Movie Name: Dial M for Murder
Studio: Warner Bros.
Release Date(s): May 29, 1954
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) has discovered that his wife Margot (Grace Kelly) is having an affair with Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Rather confront her or leave her, Tony has decided to eliminate her in order to get her money. Hiring a former acquaintance named C.A. Swann (Anthony Dawson), Tony believes he’s plotted the perfect murder…until disaster strikes Tony’s plans. Swann ends up being the victim and Inspector Hubbard (John Williams) believes the murder was premeditated…by Margot!
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Dial M for Murder was based upon the 1952 TV play by Frederick Knott that was later released on the London stage the same year. Following I, Confess in 1953, the film was Hitchcock’s only film to be shot in 3D (though generally shown in 2D due to the decline of 3D at the time of the release). The film was well received by critics and the 3D version of the film is also considered one of the better 3D films of the period.
I haven’t ever been able to see Dial M for Murder in 3D. Though I generally don’t like 3D films, I would like to see what Hitchcock does with it. Like Scorsese in Hugo and Lee in Life of Pi, Hitchcock is a visionary and he might make a technology I see as a gimmick into something interesting. Without 3D, Dial M for Murder is good but not Hitchcock’s greatest.
The basic story is both the movie’s benefit and its curse. The movie is a detective film and while everything leading up to the detective film is great (the switcharoo with Kelly becoming the victim of the frame-up), the detective part kind of lurches along…especially the last fifteen to twenty minutes of the film where what occurred is explained. The trap by the detective is clever, but it takes too long to play out.
The movie features the first of three movies teaming Grace Kelly and Hitchcock. Hitchcock was enthralled by Kelly who left acting to become the Princess of Monaco and this performance feels like her least involved with Milland, Cummings, and Williams really taking the leads, but she does give a good performance in the attack scene which is still quite tense. Milland really is the star of the movie as the conniving husband who can’t stand to lose his stature.
Visually the movie is good, but not Hitchcock’s best. The movie is very stage based with basically a basic set (a lot like Rope). Hitchcock uses this set to its best potential, but I do like his movies with bigger and grander sets (like Rear Window). I concede that I haven’t seen the movie in 3D and it could improve the visuals. Scenes like the strongly crafted murder attempt would be could be quite impressive in 3D, but this is my problem with 3D in general is that a large majority of the movies will never be seen in 3D.
Dial M for Murder is a good film, but I prefer to stick to some of Hitchcock’s more acclaimed works. If you like Hitchcock however, the movie is in his “must see” canon and will not disappoint. I feel a bit bad for the film in that it was tied to the gimmick of 3D and unfortunately for it, 3D was already on the outs leaving the movie stuck in this weird limbo area of movie history. Hitchcock followed Dial M for Murder with one of his arguably best films Rear Window also in 1954.