Fritz Lang’s first talkie helped forge the serial-killer genre, but M is so much more than a simple stalk’n’slash act. Cloaked in clouds of acrid cigarette smoke, the Metropolis director’s 1931 classic meticulously follows lawman and low-life alike as they struggle to catch a kiddie killer (a bug-eyed and baby-faced Peter Lorre) in Düsseldorf.

Lang not only registers subtle horror at the grisly murders; he also teases out unnervingly premonitory parallels between the mob that rises against the killer and the kind of socio-economic decline in which the Nazis festered a few years later. At once a thriller, a police-procedural movie, a state-of-the-nation address and a psychodrama, M is a dazzling film that, seven decades on, remains as innovative as it is unsettling.

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