Sunday, June 08, 2008

Honourable Mentions – M

The 1931 movie by Fritz Lang is barely an honourable mention as, whilst it is alleged that it was based on the crimes of Peter Kürten, the so called Vampire of Düsseldorf, Lang himself denied it. Of course, that denial may have had much to do with how fresh the crimes were in the minds of the population, Kürten was executed on 2 July 1931 and the film’s first release was 11th May of the same year.

Be that as it may, I felt it worthwhile mentioning the film as it is a stunning piece of cinema, starring Peter Lorre as Hans Beckert, the killer in the movie. The film has a definite expressionist element to it but also marks one of the earliest film noir’s and psychological thrillers.

There is the trademark expressionist use of shadow in the film but also some stunning use of sound. The film is a very early talky, but you will find little to no soundtrack. What music appears within the film is actually incidental to the scene. The obvious theme to mention is The Hall of the Mountain King, as whistled by Beckert, that actually leads to his capture.

There is also some stunning use of visual, when the child Elsie Beckmann (Inge Landgut) is killed we see nothing of the crime but we see empty halls, an untouched dinner setting and her balloon, bought by Beckert, floating against pylons. The use of sound here, with the mother calling for her lost child, is wonderfully realised.

The film uses silence also, creating a sense of dissociative paranoia within the film. The film itself follows the attempts to find the child killer both by the police and by the criminal fraternity. Kürten himself was not solely a child killer and whilst we only hear, rather than see, Beckert’s crime of murder we hear nothing within the film that would lead us towards thinking of the character as a vampire styled murderer. Kürten, according to The Crime Library stated that his “chief satisfaction in killing was to catch the blood spurting from a victim's wounds in his mouth and swallow it.”

The film does mention another notorious ‘vampire’ murderer Fritz Haarmann – and we have previously mentioned the film based upon him, Tenderness of the Wolves - as well as cannibalistic murderer Karl Grossmann.

A stunning, disturbing film, not vampiric really but worth a mention on this blog. The imdb page is here.

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