Film Flick: Dial 'M' For Murder

Friday, January 11, 2013

This is not, arguably, one of Hichcock's most standout productions. There are no airplanes trying to mow people down, no murderers in the shower, nor even scary birds in  Dial 'M' For Murder. It is a much more subtle piece than that, and perhaps that is why it is sometimes considered a second class citizen among Hitchcock films. No, there is little in the way of death-defying action here, but there is suspense and mind games a-plenty in this psychological thriller.

Is there such a thing as a perfect murder? Tony Wendice (Ray Millard), former tennis star, certainly thinks so. He's retired from his job, content to live off of his rich wife Margo's (Grace Kelly) money, after she complains of his job keeping him away. She's lonely- so lonely, in fact, she had brief affair with her friend and mystery novelist Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings); it's a fact she doesn't realize her husband has been aware for sometime.  With unnerving detachment and calm, Wendice seemingly has a flair for planning out murder.  He even blackmails an old college chum (Anthony Dawson) into helping out his plot. But perhaps Wendice should have read more mystery novels, because then he'd know that things seldom go according to plan. Can he pull off his masterful scheme, or will justice catch up to him in the form of Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams)?

Dial 'M' For Murder started out life as a Broadway thriller, and it shows, with nearly all the action being contained to one apartment and what lies right outside its doorstep. Rather than feeling stuffy or limited, as sets of plays-turned-movies sometimes can, the limited view the audience has gives the film a sense of taunt drama. We don't know things the characters know of life beyond the apartment walls, but, by always having our eyes on the same scene as character drift in and out, we also know things they do not. This film also has the dubious honor of being the only Hitchcock movie filmed in 3-D, which was a popular fad at the time. This might explain the prevalence of low or high angles as well as the number of lamps placed between the characters and and the lens. Interestingly, 3-D cameras at the time could not focus in correctly on close-up objects, but the director was intent on the first scene of the film being someone dialing the 'M' on a rotary phone. So he had the prop department create a large scale finger and phone dial to achieve this vision. Of more distinction is the fact that this is the first of three Hitchcock films Grace Kelly starred in. An ideal "icy blonde," it was Grace Kelly who objected that no women would bother getting into a robe at night before answering her own home's telephone. So, one of the movie's most pivotal moments happens with Kelly clad only in a slip, adding an extra dose of the thrills to the scene.


The plot might seem, on the face of it, rather soap-opera like. A man tries to murder his unfaithful wife? Yet, as mentioned earlier, in this film, Hitchcock is the master of a much subtler suspense than in some other films. Characters take turns explaining their plots and stratagems, while the audience in turn waits to see which ones will work, which will fail, and who's lies will be exposed. It is this guessing game that keeps people on the edge of their seats. If you don't like mind-games  than this isn't the film for you. But if you do- sit back, tune in, and see what happens when you Dial 'M' For Murder!


5 comments

  1. another great review, have a fabulous weekend :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looks really interesting. I'm going to have to start watching older films.

    http://nauticalowl.blogspot.com/

    Oh and I was informed that in the past people couldn't view my blogger profile. But I've fixed that :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should try a few older films, just to see!

      But Megan, I never had a problem seeing your blogger profile, but I have gotten back messages saying that the system has failed to deliver my comments. Not to give you more troubles, but if you're looking into such things...

      Delete
  3. Tell me you saw the movie Hitchcock that was just in the theaters!! It was so good!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It hasn't come anywhere near here at all, sadly! (Unless its a fairly mindless family blockbuster, most movies don't sadly). But I am super excited to get a chance to see it!

      Delete

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