Dark and uncompromising, Fritz Lang's M disturbs even today, and serves as a highly effective benchmark against which other serial killer films should be judged.
As children go missing, the police are left helpless in their efforts to solve the mystery until the criminal underworld intervenes to flush out the killer and exact the ugly justice a mob serves up best. Now released on a two-disc DVD, here is a chance to appreciate the movie as it would have been seen in 1931 thanks to an exhaustive restoration process.
Often with such restorations the key question is how far do you take the process? Transfer supervisor Tolsten Kaiser and restorer Martin Koerber debate this issue in depth, both on the audio commentary and in the Digital Restoration and Restoration of M featurettes. The decision to only restore the picture and sound to no better than 1931 standards is certainly the safest and most respectful route to take. Therefore you'll still see scratches in the print and shakiness from camera movement. The dirt, tears, and scratches that occurred after production have been removed to leave a stunning image of real depth, accompanied by a clean mono sound mix.
Perhaps Too Technical
You'll see from the restoration featurettes just what a laborious process the cleaning and correction was. It's no wonder then that Kaiser and Koerber are obsessed with technical quality. This does spill into the special features, which as a result can be quite dry.
An Essential DVD for any Good Collection
Ignoring the dryer featurettes, the achievement of a beautifully presented film is the core of this DVD. On disc two, you'll also find a highly entertaining and absorbing German archive interview with Lang where he proves to be a real showman, telling the extraordinary story of how the Nazis wanted him to head up their film productions. Also worth watching is a concise crash course in M in the visual essay Lending Order to Horror. Less successful is an interview with Lang by Peter Bogdanovich. Sadly the audio quality makes this a hard experience to sit through. This, and the slight over emphasis on the technical aspects are minor points in what is an otherwise fine DVD accomplishment.
This DVD was reviewed on a JVC XV-N5 DVD player.