Sunday, June 29, 2014

Murder They Filmed!

Thanks to Turner Classic Movies, I've at long last been able to see Fritz Lang's classic M. This 1931 German-language talkie (Lang's first) tells the story of a city terrorized by a mysterious child murderer who lurks among the people innocuously but who has killed eight children. Peter Lorre is remarkable in the role and much to my surprise has far less screen time than I expected.

The focus of this movie is on the effects of the murders on the city itself, especially where it concerns the professional criminal class who suffer from the relentless police presence the murders have elicited. In an odd parallel storyline both the underworld and the police investigate and ultimately find the killer, who is brought to justice in a most unusual way indeed.

Lang's visuals of the city are often weirdly compelling and the distinctive mugs of the characters in this movie reminded me of the various faces in Island of Lost Souls the film adaptation of The Island of Dr.Moreau. I was also reminded of many of Will Eisner's layouts from The Spirit. The ending of the restored version which I saw offers up a much different take on the situation than I expected.

Another famous murder flick I've never seen until the last few days was the film adaptation of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.

I've never read the book, though I've got it floating around here somewhere and may put it on the docket for this summer if I can locate it. It is another odd yarn which focuses to a much greater extent on two killers who for reasons which seem to even escape them, brutally kill an entire family.

The two killers are played by Scott Wilson and Robert Blake and both are striking and memorable in the roles. Wilson's character is loquacious and chillingly charming while Blake's is strange and by turns warm and malevolent. Both are compelling as they seem so matter of fact about their crimes that it becomes quite uncomfortable to watch them mingle with regular folks afterwards.

We also follow the police led by John Forsythe, as they try to wrangle this pair who almost despite themselves elude the authorities rather effectively for quite a spell. 

Both of these movies offer insights into some very depraved minds, dark characters who are dangerous in that they seem at the same time so banal and commonplace.

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