M (1951 film)

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M 1951poster.jpg
theatrical release poster
Directed by Joseph Losey
Produced by Seymour Nebenzal
Written by Waldo Salt (additional dialogue)
Screenplay by Norman Reilly Raine
Leo Katcher
Starring David Wayne
Howard Da Silva
Martin Gabel
Music by Michel Michelet
Cinematography Ernest Laszlo
Edited by Edward Mann
Superior Pictures
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • March 1951 (1951-03) (US)
Running time
88 minutes
Country United States
Language English

M is a 1951 American film noir and a remake, directed by Joseph Losey, of Fritz Lang's 1931 German film of the same name. 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]


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 twentieth century, had once lived there. Some scenes were shot on and around the funicular Angels Flight on Third Street. But the most spectacular location footage takes place within a lengthy sequence shot inside the famous 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, which has been used in many films, including Blade Runner, because of its unique wrought-iron and brick beauty, remains 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]

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