A look at that new study analyzing how many movie villains qualify as true psychopaths…
In a world (sorry…) in which millions of people have never seen a film older than Star Wars, I was heartened to see names such as “Cody Jarrett” from White Heat (1949) and “Krugg” from The Last House on the Left (1972).
Yet that very buffdom means I can’t help but puzzle over some of these diagnoses. Take Peter Lorre’s career-making role as child molester “Hans Beckert” in Fritz Lang’s M (1931). Dr. Leistedt calls him “an outwardly normal man with a compulsion to kill.” Lorre was a gifted actor, but I question his ability to convincingly portray an “outwardly normal man” based on the accidents of physiognomy alone.
Lorre and Lang also saddle the character with decidedly extraordinary traits: The twitchy, taciturn Beckert skulks through the streets and ducks into doorways while loudly whistling “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” The titular “M” which his fellow (less perverse) criminals chalk onto Becker’s back to help vigilantes track him seems barely necessary. If anything, M helped accidentally solidify the public’s fatally flawed belief that child molesters are sinister-looking strangers.