes of first exhibited itself in Germany, before Lorre and director Fritz Lang fled that country's Nazis, in the 1931 Lang masterpiece M.

The "M" stands for "murderer" in either language, and the film is loosely based on the actual case of a Düsseldorf child killer named Peter Kurten. (His name was later borrowed for Copycat.) The plot of M echoes the fascination with shadowy syndicates and underworld figures that Lang exhibited in earlier films such as the Dr. Mabuse pieces and Spies: When a police dragnet for the child murderer upsets normal criminal activities, the criminals themselves organize and track the suspect down, labeling him, without his being aware of it, with a chalk "M" on the back of his coat.

Continue reading: M Review

The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse Review


Good
Fritz Lang's The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is the second of the director's three films featuring the popular criminal mastermind and hypnotist. And like its predecessor (Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler), Testament has profound historical significance for students of Lang's work and German history. But where Lang's first Mabuse film screams Weimar decadence and cinematic expressionism, Testament answers with resigned prescience about the coming of National Socialism.

Testament was the last film Lang made before the expanding Nazi regime forced him to flee Germany, bringing to a close the most creatively productive phase of his career. Lang's escape to America, and Nazi censors' decision to ban the film as a "threat to law and order and public safety," make it a milestone of art at odds with the ideology of the regime.

Continue reading: The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse Review

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