Co-Writer/Director: Fritz Lang
Running time: 117 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): PG
Sweden Release date: 31st August 1931
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 10th September 2011.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
This is an early German film (with subtitles for those that fear them) about a child molester and murderer. It’s quite an interesting film that slowly draws you in and before you know it, you’re hooked. Fritz Lang had great vision in his earlier works, particularly in Metropolis made just four years earlier and it really shows in this early ‘talkie’. I’ll give you my thoughts after this very brief summary.
A child murderer is about and he’s taunting the police by writing to the newspapers. The whole neighbourhood is up in arms about it and the police are leaving no stone uncovered in order to find the culprit. This, unfortunately, comes at a price, a price the local crime bosses aren’t prepared to pay. To this end they get together and enlist the help of the local beggars to keep an eye on the children. This pays off and they are soon on the trail of one Hans Beckert, who they trap in an office building. At the same time the police also have a line on Herr Beckert and are closing in on the same target. Who will get to him first? I had better not say any more or the Interpol branch of the Spoiler Police will be after me as well.
For its day this is an exceptionally well made film with a lot of techniques that are still used today. There are good performances all round, but head and shoulders above the rest was Peter Lorre as Hans Beckert, he definitely had star quality.
One thing I did miss about this one was that there is no incidental music, in fact, no orchestral score at all. This leads to a very stark effect that can make it all sound a little bit strange. I did also find it a little long as a consequence; with no music to break it up we have to rely solely on the visuals. Don’t get me wrong, the visuals are great for the most part, but it’s a tough act to hold the attention of the audience. I enjoyed this film though; it has some quality about it that keeps you watching… Recommended.
My Score: 8.3/10.
IMDb Score: 8.6/10 (based on 47,551 votes at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100/100 (based on 40 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Hans Beckert: I can't help what I do! I can't help it, I can't...
Criminal: The old story! We never can help it in court!
Hans Beckert: What do you know about it? Who are you anyway? Who are you? Criminals? Are you proud of yourselves? Proud of breaking safes or cheating at cards? Things you could just as well keep your fingers off. You wouldn't need to do all that if you'd learn a proper trade or if you'd work. If you weren't a bunch of lazy bastards. But I... I can't help myself! I have no control over this, this evil thing inside of me, the fire, the voices, the torment!