Examining Fritz Lang’s Classic 1931 “Police Procedural” “M” and It’s Direct Links to Dr. George Hill Hodel As His Inspiration For His Later Serial Crimes as Chicago’s “Lipstick Killer,” “Black Dahlia Avenger,” and “Zodiac”

September 7, 2021
Los Angeles, California

Directed by Fritz Lang U.S. release 1933
Over the years, in my series of books documenting my father’s crimes, I have frequently referenced the fact that he was “inspired by” and included as part of his real-life M.O. crime signatures taken from classic films.

George Hodel was a true cinephile, with a  perfect photographic memory.  He would cut and paste actual scenes from these many films and include them in his real-life murders as part of his modus operandi or taunting clews to the police and press.

To name a few that I have referenced in the past:

“M” (1931) Germany by Director Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang’s “M” was released in Germany in 1931 and two years later, in March 1933, appeared in theatres in the U.S.
An instant classic it tells the story of one “Hans Beckert”  (Peter Lorre) who commits serial kidnap/murders of children and terrorizes a German city. (The film was inspired by a real-life killer, Peter Kurten, known as “The Vampire of Dusseldorf” who in 1929, was arrested and convicted of killing at least a dozen victims. Kurten after his killings would drink his victim’s blood, hence the “vampire” pseudonym.

The link to the above photos and the full article can be found HERE.
Here is an early review (June 1932) from The London Standard of “M” before its release in the U.S.

I have no doubt that my father, George Hodel would have seen the U.S. showing of “M” in 1933. (At that time he would have been attending medical school at UCSF in San Francisco.)
A few clips from the original film:

During the child killers’ “trial by his peers” (criminals all), Hans Beckert pleads in his defense that he cannot control himself because he has this monster inside him.


Twelve years later in 1945 in one of his “Chicago Lipstick Murders” Dr. George Hodel writes on the victim’s living room wall just before kidnapping and butchering little six-year-old Suzanne Degnan. He writes:

Again, in a later “Zodiac” killing  George Hodel makes a written plea to attorney Melvin Belli to “help me”, informing Belli he “cannot control the monster within him.”  (True or not, it’s dialogue right out of the screenplay, “M”.)

Letter to the Press

Here we see “M’s” child serial killer Hans Beckert writing a letter to the German police and press which is subsequently “analyzed” by forensic  “handwriting experts.”

Child Killer Hans Beckert’s handwritten letter mailed to the Press in “M”
Following translation of the above letter from German to English provided by reader, Barry Guerrero:
“Since the police kept my first letter from the public, I was just going straight to the press! Do some research; you will soon find everything confirmed, but (however) I am not yet at the end (not yet finished)”.
George Hodel, in his later serial murders (Black Dahlia Avenger and Lone Woman Murders,  Chicago Lipstick Murders, and Zodiac) does the same, both taunting and terrorizing those cites.

SKH Note:

The GHH linkage will become even stronger with the publication of “The Early Years” which further document his crimes pre-Dahlia.  (Expected to publish in 2022.)


  1. Joakim on September 7, 2021 at 6:20 pm

    The Joker figure from The Dark Knight movie gives the impression of being a “conceptual meanie”: somebody not unlike an antisocial, psycho artist. A rebel against society but also against other crooks (seen as dull & narrowminded). The character appears to be driven by expressionistic, criminal lust & attention-seeking childish playfulness. And those facial scars..

  2. Patricia ONeill on September 8, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    Steve: Having met Melvin Belli ( before his name was well-known) as a young person on several family holidays, I can see why GHH may have chosen Belli to communicate his plea for help……..whether sincere or sinister we’ll never know! Belli had a very approachable & engaging personality. The above letter shows (to me) some familiarity/connection between the two men…..perhaps professional or social. Reason(s) Zodiac chose Melvin Belli as recipient of his plea: 1. GHH chose someone who would “see” his great conflict & have the power to stop him.
    2. GHH chose someone he envied and harbored intense jealousy toward.
    My choice here is #2. After reading so much about GHH’s social & romantic interactions as I see it, he could not maintain a satisfying personal relationship for very long. The personal relationships he did have were with those individuals who harbored the same hatreds & jealousies he had or were very passive personalities. Either way these passions would finally exhibit themselves in extreme violence. “The Early Years”, Steve, is so important as it will show the brutal dangers to society as results of child abuse…..physical, sexual, emotional! To quote again from my orientation as a teacher in an Emotional Disability class for 12-14 year old boys: “Hell hath no fury like a woman spurned? Well you ain’t seen nothin’ yet”!! Looking forward to that book, …… much needed!👍. 😎🌵

    • Steve Hodel on September 8, 2021 at 1:28 pm

      Patricia O:
      Yes, all true. I was really surprised at discovering how very early he started his life of crime.
      But, when we consider he was just a teen and attending Cal Tech then it really shuffles the deck.
      I do think the presentation of “The Early Years” and how his past so confirms his future and his future so corroborates his past is the true value.

      • Patricia ONeill on September 11, 2021 at 5:13 pm

        Steve: Re: your statement on how GHH attended Cal Tech as just a teen “shuffled the deck” is well documented in Malcolm Caldwell’s book “ The Outliers”…..very informative read on how, while a child may be highly advanced academically, his physical/emotional maturity must be closely assessed and this usually stops the “skipping grades” so popular in GHH’s day. Unfortunately this was not considered in GHH’s school days. It could have made a difference in your
        father’s life.😓

        • Patricia ONeill on September 11, 2021 at 5:17 pm

          Correction: Author is Malcolm Gladwell. 😎🌵

        • Steve Hodel on September 11, 2021 at 5:28 pm

          Patricia O:
          Thanks. In just now checking a “summary” on Gladwell’s book I quote,

          “Opportunity matters more than an individual’s IQ. Using a study conducted by Lewis Terman, the creator of the Stanford-Binet IQ test, Gladwell shows that “practical intelligence” is as important as “analytical intelligence.” He also contrasts Chris Langan, one of the world’s smartest living people, with Robert Oppenheimer. While both had difficulties in college, only Oppenheimer had a successful life, due to his practical intelligence.”

          (Of course, we recall that GHH was one of Lewis Terman’s “Termites” in his original high IQ study beginning in 1925.)

          And “Practical intelligence” is defined as: The ability to apply one’s intelligence in practical, everyday situations. In the triarchic theory of intelligence, it is the aspect of intelligence that requires adaptation to, shaping of, and selection of new environments. Compare analytical intelligence; creative intelligence.”

          • Joakim on September 12, 2021 at 1:05 pm

            Some speculate that if somebody gets high scores on traditional IQ tests that may be another way of saying that the person is good at math. Certain people just “know things”, like lightning rods for otherworld intelligence, and such folks apparently can get rather confused by IQ-tests. How smart is the most clever man compared to one that has “been lent a wizards cerebral staff” in a tale, so to speak?

          • Patricia ONeill on September 13, 2021 at 12:17 pm

            Steve, my addition to Gladwell’s summary: Analytical intelligence, creative intelligence….. both highly desired/admired talents! But all intelligence needs two added ingredients to pursue the highest pinnacles of humanity……..Humility and Heart👌!! 😎🌵

  3. Miles on September 8, 2021 at 10:02 pm

    Hi Steve,
    It seems appropriate to point this out now… I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 silent film THE LODGER a couple weeks ago. I had been planning on watching it because you’d mentioned it as an influence on GHH. In one of your books or blogs you’d mentioned it was where he got the word “Avenger” when he referred to himself as “The Black Dahlia Avenger.” Anyway, I noticed in the film, the Jack the Ripper-type killer always strikes on a Tuesday night. The night before Betty Short’s body was found was also a Tuesday. I couldn’t recall if you’d mentioned tbis parallel in your writing.

    • Steve Hodel on September 8, 2021 at 10:27 pm

      Hi Miles. No, I didn’t as I think that GHH’s crimes/kidnaps/abductions were more opportunistic rather than day specific.
      For example, it would appear that the kidnap/abduction was more happenstance as Short was in several bars in DTLA and
      appears to have been taken by the “two men and a woman” from the bar, stopped by Officer Meryl McBride and asked, “Are you OK?” Short replied, “Yes going to the Greyhound Bus Depot to meet my father.”

  4. Frank Adkins on September 19, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    I agree with you about his parroting crimes n situations from films. You said yourself your father was many things but failed miserably in being original and creative. Very good at memorization and mimicking but not truly inspired himself. So I can see him drawing from popular culture ie movies n books to give his crimes the finesse or flair for the frantic he craved.
    There’s a school of though as to why these men somehow get violence and sex so interconnected. There’s whats called a single imprint incident.I wonder if your dad maybe witnessed some “lust murder” while on his press beat that imprinted on him at that formative age somehow.. Setting the tone for his latter crimes and inclination toward sadism. Obviously combined with many many other factors such as genetics,environment,iq,personality,peers life experience etc may had created the perfect storm to when he walked into that crime scene and witnessed first hand a woman raped n murdered, that if profoundly imprinted on him.somewhere deep down where you n I would feel revulsion and pity,he found pleasure and excitement. The other school of though being some sort of continuing sexual or mental abuse in and through childhood perhaps creates these ppl. I started to say monsters but sadly enough they are not monsters they are the worst expressions of our human depravity.
    I just though of a question Ive never considered n Ive commented n emailed you a few times now. “What do you think George would’ve done had he been caught n convicted of say the Betty short and Jean French . murders. Knowing your dad did he have a “ doing time kinda disposition or at looking at that much time would suicide been his choice?

    • Steve Hodel on September 19, 2021 at 1:43 pm

      Frank A: Yes, lots of good thinking here on the subject. Sadly, as we will discover in “The Early Years” it is my belief his crimes started earlier than any “imprints” he may have had from his crime reporter days. (Though I expect responding to those “fresh crimes scenes” while still in his teens had to have some impact on his psyche.) As to what his position would have been if caught on the Dahlia or other high profile murders? I expect he would have rather “enjoyed” all the publicity surrounding his arrest and “played it to the hilt.” Possibly exposing other “missed crimes by the LAPD and enjoying exposing them as “Keystone Kops.” He was a man with no remorse, so no don’t see him even contemplating suicide. Like he said to roomer, Joe Barrett when reflecting on the likelihood of his conviction and being imprisoned for incest and child molestation during the 1949 trial. “Well Joe, it won’t be so bad. I can work in the prison clinic and…”

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