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directed by Fritz Lang

murderer among us ...


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Internet Movie Database (IMDB) entry
Script from The Cinematograph
Fritz Lang's 'M' from
Recent Washington Post review (which won some journalist award.)
Murder Among Us commentary on M



LITTLE GIRL: (chants) Just you wait a little while, The evil man in black will come. And with his little chopper, He will chop you up.

The poster reads:
10,000 Marks Reward
Since Monday, 11th June this year, the following have disappeared: the school-children Klaus Klawitsky and his sister Klara, who live at 470 Müller Street. Various evidence leads us to believe that the children were victims of a similar crime to that committed last autumn against the Doering sisters.

FRANZ BECKER (Peter Lorre): What's your name?
ELSIE: Elsie Beckmann.

MRS. BECKMANN: Elsie! Elsie!

MRS. BECKMANN: Elsie! Elsie!

OLD MAN: (reading paper) 'Certain evidence leads us to believe that the murderer is the same as the one who has already killed eight children in our city. We must once more draw your attention to the fact...'

MINISTER: (reading paper) 'Since the police haven't published my first letter, I am writing today straight to the NEWSPAPERS. Keep up your investigations. Everything will happen just as I have predicted. But I haven't yet FINISHED.'
It's an unheard-of scandal ... What a deplorable effect this will have on public opinion, Inspector. It is a serious error, very serious.

CHIEF OF POLICE: But, Minister, we've no power to prevent the murderer from writing to anyone he wants to!

GRAPHOLOGIST: Some of the broken letters reveal an actor's personality ... which can be indolent or even lazy. On the whole, the handwriting shows clear signs of insanity.

MINISTER: Yes, yes, Inspector ... certainly. I don't doubt your keenness ... the efforts of your men ... But, all the same ... the results. We must have results ... results.
CHIEF OF POLICE: Minister, my men are only getting twelve hours' sleep a week... as well as searches on the spot, Minister. They start their shift already tired. Don't forget this job is nervously trying -- especially when the success rate is so low. The homicide detectives work restlessly. They're always on alert, following any clue, even the slightest clue that may lead us to our man. Minister, consider their findings at the scene of the crime ... We find, for instance, behind a hedge in a thicket a little tissue-paper bag ... clearly it held cheap candy ... In a corner we found tiny crumbs of acid drops and some grains of colored sugar. Within a radius of twelve kilometres, we have ... searched in all the sweet-shops, cake-shops, to find out where the bag came from ... In vain ... every day we widen the area of the search ... but, of course, no one remembers anything... or, at least not clearly enough ...

CON-MAN: There are more police on the streets than whores.
BURGLAR: Wherever you spit ... nothing but cops.
. . .
PICK-POCKET: You can't even get on with your job. Everywhere you come across the police. There's no privacy any more ... I'm fed up.
CON-MAN: What else is new?

As the authorities discuss the investigation, the underworld holds its own conference to deal with increased police activies due to Becker's murders.
Notice the parallelism between the authorities and the underworld.

SCHRÄNKER: According to the regulations, I confirm with pleasure that the leadership of every organization in our Union is represented. I assume that you all have full powers ... authorizing you to vote for your members. Good ... let's not be held up by procedure. We all know why we are here.
Someone who is not a member of the Union is threatening our rackets. The new measures taken by the police, the daily raids in our areas to find this child murderer, interfere with our business activities in an unbearable way. We can put up no longer with the endless pressure from the police, in every hotel, cafe, or flat. This state of affairs must not be allowed to continue. We'll have to put things right again or we'll be destroyed.
What is more, our reputation is suffering. The cops are looking for the murderer in our ranks, gentlemen ... When I come up against a cop while carrying on my business, he knows the risk he runs ... and I do, as well. If one of us dies ... okay ... that's a risk one must take. It can happen: but we are not on the same level as this man they're looking for now.

SAFE-BREAKER: What we must do ... And after all, we've all got contacts ... What we must do is make a statement to the Press ourselves, tell them that we, the Organization, members of the Union -- we condemn the bastard just as much! We ought to make it known that the police should quit looking for him in the underworld.
. . .
SAFE-BREAKER: The police have been looking for this murderer for eight months now. Now it's got to the point where they'll only catch him by luck.
BURGLAR: We can't wait for that ...
CON-MAN: We'll be ruined before then.
SAFE-BREAKER: What are we going to do then?

SCHRÄNKER: We'll have to catch him ourselves.
Yes ... we must. This is what we must do... Every square yard must be permanently watched. From now on no child must take a step without us being warned.

CON-MAN: Okay, but how do we do it?
SAFE-BREAKER : Yes ... how?
SCHRÄNKER: There must be people who can go anywhere without being noticed ... who can follow anyone on the streets without arousing suspicion ... who can follow the children right to their front doors without any trouble. In fact, people no one would suspect of being guilty.
THE OTHERS: But who? ... Who? People like that don't exist ... Who could do it? ... Who? ... Who?

SCHRÄNKER: The beggars. The beggars' union can do it.