Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Film Review: Dial M for Murder

A midnight phone call to Grace Kelly is the signal for murder
in this classic Hitchcock thriller.
Hitchcock in 3D! It sounds like a cheap gimmick in order to draw the crowds, and it was. But even top-name directors like Hitch were having problems getting people to go to the movies when they could stay home and watch their new-fangled television sets and get quality entertainment (Hitch himself would later give in to the phenomenon and launch the memorable Alfred Hitchcock Presents.). It's a well-documented part of film history that Hollywood almost went bankrupt in the '50s with the advent of television, and in order to compensate, they had to start offering something in their films that people couldn't see on television. Color film was one of the first changes, but when the 3D craze hit, it gave the movie industry an unexpected boost, and suddenly studios were clamoring to make as many 3D movies as possible. Most of them have no redeeming value, having been filmed only for their visual effects, but there were some good movies made during that period in 3D, ones which are intrinsically good regardless of how many dimensions in which they're seen.

Hitchcock based most of his work off plays, novels, or short stories, and this gem from 1955 is no exception.
Almost all the action in Dial M for Murder takes place in a single set, the apartment of a supposedly happily married couple in Mayfair, London. It's soon revealed, however, that not so long ago the wife (Grace Kelly) was seriously contemplating leaving her husband (Ray Milland) because she was in love with someone else (Robert Cummings). When we meet her husband, we suddenly understand why she would want to leave him, especially when it comes out that he is plotting to murder her for her money. He thinks up the perfect scheme for murder, but you know what the poet Burns said about the "best laid plans of mice and men"...

The man he hires to do the dirty work ends up getting killed himself in the scuffle with the wife. Seemingly never at a loss, the husband then tries to frame her for the hit-man's murder--and does an excellent job. She's a day before the scheduled execution when the detective starts to have second thoughts.

Although the acting is excellent, this movie is really carried by the plot. Ray Milland's character devises such an airtight plot to kill his wife that it holds the audience spellbound as they watch it unfold. Then they naturally watch to see if she can avoid the unjust execution. The Master of Suspense is at the top of his game in this oft-overlooked film.

I rate this movie an 8 out of 10. A solid Hitchcock hit.

Buy it now:
Dial M for Murder

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