June 3rd, 2004
|12:56 am - M|
Well, M was great, as always, and I'm glad I finally saw it projected (at the Harvard Film Archive, part of their "Peter Lorre: A Sinister Centennial" series). The strange mixture of creepiness and pathos that Peter Lorre displays in this film is quite unsettling, and the unease is only amplified by seeing him on the big screen.
Now for the geek nit-picky bit. The framing looked overly tight to me: there were a fair number of faces cut off at the top of the screen. (And the image couldn't have been lowered much further without cutting off the sub-titles.) I wonder if perhaps the projectionist framed the film edge-to-edge for Academy ratio (1.37:1), forgetting that it's actually more like 1.20:1 and thus taller than an Academy film at the same width.
It was also a bit too cold in the screening room (and what I consider comfortable, most of my friends find cold, so when I'm cold, that's usually a bad sign). I noticed some viewers using their coats as blankets by the end of the film.
But those niggling details aside, it was otherwise a good viewing: the screen was in good shape, the seats were comfortable, the print wasn't too badly scratched up, and... the audience was a typical repertory audience, meaning that they actually were quiet and paid respectful attention to the film. Sure, people laughed (me included) at the funny bits, and a few folks (first-time viewers, perhaps?) gasped at the shocks, but no-one talked or even whispered loudly, no-one audibly kicked the seat in front of them, and no-one's mobile phone rang during the film. It's sad that this feels like an exceptional event to me: mainstream first-run audiences have done a lot to put me off cinema-going.
Anyway. Last month I picked up the DVD release of another Fritz Lang film from the same period, Der Testament des Dr. Mabuse, without Peter Lorre, sadly, but with Otto Wernicke reprising his M role of Inspector Lohmann. I'll be interested to see how it compares.
And I might have to go back to the HFA to catch some of their other Lorre films in the next week or so: Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon are both tempting, but there's also the 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (which I've never seen).
And now, I need to go listen to The Jazz Butcher:
Peter Lorre, Peter Lorre Runs a nightclub way downtown
Peter Lorre, Peter Lorre Always wears a evil frown
Don't spit on his shoes Or mess up his hair
Or he will shoot you dead And go back upstairs
I haven't seen The Man Who Knew Too Much in a looooong time, but as I recall it was very good. I might have to wrangle away from auditions on Monday so I can go see it.