Dial M for Murder (1954) Poster

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Tense and exciting.
PizzicatoFishCrouch15 October 2006
Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), an ex-tennis player, unhappily married to Margot (Grace Kelly), correctly guesses that she has been cheating, with Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Mark writes crime stories. Unbeknown to Margot and Mark, Tony knows about the affair, and wants to teach Margot a little lesson, by taking away the thing that is her life. But, being too guileful to do it himself, Wendice blackmails one of his old school friends into murdering her, and the essential thing to doing it is his latchkey.

Dial M for Murder succeeds on many levels, and it is largely thanks to some superb dialogue, written from a tricksy-yet-capable script that never gets too deep. The cast are a treat. Ray Milland is an absolute gem, extremely sly and dispassionate, yet a character so full of self-assurance that one almost sides with him. Grace Kelly completes her great year (she gave an Oscar-winning performance in The Country Girl and also starred in Rear Window) by emanating the poised, beautiful being, that is vulnerable, yet oddly unassailable. And it's weird in that even though she's cheating on her husband, you care for her a lot more than him (although that could do with the fact that he's trying to kill her...) And John Williams, as the police detective, is quite wonderful.

Alfred Hitchcock manipulates and enthrals his audience here like the master that he is. Each scene has a sense of direction, great pacing, and is staged realistically. Stunning full colour photography and a haunting, atmospheric score from Dimitri Tiomkin complete this great package. The ending, when it comes, feels a little too nice to be truly realistic, but that is my only major quibble with an otherwise highly entertaining, thrilling movie.
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The perfect film for the perfect murder...
After earning an Academy award nomination for her performance in John Ford's 1953 tale of romance and adventure, "Mogambo", the beautiful actress Grace Kelly proved that she was way more than just a pretty face and that there was real talent behind her image. However, what truly took her career to new levels were three now classic films she made directed by the legendary Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Under his direction, Kelly made an integral part of the Master's films, becoming the perfect embodiment of Hitchcock's idea of a female protagonist. While Kelly debuted two years earlier in the classic Western "High Noon", one could say that it was Hitchcock who really introduced the beauty and talent of Grace Kelly to the world. "Dial M for Murder" was the first of Hitchcock's films with Kelly, and a movie where once again the Master returns to a familiar theme: the perfect murder.

The movie is the story of Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), a former tennis player married to the beautiful and wealthy Margot (Grace Kelly) and living in an nice apartment in London. Life is good for Tony, until he discovers that his wife is cheating on him with an old flame of her, famous crime novel writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). After that discovery, Tony spends a whole years plotting the perfect way to murder his wife in order to inherit her money, carefully planning every detail of the crime. When Mark visits London again, Tony finds the perfect chance to set his plan in motion, and as planned, he recruits Charles Swann (Anthony Dawson) to kill his wife. However, bad luck and a sudden change of events will test Tony's plan's infallibility as, just as Mark points out, human action can originate flaws even in the most perfectly devised plan.

Like most Hitchcock's films, "Dial M for Murder" was an adaptation of another art-form, this time a popular play by Frederick Knott. As Knott was also the writer of the screenplay, the movie remains extremely faithful to the play, although of course, not without its differences. Knott's script is wonderfully constructed, as like in the play, the dialog is witty and simply captivating, with many twists and turns that spiced up the complex plot and keep it from being boring or tiresome. An interesting feature of the movie is that oddly, there are no black and white morality in the characters, and it's easy not only to sympathize with Margot (despite she being cheating on her husband) but also to sympathize with Tony (despite he wanting to kill his wife), as the characters are wonderfully developed with very detailed personalities.

It seems that Hitchcock's knows that the dialog is the highlight of the play, as he deliberately focuses on his actors and uses an elegant camera-work to frame the whole movie inside the apartment. The movie literally is shot entirely in one single room (only two other sets are used, and only briefly), but Hitchcock's classy way of using the camera allow a highly dynamic flow that never lets the movie be tiresome. This is also very helpful as Hitchcock just lets his characters keep speaking, carefully describing actions and events (when other directors would use flashbacks) in a similar way to a what the real play would be. While this approach could easily get boring, Hitchcock's use of colors and overall visual imagery simply creates the perfect medium to allow Knott's dialog to shine.

Without disrespecting John Ford or Fred Zinnemann, I think that it was Hitchcock who finally could allow Kelly's talent to shine beyond her physical beauty. Grace Kelly makes her character shine with her subtle and restrained performance, specially showing her skill in the second half of the film. While often Kelly receives top honors in this movie, it is actually Ray Milland who makes the whole movie work with his suave and charming "villian". Milland's performance is simply terrific, making his character nice enough to win the sympathies of the audience, yet still frighteningly intelligent as the mastermind of the plot. John Williams appears as the Inspector in charge to solve the complex puzzle, and delivers a classic performance as the Enlgish gentleman decided to find the final answer. Only Robert Cummings seems miscast as Mark Halliday, although a lot of his weak performance could be blamed to Milland, Kelly and Williams overshadowing him with their excellent work.

In many ways, "Dial M for Murder" shares many things with "Rope", as not only the two films are based on successful plays, they are also about committing the perfect murder and oddly, they are both "experiments": while "Rope" was conceived as a "movie in one take", "Dial M for Murder" was done as 3-D movie. Sadly, the interest in 3-D was dying when the film was released, so few theaters carried the movie complete with the gimmick; a real shame, as Hitchcock's use of the technology, unlike most 3-D films of its time, was conceived as a way to enhance the claustrophobia of the Wendices' apartment instead of using it to merely shock the audience with "stuff coming out of the screen" (as seen in for example, "House of Wax"). While not too fond of the gimmick, Hitchcock truly gave it a good and intelligent (albeit subtle) use to it.

"Dial M for Murder" is probably less celebrated than the Master's most famous movies, the fact that it came out the same years as "Rear Window" (again with Grace Kelly) may have had something to do with it too. While a subtler and more restrained tale of suspense, this is still the Master at his best, as the movie proves that when he was at the top of his game, no other director was comparable to him. 9/10
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One of Hitchcock's best thrillers.
Chuck-14915 September 1999
1954 was a big year for Grace Kelly. She played in Hitchcock's classic "Rear window" and she won an Oscar for best actress in "The country girl" and most people tend to forget that she starred in yet another classic, "Dial M for murder". Starring Grace Kelly, Ray Milland, and Robert Cummings, it is simply one of Hitchcock's finest movies of all-time. In fact, I would consider it to be my second favorite Hitchcock movie ever, my first being "Psycho" (although I haven't seen "Rear window" yet).

Margot (Grace Kelly) is married to Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), an ex-tennis player. However, she has been seeing another man named Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Mark writes crime stories. The two of them think that Tony doesn't know about their relationship but they're wrong; Tony has known about this relationship for one year and seems to have had enough of it. So when Mark, who lives in New-York, comes to London to see Margot, Tony wants to go out with Mark and his wife. But the night of the event, Tony is unable to go. So he tells Margot to take Mark out and to have a good time. The only problem is that Tony doesn't really have something that's keeping him from going out with Margot and Mark. He has another plan, the plan being to blackmail one of his old college friends that has become a small time crook into murdering his wife.

What follows this is pure entertainment at its best. As usual, Hitchcock masterfully directs this movie and has the right actors to do the job. Ray Milland and Grace Kelly deliver very good performances and surprisingly enough, Robert Cummings does a rather good job in his role of Mark Halliday, the American crime novel writer who accidentally stumbles on the answer. But it is John Williams who steals the show with his great performance as Inspector Hubbard, the detective who holds the key to the whole mistery. He is simply excellent and pretty funny when he is supposed to be. Another of his great performances is in "Witness for the prosecution" where he played Brogan Moore, Charles Laughton's very good friend and seconding lawyer in the case. As for "Dial M for murder", well it's one of those movies that anyone should see at pretty much any cost.
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All it is, is plot
marissas7527 February 2007
Undoubtedly, "Dial M for Murder" has a clever plot: Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) plans "the perfect murder" to do away with his wife Margot (Grace Kelly), who cheated on him with novelist Mark (Robert Cummings). He blackmails an old schoolmate into committing the crime and plants clues to mislead the police. But when things don't go according to plan, Tony has to plant new clues and think of another explanation to give the detectives, so that suspicion doesn't fall on him.

The trouble is, the plot is the only interesting thing about this movie, and the characters are defined solely by how they can affect the plot. For instance, Mark writes mystery novels only because this explains his ability to "read" the crime scene. Most of the movie's dialogue is expository: long scenes where the characters debate the minutiae of evidence found at the scene, without an interesting subtext. The movie is known for taking place almost entirely in the Wendices' living room, and Hitchcock does a good job of varying the camera angles to make you forget there's just one set. But he did this even better in "Rear Window," his other 1954 film.

Admittedly, Milland gives an enjoyable performance as the villain—truly a guy you love to hate, a clever and smiling sociopath. But Kelly and Cummings are surprisingly boring for a pair of adulterous lovers. Kelly also proves herself the ancestor of all those female horror- movie characters who go investigating strange noises in their best lingerie.

"Dial M for Murder" is lightweight without actually being funny—a fatal combination. Though serious concerns (adultery, murder, the death penalty) underlie the story, we're never made to feel that they are really consequential. It's a cold and mechanical movie, which subordinates everything else to the demands of an intricate plot. Contrast this with something like "Rear Window," whose plot is simple and lacking in twists, but whose characters are vividly drawn and act as though their stories really meant something. Having a clever solution to a mystery does not a great movie make.
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The stage-originated dialogue sings with intelligence, wit, and an easy transition to the screen
TheUnknown837-126 November 2012
There is a lot to admire about Alfred Hitchcock's "Dial M for Murder," and I do hold the film with a great deal of admiration and respect. However, what I adore about the movie the most (more than the cinematography, the suspense, the acting, and even the direction) is the work by screenwriter Frederick Knott. Mr. Knott based the screenplay for "Dial M for Murder" on his successful stage production, which I have never seen, but am told contains almost all of the words we hear in the film. And the words are music to the ears. They sing with intelligence, wit that Mr. Hitchcock certainly found attractive, and, best of all, an easy transition to the screen. Many times when a stage production goes to film, as far as I am concerned, the results, even if good, are uneven. Frequently, the dialogue and restricted set space allowed tend to give off the impression of a filmed play, not a cinematic experience. Another Hitchcock film, 1948's "Rope," though valiant, interesting, and successful, attempted this and suffered from this difficult struggle.

But the dialogue, put on film here, is exceptional. I write this review having seen "Dial M for Murder" two or three times and wanting to see it once again. Many reviewers, myself included, have tried watching films with the sound off. I want to try the opposite. I want to close my eyes and just listen to the dialogue because it's so strong. The MacGuffin conversation at the beginning, with a perfectly cast Ray Milland blackmailing a perfectly cast Anthony Dawson into murdering a perfectly cast Grace Kelly is brilliantly written by Mr. Knott. It was clearly from a stage production, as it explains the plot background in great detail, and goes on for the better part of twenty minutes. Both men are fleshed out, giving us their personalities and individual tendencies. And even though "Dial M for Murder" pretty much stays on just one small set (an apartment in London, in which we see mostly the foyer, a little of the bedroom, and just a glimpse of the kitchen), what happens there is so fascinating that we do not really want to venture out into the city.

And that is just the setup. The dialogue remains insistently interesting and clever throughout the picture. It also has that subtle, dark sense of humor that Alfred Hitchcock was keen on. It also has the ironic touches, such as when Mr. Milland, as the jealous husband, kisses his unfaithful wife on the night she is to be murdered, and tells her: "Goodbye, my dear." The audience, having been given every single little detail about the scheme and how it is to unfold, cringes with a dark realization that Mr. Hitchcock might just go through with Mr. Milland's plot. Mr. Hitchcock, as the director, is also due tremendous credit for his trademark of creating tension. Screenwriter Knott brilliantly lays out for the audience, not the victim, how the murder will go through, but Mr. Hitchcock's camera dutifully follows everything as the scheme goes along. And, before we realize it, if something starts to go wrong, we become scared and tense. And you can imagine my guilt when I realized I was feeling scared that a plan to murder someone just might not go through. It's Mr. Hitchcock's gift at work.

Dimitri Tiomkin, a very good film composer, hits all the write notes; that includes knowing when he needs to tell his violins and trumpets to shut up. Robert Burks' cinematography is also strong with effective usage of shadows and streaks of light. Colors are omnipresent. And even though "Dial M for Murder" was shot with the intent to be seen in 3D, it is hardly evident. When I first saw the film, in much superior 2D, I did not mind the lamps and such in the foreground, such as when one bisects the screen between Ray Milland and Anthony Dawson during the opening sequence. I just thought it was a clever piece of filmmaking and misc en scene, not a cheap gimmick like in most 3D movies today. "Dial M for Murder" is a near-perfect movie of its kind, pumped full of smart dialogue and dazzling energy. This is one of the few play-to-movie transition that I have seen where I have suddenly become eager to see the original stage production.
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Chris L14 March 2013
Six years after Rope, Hitchcock released another adaptation from a play, still behind closed doors, but a lot more conventional than its experimental predecessor. Unfortunately, although Dial M for Murder is a real improvement, it is not free from flaws, of which some are recurrent with the English director.

It's a shame because it started pretty well. One easily gets carried away by the flowing dialogues, and wonders where this story is going to lead to. Granted though it is a bit far-fetched but nonetheless it arouses curiosity. Unfortunately, as soon as we pass the murder (and the intermission), the script struggles a little too much until the final outcome. The second part lacks tension, suspense, but most importantly rhythm which is strongly crippling, let alone for a confined movie.

Once again, and as it happens too often with Hitchcock, this is a lukewarm feature, not a total flop but not fully accomplished either.
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Gary17045921 January 2013
What gets me about this film every time I see it is just how simple it is. The witty urbanity of the dialogue goes without saying (hem), the acting is stagily impeccable, and the direction by Hitchcock is limited by the small sets but masterful for all that.

Cold Ray Milland plans and sets up the murder of his demure but faithless wife Grace Kelly by a virtual stranger who is urged on by the stick of exposure of his misdeeds and the carrot of GBP1,000 in used notes. Of course all of his convoluted plans go horribly or thankfully wrong, depending on your point of view, leading to an even more convoluted revised plan. When first seen when young I wasted my time because I wasn't paying attention at the critical moment so missed the point and didn't get it: the key is how did the baddie get into the apartment? It's incredibly verbose, being from a stage play after all and at times it seems nothing more than a radio show with pictures. The long scene setting and verbal sparring by Milland and Anthony Dawson is superb to hear - it's fascinating for its relentless poetry, and of displaying a now-dead world. I could never understand the attraction of 3D movies, least of all with this particular attempt, or why Kelly was continually uglified by the Hollywood machine when she never looked lovelier than in here when she was playing stressed out throughout.

I wonder if Hitch remembered the jokey murder scene he did in 1930 in Elstree Calling when Jameson Thomas realised he was murdering in the wrong apartment? Turn that key you have and go in, it's a remarkably literate film and as intricate inside as any lock.
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Excellent Hitchcock thriller
Philip Borrington17 January 2002
Surprisingly this is a lesser-known Hitchcock film but still stands up today as an exciting thriller full of twists and turns.

Ray Milland is excellent as ex-tennis pro Tony Wendice who decides to commit the perfect murder of his wife (Grace Kelly) when he learns of her affair with Robert Cummings (who isn't given much to do). In fact, Milland's subtle performance has you wanting the murder plot to work! Though it has to be said, Kelly's helpless female turn does not help in this regard either.

Hitchcock's skill here is to totally involve the viewer in the labyrinthine plot involving keys, telephone calls and stockings so that at the end of the film you haven't even noticed that virtually all the scenes are in one room.

If you like clever, wordy films with a touch of humour then I recommend `Dial M For Murder'. 8/10
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Superior Hitchcock with an exquisite Grace Kelly
Dennis Littrell21 July 2002
This is a fine example of the kind of mystery that little old ladies from Pasadena (or Russell Square) adore. Perhaps Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) starring Cary Grant might be comparable in its gentile and bloodless ability to glue us to the screen. This is certainly one of Hitchcock's best, but most of the credit must go to a devilishly clever play written by Frederick Knott from which the movie was adapted. (He also wrote Wait Until Dark (1967) starring Audrey Hepburn.) Hitchcock does a good job in not tinkering unnecessarily with the material. He also has the exquisitely beautiful Grace Kelly to play the part of Margot Wendice. Ray Milland plays, with a kind of high-toned Brit panache, her diabolical husband, Tony Wendice, a one-time tennis star who married mostly for security. John Williams is the prim and proper Chief Inspector Hubbard. He lends to the part a bit of Sherlock Holmesian flair. One especially liked his taking a moment to comb his mustache after the case is solved. Robert Cummings, unfortunately plays Margot's American boyfriend as inventively as a sawhorse. For those of you who might have blinked, Hitchcock makes his traditional appearance in the photo on the wall from Tony Wendice's undergraduate days. The fulcrum of the plot is the latchkey. It is the clue that (literally) unlocks the mystery. There is a modernized redoing of this movie called A Perfect Murder (1998) starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in which a similar business with latchkeys is employed. I am not very good with clues so it was only after seeing that movie and Dial M for Murder for the second time that I finally understood what happened. Follow the latchkey! Of course I was too distracted by Grace Kelly to fully appreciate such intricacies. I found myself struck with the ironic notion that anyone, even a cuckolded husband, might want to kill Grace Kelly or that a jury might find her guilty of anything! She remains in my psyche America's fairytale princess who quit Hollywood at the height of her popularity after only five years and eleven movies to become a real princess by marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco. Something was lost there, and something was gained. She was in essence the original Jackie Kennedy Onassis. I think, however, that the old saw about the man who marries for money, earning it, might apply to American princesses as well. At any rate, Grace Kelly's cool and sublime bearing was on fine display here. Hitchcock cloths her in discreet nightgowns and snug (but certainly not clinging) dresses that show off her delicate figure and her exquisite arms and hint oh so coyly at her subtle sexuality. She was 25-years-old, stunningly beautiful, and in full confidence of her ability as an actress. She had just finished starring opposite James Stewart in another splendid Hitchcock one-room mystery, Rear Window (1954), and was about to make The Country Girl (1954) with Bing Crosby for which she would win an Oscar for Best Actress. So see this for Grace Kelly who makes Gwyneth Paltrow (whom I adore) look downright gawky, and for Ray Milland whose urbane scheming seems a layer or two of hell removed from Michael Douglas's evil manipulations. By the way, the "original theatrical trailer" preceding these Warner Brothers Classic videos is what we used to call the "Coming Attractions"--that is, clips directly from the movie and a promo. You might want to fast forward to the movie itself.
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Vastly overrated....
MattB-51 June 1999
Mostly enjoyable movie, but hardly a 'great' movie. I am most disappointed by the lack of depth in the Grace Kelly and Cummings characters, which are both one-note uninteresting roles. Grace Kelly is wasted in a passive, weak, and vapid role which relegates her to the status of window dressing (not that there is anything wrong with that!), she might as well be a nice looking piece of furniture in this movie. The Cummings role is wasted as the passion between him and Kelly is not developed, and amazingly, the tension that would exist between Milland and Cummings is never apparent!. This guy was sleeping with Milland's wife, but you would think they were best friends. What a waste. Would have been a lot more interesting if Kelly and Cummings were not such bland, cardboard harmless people and were a little more human, with real emotions (jealousy, hatred, passion, even a little evil).

Milland makes the move interesting to watch as he sets his plan in motion with great charm and flair. Unfortunately, as he is the only interesting character, you kind of feel bad when he is caught in the end and the two sappy characters prevail. Oh well, it could have been a lot more 'noir' if they had not glossed over the fact that Kelly and Cummings are far from the sweet innocents they are portrayed.
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What does Hitchcock know about women?
JFHunt17 September 2007
Hitchcock brings the successful play, Dial M for Murder by Frederick Knott, to life in a shocking new way. Adapted by use of the amazing 3D technology.

This movie is unique for Hitchcock in many ways. It is shot entirely in one room, yet there is never a moment of claustrophobia. As for many movies in the early 50's, it was shot in 3D. And you will at times notice scenes that play into that, but are done with the greatest of expertise. Also he chose not to change the play at all, but rather ride it out.

As the aging tennis pro or the jealous husband, Ray Milland is solid all the way through. And what can I say about Grace Kelly. Behind only Ingrid Bergman and Donna Reed, as the most beautiful and talented actresses of all time. She never fails to impress. She can be quite a darling and at the same time a spectacular bitch.

Probably my favorite Hitchcock film, since it is the first one I saw. I was introduced to him very early in life at the age of 7, by my wicked older sister. For years Psycho haunted me and Vertigo confused. But I do thank her for Notorious and Rear Window. Dial M for and North by Northwest.

Seems to me that Hitch was not the most attractive guy, yet like all of us he favored beautiful women. Especially blonde's. This leads me to the question of, what does a guy like Hitchcock know about women? Maybe simply, how to kill them.
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M for masterful
jc-osms4 September 2010
A treat for the eyes and exercise for the brain, "Dial M For Murder" is Hitchcock's second "drawing-room perfect murder" movie, after "Rope", the latter a darker and more sinister affair altogether. Hitchcock himself in interviews played down the quality of this movie, amongst other other things indicating that it was treated almost as a warm-up for the more ambitious "Rear Window" which immediately followed it in his career.

However. it actually has a lot going for it, being beautifully shot in luminous colour, extremely well acted in almost every role and peppered throughout with those eye-catching and brain-satisfying flourishes which so distinguished the director from the rest.

Yes, it is very set-bound, betraying its stage origins and likewise very talky, especially on exposition, but it keeps the viewer alert throughout and delivers a neatly satisfying conclusion. I do wish Hitchcock could have done better with his back-projection unit (an old-fashioned, jarring trait he still hadn't grown out of by "Marnie" some 10 years later) and I occasionally found the constant too frivolous background music an intrusion, but it's well paced throughout, helped considerably by an on-form cast.

Ray Milland is excellent in a kind of darker Cary Grant type persona, Grace Kelly (who'd want to murder her?) goes convincingly from loveliness to wretchedness while it's pleasing to see Robert Cumming to the fore, recalled by Hitch for the first time in over a decade ("since "Saboteur" in 1942). The actors playing the would be murderer and nosey police inspector are just fine too.

About those flourishes..., perhaps the most famous being the changing spotlight on Grace Kelly's doomed face as her trial is condensed into just a few terse minutes and of course the murder scene itself, even if one can't imagine her extended stabbing gesture being strong enough to cut through Swann's jacket far less kill him stone dead, but I also enjoyed the raised tracking shot looking down on Milland as he explains his plot to Swann and particularly the parting shadows of lovers Cumming and Kelly at Milland's unexpected approach.

Yes, it's old fashioned Hollywood movie-making, but it's old-fashioned Hollywood movie-making at its best and in my opinion an unjustly overlooked effort from the Master.
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"Do you really believe in the perfect murder? "
Galina4 July 2007
The hit Broadway play by Frederick Knott "Dial M for Murder" has been adapted to the screen several times, including the films made in West Germany and Sweden, as well as a TV movie in 1981 (TV) by Boris Seagal and the film "A Perfect Murder" (1998) directed by Andrew Davis with Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Viggo Mortensen. Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 adaptation was the first and certainly the best one even if the master himself considered it one of his lesser efforts. "Dial M for Murder" will be remembered as Hitchcock's first color film and the first of three thrillers he had made with Grace Kelly, the future Princess of Monaco, in the prime of her beauty and her talent. Using color proved to be very effective in the film. The first two scenes featuring Kelly wearing a white morning dress in the idyllic scene with her husband Tony and right after that kissing passionately her American lover, writer (Robert Cummings) in the red dress, immediately, without many words tell the viewer that the story of passion, deception, betrayal, and ultimately, murder will follow.

Ray Milland (Tony Wendice) is a surprisingly sympathetic villain (which is perhaps not surprising from the actor with talent, charm, and charisma that equal and remind a lot of both Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart) who knows about his wife cheating and decides to teach her a lesson by plotting a very clever murder which will make him a sole heir to her money (she is a wealthy one in the family). His plan is perfect and almost works but Margot managed to not only escape the murderer but to turn the table on him while stunned Wendice is on the phone and listens how his well thought of plan collapses. Wendice is very resourceful and he proved to be a master of improvisation because it took him a few minutes in a cab to switch to a plan B that turned a terrified victim Margot into a cold-blooded murderess. Now it is up to seasoned and shrewd inspector Hubbard (John Williams) to find the crucial piece of evidence and to solve the case.

As always with Hitchcock, his directing is impeccable, the camera rarely leaves Wendice's apartment but the film is never claustrophobic which is the case for many plays' adaptation. It breathes and moves freely and we almost forget that we are in the same room for close to two hours. I would not call "Dial M for Murder" my favorite Hitchcock's film but it is enjoyable, clever, and witty thriller with the interesting twists, outstanding performances, and more than one truly memorable scenes.
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Needed a bit more "cinema" and a bit less "stage".
lewiskendell13 May 2010
Even the perfect crime can have one minor, overlooked detail that leads to the complete unraveling of the entire plan. The random quirks of chance can be the downfall of the cleverest man. That's the plot of Dial M for Murder, in a nutshell.

I decided to make this my next Hitchcock film, because that's the kind of story that always seems to interest me. Well, the primary reason was that I'm in love with Grace Kelly, but the plot description was also appealing. Dial M reminded me of Rear Window, in a few ways. Most noticeably, the sparse (yet effective) action, and the use of a single apartment as the major setting for the film. In the hands of a lesser director, those two elements may have been a detriment to the overall quality. But Hitchcock once again works around them marvelously. 

It's not hard to guess the stage origins of this movie. It actually feels more like a play than a movie.  And while that is in no way a negative, it does mean a lot of exposition. The story is explained to the viewers instead of shown, and because of that I cannot rate Dial M as highly as Psycho, Vertigo, or Rear Window. It's an interesting movie, and it's not hard to find yourself tense during nearly the entire last half. But the execution as a whole could have been better and less expository.
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A classic stage murder thriller...
Nazi_Fighter_David17 February 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Ray Milland schemes to knock off his lovely wife (Grace Kelly) in order to support his flagging bank balance...

His cause is "justified" by the fact that his wife is guilty of cheating on him...

Milland develops a carefully constructed murder plan, contacting Captain Lesgate (John Williams), an old college classmate operating illegal ventures, to whom he outlines his murder scheme and then blackmails into carrying it out...

The movie takes off from there as an intense character battle between three different characters... Tony, done by Ray Milland in outstanding performance, is icily intense and incredibly wild. He is easily the best of the three... Grace Kelly & Robert Cummings both pale in comparison, although Grace is slightly better, for the merely reason that her character is left for to do the least amount of truly suspenseful acting...

The murder is set up and is deliciously evil: The defining moment is when Ray Milland wipes clean every object he touches as he explains to Anthony Dawson how to carry out the murder of his adulterous wife, thus not incriminating himself... They discuss the closing of the screen door to the porch, the placement of the golden key, and the time it will take his woman to answer the distracting phone call...

Grace Kelly is the smart but vulnerable Margot... She begins her role dressed in bright crimson reds but as the film progresses and finds herself accused, her outfits become darker... Kelly is ingénue enough to be sympathetic but also tough enough to be respected... Her most memorable image was on the phone, oblivious to the assassin behind her...

Robert Cummings does not fare at all because of his comical face... He is the weakest cast member bringing so little to the table...

John Williams is excellent as the dangerous murder weapon tricked by a clever scoundrel... but he somewhere along makes one fatal mistake...

Anthony Dawson is absolutely brilliant, delightful as the eccentric Chief Inspector watching how the easy-talking husband is trying to cover his tracks... As soon as he arrives on scene to investigate the murder, there's an instant feeling of electricity... Here's a guy who can read human nature from a mile away... He takes compassion on Kelly, but unfortunately, the two don't partner up as in cop buddy movies...

The film, however, belongs to the sinister Ray Milland, the cold logic husband who designs the murder to look like a routine burglary gone wrong, and leads Scotland Yard into believing his wife is guilty of deliberate murder...

Milland, a genteel charmer with an icy murderous side, is perfect as Tony Wendice... If ever there was a demonstration of venality, Milland's Tony Wendice was it: courteous on the outside, devious on the inside... We see his cheery domestic manner with his wife... He blithely sends her out for the evening with her lover, then without breaking his stride sits down at the telephone and calls Swan, the man he intends to enlist for the murder... There is something chilling about the way in which Milland operates in these scenes: Once Swan arrives, the polite smile never leaves Milland's face as he switches gears from exchanging pleasantries to blackmail and murder.. The entire scene was shot from the ceiling...

'Dial M for Murder' holds its grip pretty well... Hitchcock provides the tension in many directorial tricks: Margot's unexpected change in plans for the evening; a hiding place for a key blocked by Mark at a critical moment; a stopped watch; an occupied telephone box; Margot's wavering hand holding the telephone that almost blocks Swan's access to her neck; Tony taking the key out of Swan's pocket and even briefing his wife what to tell the police...

'Dial M for Murder' is a classic stage murder thriller... It never reaches the heights that 'Rear Window' did, but it has to be one of the most brilliant stage thrillers ever written... The score, composed by Dimitri Tiomkin, is both eerie & precarious...

"Dial M for Murder" is a film that makes you pay attention. It is a definite must-see!
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A mean husband concocts an intricate plan to murder his unfaithful wife for her money
ma-cortes31 May 2012
Thrilling and suspense movie based on Frederick Knott's play , author of other successful and equally adapted books as ¨Wait until dark¨ and ¨The honey pot¨ . A London ex-tennis pro (Ray Milland) carries out a plot to murder his wife and then he hires a killer (Anthony Dawson who recreates his stage role) . When things go wrong , he improvises a brilliant plan B . In the city , wealthy Margot Mary Wendice (Grace Kelly) had a brief love affair with the American writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings) while her husband and professional tennis player Tony Wendice was on a tennis tour . But his plan for pulling off the perfect crime is temporarily foiled and quickly switches to another plan . Meanwhile a Police Inspector (John Williams who won the 1953 Tony Award to recreate his stage role of Chief Inspector Hubbard) investigates the deeds .

Top-notch suspense film of a man plotting spouse's killing , full of sustained intrigue , thrills , a few interesting twists and entertainment . The picture , stagy at times , is formed by two parts , a Plan A and a Plan B with even more fun . Casting is frankly magnificent , the stars are excellently cast . Splendid performances from Ray Milland as a rather likable nasty who desires to inherit his wife's fortune and John Williams as an obstinate Inspector who carries out the subsequent investigation . Furthermore , a gorgeous and wonderful Grace Kelly ; Hitch arranged to have Grace dressed in bright colors at the start of the film and made them progressively darker as time goes on. Colorful and shimmer cinematography by Robert Burks who uses intelligent camera vantages , being photographed in Technicolor and 3D , which explains the prevalence of low-angle shots with lamps and other objects between us and the cast members. Thriller and suspenseful musical score by the classic Dimitri Tiomkin . The movie was skillfully shot in 36 days: August 5-September 25 1953 , by the maestro Hithcock , including his well-known touches and as usual the same appears a cameo on the left side of the reunion photograph . Rating : Above average , and ranked #9 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Mystery" .

Remade for television (1981) by Boris Sagal with Angie Dickinson and Christopher Plummer and for cinema as ¨A perfect murder¨(1998) by Andrew Davis with Viggo Mortensen , Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Douglas as the husband , but this time , the man he contracts to kill his wife results to be her lover .
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Plush murder-game courtesy Alfred Hitchcock...though stagy and in a minor key
moonspinner5519 September 2010
Champion tennis player--retired and married to a wealthy, unfaithful blonde dish--arranges to have his spouse murdered, never dreaming of course she would fight back against her attacker, leaving the unruffled rotter to match wits with the savvy police inspector on the case. Frederick Knott adapted his own successful play, though neither he nor director Alfred Hitchcock made much of an attempt to open up the material for the screen. Instead of exploiting all the possibilities for a decadent danse macabre, the material is kept in-check; it finally seems stunted, or rather stultifying. Cinematographer Robert Burks gives the proceedings a nice coat of gloss, and Grace Kelly is attractive (though one-note) as the wife of scheming Ray Milland. John Williams, recreating his Tony-winning stage role as the Chief Inspector, out-acts them both. It passes the time painlessly, but is never more than a compact drawing-room mystery. **1/2 from ****
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Key Swapping Balderdash (Spoiler)
HarryHart31 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I must admit that I scanned through all the comments on this film hoping that someone somewhere might agree with my assessment of the plot as being absurdly overcomplicated. Surely it was relatively straightforward to get an extra key cut even in the 1950s, which would have stopped all the ridiculous key swapping activities. At times, it seemed more like a magician's (con man's?) act - now you see it, now you don't - rather than a mystery/thriller. I thought it was quaint that the local police were called instead of the emergency services when there is a dead body in the apartment. Perhaps we had the ethos of your local, friendly neighbourhood cop on the beat in those days who would clear it all up quite amicably and we could all get on with our lives, and perhaps be more careful in future. Not only are keys swapped with gay abandon but also raincoats (unnoticed, of course). Not at all sure why the crime-writer boyfriend of the wife agreed to go to a stag night with the husband, just after he had admitted that he would find it very difficult talking to the bloke, who he hardly knew anyway. The whole thing just fails to be anywhere near believable. Why on earth are all the comments favourable?
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If the name Hitchcock wasn't attached....
imdb-457 May 2013
Reading these comments you'd think that this was the perfect film. An incredible plan of the perfect murder. The problem is that none of the characters are likable, the plot contains more holes than Swiss Cheese and police that act far out of character so as not to be believable whatsoever.

This movie has aged badly. The contrivances of old films are all present here. I was wondering whether this was a play of some sort and lo and behold it was. Like Hitchcock's other loser film, Rope, this one has annoying characters doing things that people just don't do. The film takes place primarily in one room, the apartment.

Rear Window is a far superior film to this one. Like most films, the fawning fans gladly overlook the horrendous flaws so that they can proudly proclaim "Ooooh, it's a Hitchcock!" This is just a conceit where Hitchcock thinks he can lazily work his genius and all the fools in the audience won't notice. You will. You'll be asking yourself one question from the start, being... "why the heck not make a third copy of the key?" That's just for starters. The last third of the film you'll be groaning... don't say I didn't warn you.
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There Is no Perfect Crime
Claudio Carvalho21 November 2009
In London, the wealthy Margot Mary Wendice (Grace Kelly) had a brief love affair with the American writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings) one year ago while her husband and professional tennis player Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) is traveling in a tennis tour. Tony quits playing to dedicate to his wife and finds a regular job and she decides to give a second chance for their marriage. When Mark arrives from America to visit the couple, Margot tells him that she had destroyed all his letter but one that was stolen in a depot; then she was blackmailed through letters but she had never retrieved the stolen letter. Tony arrives home and claims that he needs to work, and asks Margot to go with Mark to the theater. Meanwhile Tony calls the scum Captain Lesgate - aka Charles Alexander Swann (Anthony Dawson) that studied with him in the college and blackmails him to murder his wife, so that he would inherit her fortune. But there is no perfect crime, and things do not work as planned by Tony.

"Dial M for Murder" is one of the best thrillers of cinema history, with a theatrical story supported by an excellent screenplay and top-notch performances. Ray Milland is superb in the role of the Machiavellian and cynical Tony Wendice; Grace Kelly is extremely gorgeous and sweet in the role of a wife in the 50's; and John Williams is great in the role of the efficient and fussy Chief Inspector Hubbard. This time, the cameo of Alfred Hitchcock is in the picture of Tony's reunion. In 1998, Andrew Davis remade this movie with "A Perfect Crime", with Michael Douglas, Gwineth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Disque M para Matar" ("Dial M for Murder")
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Space, Distance, Entry
tedg29 May 2007
I recently saw this again, but I will make this comment on a viewing I had many years ago.

I was sponsoring some research on human interfaces, and the center of expertise at the time was coordinated by an Air Force Lab out of Dayton Ohio. Some of the more clever guys at the lab had connections with hobbyists in the area, and also with local film enthusiasts connected with the city artfilm theater. They'd arranged for a reconstruction of the three-D version of this. I made a special trip for what was billed as the only week ever this would be shown.

It was originally filmed in 3D, using an unusual process. Two cameras made two color prints. These were delivered together to the theater and shown with two synchronized projectors on the same screen through polarizing lenses. Polarized glasses allowed the viewer to see color 3D.

Almost immediately after release, the process was abandoned because the projectors required amazing skill and were extraordinarily complicated, expensive and unreliable. To reconstruct the original effect, several years went into the location of most of the original projectors so that parts could be cannibalized to create the complete kit of Siamese twin projectors. Some missing precision parts may have been fabricated in a spooky government research lab; I cannot say. That was only the first impossibility.

What had happened shortly after the film was released over 50 years ago, within a few months, was that the left and right prints were separated and distributed as "ordinary" versions. To reconstruct a pair, you need to have every single frame match. But no prints had all frames complete. Some had been edited by exhibitors for various reasons like time. Others had been broken and respliced and some of those repairs even reversed. Some had frames snipped to create publicity stills. Still others had both some left and some right elements.

It apparently was a tremendous effort to scan all prints a frame at a time and reconstruct a matched pair. A previous 3D version had been released, but it was no help, in fact unwatchable. It reduced the process to the older black and white and didn't do the matching this team did. Its horrible, and not even 3D in some places.

So I made a special trip to see this in Dayton as it was intended. Hitchcock made this in his spare time while preparing for his masterful "Rear Window." It was already a hit play, and his contribution was to design the blocking for 3D. Its important because Hitchcock was a master in advancing the notion of a spatial camera, a space-savvy eye. Some of what he did here is not only extraordinary on its own, but it can be seen as a sort of sketchpad for some of the indirectly referenced effects on "Rear Window." So if you are interested in the world, then you are interested in film in space, and then "Rear Window," and as a result this in 3D.

I not only saw this, but arranged to have the optimum seat in the house. And the place was packed with some of the most enlightened viewers I knew and the swelling of sighs at points was palpable. It was an extraordinary experience. The vision research lab was destroyed shortly thereafter because of Republican actions in Congress. I believe the reconstructed projection machinery was effectively lost forever, so the window may have closed to see this properly.

You'll have to extrapolate the 3D effects from a two-d print. Its not impossible I suppose. I'll give you some clues. He places the camera in one of three modes, alternating among them depending on whether we are colluding, witnessing or dissecting. (The trial scene is excluded from this.) Obviously, these viewer modes are interleaved appropriately with which character we conspire with: the husband (a performer), the boyfriend "mystery writer," or the detective. Its easy to work out and quite thrilling to see how he has "dialed" the vision.

This is a replacement comment, the original having been deleted (along with scores of others) by a reader unhappy with comments elsewhere I made about an unrelated actor.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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Dial A For Adultery
ccthemovieman-126 October 2006
This is considered a "sophisticated" crime film and it does have some interesting dialog and a story that keeps your interest. You have to pay attention, particularly at the end when the British police inspector explains how he figured things out.

Ray Milland is the big star of this show, being in almost all the scenes. This kind of suspense movie is unheard of today - a thinking man's gentleman as the main bad guy - with little action in the film. That wouldn't be a success today. It was re-made in 1998 but had more twists and action scenes added.

In this film, as in that re-make (A Perfect Murder), I found myself rooting for the husband. In this case, it was Millland, although he was a bit cocky.

Note: It's a sad comment that Hitchcock, who didn't seem to have a lot of principles, made Robert Cummings - who was an adulterer in this film having an affair with Milland's wife Grace Kelly - into a "good guy." Nobody in the film challenged him on what he was doing. Apparently, adultery was okay with the filmmakers here. At least in the re-make, they made the adulterer into a scumbag (although they made the cheating wife into a sympathetic character! No matter who makes this film, they are still clueless when it comes to what's right and what's wrong!.)
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An enjoyable if stagy thriller – more a stage play than an example of classic Hitchcock.
bob the moo13 July 2003
In order to get his hands on his wife's fortune, washed up tennis star Tony Wendice plans to have her killed. In a carefully planned plot, he approaches a small time conman and blackmails him into helping. However the carefully planned set up goes wrong and Margot kills Swan in a struggle. When the ensuing police investigation assumes that Margot set the whole thing up, everything appears perfect for Tony. However, there is no such thing as the perfect murder.

Although it is very much a stage play rather than a film, this still works well as a thriller due to solid (if unspectacular) performances and good direction. The film s split into three main acts – the planning, the deed and the conclusion. The planning is easily the most enjoyable part as it moves quickly and seems to have everything tied up. The deed is good as we begin to see little things go wrong and the conclusion is enjoyable as the pieces are put together. The plot is quite straightforward, but it's strength is in it's logic – both in set up and conclusion. It is a little dull at times due to it's static location (almost 100% of the film is in the flat) but Hitchcock does manage to deliver real tension at key moments.

The gimmick of 3D (as the film was originally shot to be) means that the film is cluttered with shots of action in the background and furniture in the foreground. It all feels slightly weird to have such a good director frame his shots in this way but it is not too obtrusive. He does better with the dramatic stuff and manages to give a cold, logical air to the planning stages and also makes the actual murder scene very dramatic.

The cast deliver quite polished performances without every stretching themselves outside of the character they have been placed in. So Kelly plays the bewildered wife well, Cummings is a typical tough jawed American and Dawson is a bit of a sub-Terry Thomas. However it is Milland as the coldly English plotter who makes the film quite watchable in it's first act and is very enjoyably `English'. The final act of the film is made to feel different enough to enjoy due to the input of Wiliams as the Inspector – he is witty but also a good match for Tony.

Overall this film is a little too stagy for it's own good but it is still a solid little thriller. The setting make it feel a little too confined and staged than was necessary, but Hitchcock is able to use the location well rather than be hampered by it (3D aside). An old fashioned detective film in the style of a B movie.
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The Revenge of Civilized Palaver
dougdoepke6 October 2013
Looks to me as though Hitch was marking time with this pre-digested package until better material came along, which it did with Rear Window (1954). Halfway through this static exercise, however, I started taking notes so I could keep up with all the plot complications. I had to write fast.

The trouble is the movie's so full of contrivances and polished British gentility, it had me yearning for Sam Spade and a straightforward slug to the gut. At least that would have interrupted the endless talk and civilized palaver. In fact nothing riles the oh-so, civilized Wendi (Milland), — for example, seduce his wife and he says, "Okay, have a glass of port"; arrest him for murder, he says, "Okay, have another glass of port". I may simplify to make a point, but it's like Hitch is trying to prove something about the British. However, in my book, whatever it is, it's not good.

This is one of the few Hollywood movies that films a stage play like a stage play, requiring only a one room set. Couple that inbred space with endless palaver, a tortuous narrative, and 100- minutes of run-time, and you've got one of Hitch's weakest, most oppressive entries. And pity poor Grace Kelly who gets mostly to stand around and look befuddled—probably trying to figure out the latest wrinkle.

Now I may not be the brightest bulb on the block, but I'm betting that only the rotund master's name keeps this entry afloat on anyone's list of goodies. Too bad someone didn't save the idea for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, where the stage play would seem more workable. And to echo the obvious— Please, please, tell me why the cerebral Wendice can't count to three when it comes to latch keys, except, of course, that a locksmith would undo the entire premise.
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Hitchcock plays playfully with plays.
alice liddell19 August 1999
DIAL M FOR MURDER is no masterpiece - its source material, though amusing is too mechanical and obvious, with an unravelling that is disappointingly implausible. Grace Kelly is a terrible actress, but she doesn't even have the crutch of her legendary beauty here, as her humiliation goes hand in hand with increasing dowdiness. And yet the film is a must-see: not only because every Hitchcock film is rich in style and meaning, but for two cherishable performances from Ray Milland and John Williams; for an extraordinary, abstract courtroom scene; and for a remarkable play with theatrical metaphors.

Robin Wood sees many Hitchcock films as analyses of marriage, and DIAL M FOR MURDER is no exception. Even from the beginning we know there's something wrong with the Wendice union - the opening clench is theatrical, cold, unreal. The family home is not comforting, but made strange: objects don't blend in, but are threateningly present (lamps, drinks bottles etc.), always getting in the way of human communication (the telephone is an apt metaphor for the crisis in the film). In a traditional detective story, it is through the displacement of ordinary items, taken for granted, that marks a rupture - the everyday becomes frightening.

Wendice is unable to satisfy his wife - he is only interested in her money. when he talks to Swan about his marital difficulties, he walks with a cane, ostensibly a fake prop, but a clear hint of the impotence rejected when he drops it and talks of the murder that will reassert his patriarchal role. He is like a servant in his own home, dependent on his wife, serving her and her lover drinks. He is probably gay - the handbag which has been transferred in association from his wife to him, is made the butt of a homophobic jibe by Inspector Hubbard.

Most importantly, the conjugal home resembles a stage set. This is the governing motif of the film. Hitchcock subverts the hokey sentiments and values of Knott's play, by drawing attention to its staginess. Props are foregrounded; Wendice is clearly a stage director/author who is putting on a play (planning the murder of his wife). He talks to Swan like he's a director instructing an actor, giving him his lines, showing him round the stage, telling him what to do, where to move; crucially, giving him his cue, timing, the 'call'.

However, although Wendice seems in control, the gaze of the film does not belong to him - his authority is already undermined long before his plot unravels. Frequently filmed in distanceng wide angle, this scene with Swan is shot from above, spied on from a seemingly unmotivated, godlike position, which only emhasises the unreality (theatricality) of the sequence. There is another author beyond Wendice, who is really running the play. Is it God? Fate? Hubris? This position of authority is jostled for by the four male characters, in a frequently homoerotic manner.

The only time this kind of shot becomes motivated, it belongs to the Inspector, suggesting that the law is the godlike arbiter, from whom nothing can be hidden. And this is true, but not reassuring: the Inspector is cold and detached; but, more unforgiveably, like the other male characters, two of whom tried to murder her, he sadistically inflicts pain on Mrs. Wendice, pushing her out of the story, in effect succeeding where Wendice and Swan failed; she is absent for most of the film's second half. The law is shown to be both frightening and whimsical, rather like an Old Testament God. This is not comforting.

This link between the author and authority, both trying to shape meaning, and 'create' truth, while in reality concealing it (Hubbard's assertion of patriarchal truth denies Mrs. Wendice's emotional reality) is linked to a story which is invoked in the film's opening MacGuffin, the stolen letter. Poe, a favourite of Hitchcock's, wrote 'The Purloined Letter' about a missive stolen by a respectable government minister, form a Queen possibly enjoying an adulterous relationship. What's written in this letter, and who controls it, becomes a site of power between the two male characters, who squeeze out the female character, who owns it, altogether. Knowledge, authority, power, and the artist are linked, all are abused, all are stolen from women. Mrs. Wendice's absence in the middle of the film is the anguish seething behind the film's (or play's) smooth mechanics. Anyone who thinks Hitchcock is just a technician is an idiot. he had a profound grasp on the workings of society, and how people are sacrificed for it.

He also shows the seductive appeal of power - Wendice is suave, hilarious, imperious, mandarin, the motor of the film, a joy to watch, and yet an automaton. Hubbard's victory over him relies on Wendice's working like clockwork. The author was really only an actor, parroting perfectly his fed lines. It's significant that it should be a real author who exposes him.
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