Repertory Picks

The Dark Side of Peter Lorre in Madison

On Film / In Theaters — Jun 21, 2018

Fritz Lang’s first sound film, M, remains perhaps the most influential serial-killer movie in the history of cinema. Next Wednesday, it comes to the University of Wisconsin–Madison Cinematheque as part of an ongoing series showcasing the film’s star, Peter Lorre. The actor gives an indelible performance as a child murderer who becomes the target of a manhunt across Berlin, and through his innovative use of expressionist imagery, music, and sound design, Lang burrows deep into the protagonist’s fractured psyche, while also delivering a perceptive portrait of decadent 1930s Germany on the brink of madness. Though rooted in the historical specificity of its period, the film still feels bracingly modern in its style and unflinching approach to its subject matter. As Stanley Kauffmann notes in his essay for our edition, M is “more engaging to the eye, more incisive in its irony, more firm in its grasp of social complications than most of the films that come along today.”