Classic Film Review: Even The Bad Guys Want To Save The Children

M (1951) - Coins in Movies

is a thriller released in theaters in 1951.  It is based on a German film from 1931.  The particular version was directed by Joseph Losey with a screenplay that was written by Norman Reilly Raine, Leo Katcher, and Waldo Salt.  David Wayne plays the child murderer who everyone is looking to stop, even the criminal underground of Los Angeles. The cast also includes Howard Da Silva, Martin Gabel, and Raymond Burr.

Los Angeles is being terrorized by a killer of children, which is also having the police interfere more than usual with other criminal aspirations among the mobsters and racketeers.  The organization decides to conduct their own somewhat brutal investigation to find the serial killer.

Raymond Burr plays one of the hoodlums looking for the murderous inconvenience. David Wayne plays the murderer that is causing such disarray. Burr doesn’t have a significant role here, but he still manages to display some diversity here as one of the hoods.  Not much Perry Mason there.  Wayne gets a little shrill at times when he gets into a desperate situation.  He comes close to some hammy over acting.

The story does have a pretty compelling premise in that the police and the criminals are somewhat allied in their desire of finding the killer, although the mob bosses’ motives are not that altruistic unsurprisingly.

Some of this is a bit of stretch when it comes to plausibility, as so much is out of Hollywood.  It would be interesting to see German version.  I may look that up at some point.

Still, this movie has some pluses.  The performances are pretty good for the most part.  The kid who gets kidnapped toward the climax of the film was pretty stoic for someone who is stuck with guy who is unraveling significantly while trying to make his escape.  Janine Perreau was perhaps not the most thought out casting decision here.

The movie has a pretty engaging idea and some noteworthy performances, but it does drag at times and seems a little disjointed.  It’s by no means a terrible film, but it just didn’t quite keep my attention as much as I expected.

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