M by Fritz Lang, 1931

Sugar City (19 Wadsworth St)

8pm, Monday January 25

FREE (including free popcorn!)

It’s time for another FREE film screening at Sugar City, Buffalo’s favorite all-ages multi-use funplex!

Come on out for a rare screening of the classic German expressionist crime-thriller M, directed by Fritz Lang in 1931 and starring Peter Lorre. What better way to slaughter your winter blues than to sit back and enjoy the great Peter Lorre give a deliciously psychotic performance playing one of the great nutso serial killers in film history? (This is the role that typecast him as a bloodthirsty madman for the rest of his life, and brother, does he ever earn it. Seriously, next to “crazy” in the dictionary, there is a picture of this guy’s bugged-out eyes and sweat-drenched forehead.)

So stop in, sit back, get toasty, enjoy some free popcorn, maybe even make some new friends, and enjoy this wigged-out cinema classic from 1930s Germany, where artists really knew how to do crazy.

A little more about the film:

Unlike a lot of early film classics, aside from being one of the most important films of all time, Fritz Lang’s M (1931) is also tons of fun. M creates the template for the modern serial killer movie and psychological thriller, while at the same time putting a quirky Weimar spin on everything. It’s Silence of the Lambs with a Threepenny Opera twist. (Although, sadly, no cabaret singing.)

Peter Lorre stars in the role that would typecast him as a slimy reptillian villain for the rest of his life. (Before M he was known for his comedy work, which seems kind of unthinkable in hindsight.) Lorre’s character is a pedophile serial killer, stalking the streets of 1930s Berlin and preying on unsuspecting children while the rest of the city convulses in fear. In the film’s classic opening sequence, he whistles a jaunty tune as he casually purchases the balloon with which he will lure his next victim.

But just as much as it is a psychological thriller, M is a witty social satire and even, in places, a dry and not-so-dry comedy. The citywide panic caused by the killer mobilizes both the police and the city’s criminals, who feel that the extra heat brought on by the police’s hunt for the killer is too much to bear. So the shady, colorful underworld characters organize themselves in their own parallel search for him. While the police use cutting-edge methods like fingerprints to stalk their prey, the colorful criminals of the city draw upon the “Beggar’s Guild” in a series of eccentric sequences that play like Bertholt Brecht directing an episode of Law and Order: SVU.

The film is visually and sonically stunning, and climaxes in one of the great monologues in film history. Peter Lorre plays the part he was born to play, one of the great movie psychos of all time. It’s an expressionist classic made by one of film’s great directors, and it was arguably the high point of German cinema for decades to come. You heard everyone yakking on about Lang, Pabst, and Lubitsch in Inglourious Basterds this fall – now come on out and dig one of the best movies any of those dudes had to offer, the first serial killer movie and still the best: M.