M (1951)

M (1951)
Article #1373 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-17-2004
Posting Date: 5-16-2005
Directed by Joseph Losey
Featuring David Wayne, Howard Da Silva, Martin Gabel

A child killer is loose in the streets of L.A., and the police seem unable to catch him. When they try to compensate for this failure by making constant raids on the criminal underworld, one of the bigwigs of the latter decides to catch the murderer himself.

You remake a great movie at your own risk. It can also be a catch-22 situation; if you stray from the original story you’ll be criticized, but if you stick to it closely, you’ll be constantly reminding people of the earlier movie and inviting direct comparison. This being said, I feel that this is a good remake of the movie. It does a strong job of updating the time and place to contemporary L.A.. David Wayne does a fine job at playing the child murderer. The movie is also efficiently told in 88 minutes, somewhat shorter than the original.

However, it sticks too closely to the original movie for its own good. This version may be good, but the original was brilliant. Joseph Losey and David Wayne have their strengths, but they’re not Fritz Lang and Peter Lorre. None of the secondary characters here are as memorable as the ones in the original. And most of all, the wit and humor that permeated the original movie are mostly gone here, and what elements of it that do remain are copied from the original movie. There are a few changes to the story here; the killer has an obsession with shoes, when he is trapped inside the building he has a child with him, he’s more blatantly crazy, and the movie develops a relationship between the head criminal and the drunken lawyer that leads to a slightly different (and slightly less satisfying) ending. But ultimately, this version never quite takes on a life of its own, and it makes me wish I was watching the brilliant original movie instead. In short, the remake feels unnecessary. But that’s the risk of doing a remake in the first place.

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