In London, wealthy Margot Mary Wendice had a brief love affair with the American writer Mark Halliday while her husband and professional tennis player Tony Wendice was on a tennis tour. Tony quits playing to dedicate to his wife and finds a regular job. She decides to give him a second chance for their marriage. When Mark arrives from America to visit the couple, Margot tells him that she had destroyed all his letters but one that was stolen. Subsequently she was blackmailed, but she had never retrieved the stolen letter. Tony arrives home, claims that he needs to work and asks Margot to go with Mark to the theater. Meanwhile Tony calls Captain Lesgate (aka Charles Alexander Swann who studied with him at college) and blackmails him to murder his wife, so that he can inherit her fortune. But there is no perfect crime, and things do not work as planned.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When Tony phones the police from the flat, supposedly in London, we hear a clearly American-accented voice on the other end say "Operator". It should have been an English voice, saying (in the 1950s) "Number, please." (Of course, it could have been an American operator who happened to be working in London.) See more »
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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