In the movie, Lorre is pursued and caught by a collaboration of street people - including hurdy-gurdy men. It's worth noting before going on that the term "hurdy-gurdy" classically applies to a group of stringed musical instruments that are different from the "barrel organs" typically associated with the term.
In the eighteenth century the term hurdy gurdy was also applied to a small, portable "barrel organ" (a cranked box instrument with a number of organ pipes, a bellows and a barrel with pins that rotated and programmed the tunes) that was frequently played by poor buskers (street musicians). Barrel organs require only the turning of the crank, and the music is played automatically by pinned barrels, perforated paper rolls, and more recently by electronic modules.By a delightful coincidence, this week I also ran across a set of about 20 photos of Russian, European, and American hurdy-gurdy (barrel-organ) men at This is Major Tom to Ground Control, three of which I've embedded above. I've not been able to ascertain the original provenance of the photos.
This confusion over what the name hurdy gurdy means is particular to English, although similar confusion over other terms for the instrument occurs in German and Hungarian due to unfamiliarity with the hurdy gurdy. The French call the barrel organ the Orgue de Barbarie ("Barbary organ"), and the Germans Drehorgel ("turned organ"), instead of Drehleier ("turning lyre").
Via Poemas del rio Wang. (The movie "M" can be viewed online at The Internet Archive.)