A boat has been destroyed, criminals are dead, and the key to this mystery lies with the only survivor and his twisted, convoluted story beginning with five career crooks in a seemingly random police lineup.
The police find the actress, Diana Baring, near the body of her friend. All the circumstantial proofs seems to point to her and, at the end of the trial, she is condemned. Sir John Menier, a jury member, suspects Diana's boyfriend, who works as an acrobat wearing a dresses. Written by
Claudio Sandrini <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"We use life to create art and art to criticise life"
This was only Hitchcock's second talkie, and ought to have been part of an awkward transition phase. Instead, it's one of his better pictures from the period, as experimental as his first sound feature, Blackmail, and further cementing his style as a master of the crime genre.
Unusually for Hitchcock, it also happens to be a whodunit. Typically his stories reveal the culprit straight away, and the suspense is created from wondering when and how they are going to strike. However, Murder! still more or less fits that Hitchcock pattern. We never really get too drawn in to any kind of mystery when the murderer is revealed it seems merely incidental to the main plot. Hitchcock instead focuses more on one of his most prolific motifs the wrong man, or in this case wrong woman.
As in Blackmail, Hitchcock embraces sound wholeheartedly, not to mention inventively. Murder! is known for containing the first ever use of a voice-over giving us a character's inner monologue. I'm much more impressed though by the end of the jury room scene, where we hear the jury's verdict read out off screen, while the camera remains in the jury room, now empty except for an elderly official clearing away the paperwork it adds incredible weight to the moment.
Speaking of the camera, the movement of it in this picture is incredibly fluid in this supposed era of the static camera. A good example and one very typical of Hitchcock is towards the beginning, when the camera literally discovers the crime scene, panning from one startled face to another, finally settling on the body itself. Another scene of great quality is Sir John's prison interview with Diana Baring, which makes excellent use of framing and editing in a confined space. The expressionist, melodramatic finale, which was by now becoming a Hitchcock standard, is one of his best from this period, helped along by a brooding musical score.
Murder! however suffers from the same problem as a great deal of early Hitchcock features. Although it is well directed and highly innovative, it is rather weak as far as story and structure go. Some parts drag unnecessarily, the characters are either stereotypes or totally bland, and many of the dialogue scenes are just badly written. The jury scene, which today seems like a miniature prototype of Twelve Angry Men, is too full of clichés and psychobabble. Still, it holds up well when considered with all Hitchcock's British pictures, some of which are terrible, and it's an essential point in the development of his more domestic murder-orientated thrillers, which he would not really return to until his arrival in Hollywood.
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