The film opens with a circle of children playing a game that involves a rhyme about a child murderer. This foreshadows the appearance of Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre), a serial killer who preys on children in 1930s Berlin. Initially the audience does not see his face; they merely see his shadow and shots of his body, hearing him whistle "In the Hall of the Mountain King" (German, In der Halle des Bergkönigs) from Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg as he buys a balloon from a blind man and gives it to a little girl named Elsie Beckmann. In the next scene, her mother searches frantically as the audience sees the balloon flying up into the telephone lines.
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