If you are looking for a well-crafted thriller to enjoy, look no further than Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 masterpiece, Dial M for Murder. On the outside, nothing much seems to happen with the film, but once you see it, well you are in for a surprise. As Hitchcock films goes, this one is more off-beat. However, you can classify the film as one of best films of the legendary director’s career.
If you look at the film from the outside, you are wondering how on earth is this film even good. For starters, most of the film is located in a single apartment room save for exterior shots and a scene at a theater. You need a well-crafted screenplay for single-location movies to work. Also outside of one rather fantastic murder scene, most of the film is talk, talk, and more talk. But this film does work because everyone plays their cards right. The screenplay is well-crafted and despite all the talk, it creates an aura of tension and mystery which builds up over the course of the film, before we reach the shocking ending. The build-up is excellent and it is very much worth it when the end is revealed. I also like that despite the movie being located in one room 98% of the time, you never get that feel of unintentional claustrophobia. So thanks to the excellent screenplay by Frederick Knott and masterful direction by Alfred Hitchcock, you never really think about that one location.
Now it’s time to describe the plot of the movie, which takes place in London. The wealthy Margot Mary Wendice (Grace Kelly) had a brief love affair with an American author named Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Her husband, Tony (Ray Milland), a professional tennis player, was away from home at the time on a tour. However, he quits tennis because he wants to spend more time with Margot, and help a marriage that is crumbling apart. One day, Mark decides to visit the couple from America. During the affair, Mark had written letters to Margot. She insists she destroyed them all, but one letter was stolen. She claimed she was blackmailed, but she never really thought much about that letter. When Tony arrives home, he insists Mark and Margot go to the theater, and he will arrive shortly thereafter. However, he ends up calling an old colleague, Captain Lesgate (Anthony Dawson). Together, they plot the murder of his wife so he can gain her fortune. But complications arise in the form of failed opportunities, the police led by Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams), and Tony trying to constantly cover his footsteps so he will not be implicated in any wrongdoing.
Here is a film that is a masterpiece when it comes to delivering acting skills. Ray Milland injects his character with an incredible amount of charm, and his character is often likable even if his motives are not. His simple charm was enough to win me and many, many people over, enough to believe how he would do nothing wrong. Grace Kelly is absolutely magnificent in her role as Margot. During the murder scene, her performance was enough for me to wish she was nominated for an Oscar, which sadly enough she wasn’t. These were the two main attractions of the movies, but there was another great performance to point out. John Williams (no, not the legendary composer), has been a staple of Hitchcock movies, so it is no surprise for him to show up here. I really loved his finesse role as the police detective who figures out this case, piece-by-piece with a remarkable eye.
Hitchcock is one of Hollywood’s most famous auteurs. When one think of his works, usually The Birds, Vertigo, Rear Window, or, Psycho comes to mind. But never count out this underrated film. During the first phase of 3-D phase in the 40’s and 50’s, many films were subjected to 3D treatment. However the faze begin to die out in the mid 1950’s, and this is the last film to use 3D during that phase. I did not have the opportunity to watch the movie in 3D, but it could have been cool. For those who watch Hitchcock films, you should be familiar with him appearing in his movies somehow, someway. In Dial M for Murder, you’ll really have to search to find him and it’s a genius move to see where you’ll find him.
Overall, Dial M for Murder is just pure, classic Hitchcock. It’s one of his underrated films, but there is no denying it is a masterpiece. The premise is a simple one, but Hitchcock turned into a twisting tale that pierces the heart with a load of dread and thrills. It’s a very captivating movie, not only from the direction, but also from charming performances from Milland and Kelly, whom characters are likable. The film is good at talking, but you should be good at watching. I highly recommend this fine thriller that has Hitchcock in top form.
My Grade: A