I used to consider this second-tier Hitchcock, but a re-watch proved to me just how excellent the script and directing were, as well as how stellar and underrated both Grace Kelly and Ray Milland tend to be, at least presently, three generations after the fact. The suspense is tied tighter than the proverbial drum. Needless to say, to this day, I never keep scissors on top of my desk anymore...
No, I'm afraid my murders would be something like my bridge: I'd make some stupid mistake and never realize it until I found everybody was looking at me. Middle tier Hitchcock it may be, by his own admission, but it's still one of the finest mystery thrillers around. Ray Milland plays Tony Wendice, a former tennis player married to Grace Kelly's Margot, who is the source of his wealth. Fearing his lifestyle is about to come to an end due to her dalliances with American mystery writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummins), Tony hatches a plan to have her murdered by an old acquaintance whom he has over a barrel with blackmail. However, the plan backfires and a whole new strategy is needed to save Tony from suspicion. Based on the popular and successful play by Frederick Knott (who adapts for the screenplay here), Dial M For Murder was a film Hitchcock had little time for. In fact, having already started work on Rear Window, Hitch treated Dial M For Murder as a jobbing assignment. His mood was further darkened by Jack Warner's insistence that the film be shot in 3D, with all the camera restraints that such a production brings. Perhaps unsurprisingly though, the restraints and general mood of the director brought about very pleasing results. Choosing to go for a claustrophobic single set shoot, Hitchcock resisted the urge to launch things around for 3D effects, instead he used the process to highlight props and angles of the Wendice home. His use of colours here first rate, particularly around his new found favourite actress, Grace Kelly. Having never seen the 3D version (who has I wonder?) I can't say what impact, if any, the gimmick had. But regardless of Hitch's grumblings and general disdain towards the film, he rose to the challenge by challenging himself and actually produced a fine and technically sound picture. Ray Milland is icy cold yet debonair, while John Williams as Chief Inspector Hubbard strides in and walks off with the film. Kelly is adequate enough, it's her least effective turn for Hitch, so early in her career, she was a bit free with her physical love on the set (source "A Life in Darkness and Light"), but this highly appealed to (and amused) Hitch and he of course would use her for better rewards post this production. Sadly Cummings is awfully bland and threatens to lose the film momentum when things start to spice up in the last quarter. Hugely entertaining picture though, one that is ripe with characterisations and of much interest to Hitchcock purists in how he works around the 3D format for his own filmic senses, Dial M For Murder holds up well today as a disquieting mystery thriller. 8/10
Just with a glance at the cast list and the knowledge that it's directed by the legendary film-making genius Alfred Hitchcock, you know it's going to be good. This taut, nicely-done thriller was originally filmed in 3D, though I wouldn't say it's any less effective when viewed normally. Ray Milland and Grace Kelly are both very accomplished actors, and are very enjoyable here. Watch for John Williams as Inspector Hubbard from Scotland Yard; he's like a British Columbo! The story moves along at a good clip, with interesting dialogue and good twists. Watch out for that lethal pair of scissors!
While this is not one of the most popular Alfred Hitchcock films out there, it is still brilliant. You can immediately recognise this film has Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s signature on it from the way the film is shot and its story is told. I did not know anything about the film before I started watching it and I am glad I did it. There were plenty of surprises to see me going to the end of the film. Would I watch it again? Possibly. Would I make my friends watch it? Definitely.
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