M (1951 film)

M is a 1951 American film noir directed by Joseph Losey. It is a remake of Fritz Lang's 1931 German film of the same name about a child murderer. This version shifts the action from Berlin to Los Angeles and changes the killer's name from Hans Beckert to Martin W. Harrow. Both versions of M were produced by Seymour Nebenzal, whose son, Harold, was associate producer of the 1951 version.[1]

theatrical release poster
Directed byJoseph Losey
Produced bySeymour Nebenzal
Screenplay byNorman Reilly Raine
Leo Katcher
Waldo Salt (additional dialogue)
StarringDavid Wayne
Howard Da Silva
Luther Adler
Music byMichel Michelet
CinematographyErnest Laszlo
Edited byEdward Mann
Superior Pictures
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • March 1951 (1951-03) (US)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States


Martin W. Harrow (David Wayne) is a compulsive child-murderer who is tracked down and then placed on trial by the criminal underworld in Los Angeles. Syndicate chieftain Marshall (Martin Gabel) organizes his fellow crooks in order to bring "M" to justice, thereby keeping the police off their own backs. Found guilty by his "peers" and sentenced to death, "M" makes an impassioned plea for his life, explaining that he is unable to stop himself from committing his unspeakable crimes.[2]



The film was shot on location in downtown Los Angeles, including the now demolished Victorian neighborhood of Bunker Hill. David Wayne's murderous character lived at an eccentric Victorian mansion on Bunker Hill Avenue known as the Max Heindel house because Heindel, a famous astrologer in the early 20th century, had once lived there. Some scenes were shot on and around the funicular Angels Flight on Third Street. But the most spectacular footage takes place within a lengthy sequence shot inside the Bradbury Building on the southeast corner of Broadway and Third (just a block east of Angels Flight). Director Losey used the basement, the distinctive stairways and balconies, and the roof of the building. The Bradbury has been used in many films, including Blade Runner, because of its unique wrought-iron and brick beauty, remaining a popular but restricted tourist attraction today.


When the film was released, an anonymous reviewer at Variety wrote: "David Wayne, as the killer of small children, is effective and convincing. Luther Adler, as a drunken lawyer member of a gangster mob, turns in an outstanding performance, as do Martin Gabel, the gang-leader, and Howard da Silva and Steve Brodie as police officials ... Joseph Losey’s direction has captured the gruesome theme skilfully."[3]


The film was classified by Ohio film censors as unacceptable for public screenings. At the end of 1953, the film's producers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1954, M was approved for exhibition in Ohio without any cuts.[4]

See also


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