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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Friday, October 08, 2010

Hitchcock Month - Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder (1954)
Starring Grace Kelly, Ray Milland, and Robert Cummings
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

I knew I had watched Dial M for Murder before and I feel like I remember liking it.  On this viewing, however, the flick fell surprisingly flat to me.  Similar to Rope, this one is based on a stage play and, with the exception of one rather ingenious shot, the whole film feels very boxed in.  Hitch decides to essentially stay within one room the entire film (also similar in that respect to Rope) and he never manages to create lasting moments of tension which are needed for this film to succeed.

Ray Milland plays Brit Tony Wendice, an ex-tennis pro, whose wife, Margot (Grace Kelly), is having an affair with American crime writer Mark Halladay (Robert Cummings).  Tony has discovered this news and creates a plot to murder his wife.  He hires a small-time crook and his detailed planning goes into action.  Needless to say, things don't go perfectly and Tony finds the cogs in his brain having to work overtime in order to save himself.

There are two scenes that work extremely well here.  One is the scene in which Tony describes in great detail to the crook what will happen when he breaks into the Wendice's apartment to kill Margot.  Hitchcock shoots the scene from high above the apartment, staring down at the two men.  In a single shot, Hitch follows the men as the crisscross the room, going back and forth with his camera.  It's a wonderfully shot sequence.  It is, however, overshadowed by the amazingly tense murder sequence.  I'm not going to reveal here whether Tony's crime is carried out, but I was genuinely surprised at how anxious I was as the scene was unfolded.  Beautifully filmed and edited, this is the moment we're so used to seeing from Hitch.

Unfortunately, most of the remainder of the film is fairly undramatic.  The flick is very talky, and, like Rope, it feels like a play...and that's not necessarily a good thing.  Any jittery anxiousness we the audience are feeling is brought down to such a low level by all the excessive verbiage that is being spewed about onscreen.  It's ultimately this wordiness (along with, to a lesser extent, no stand-out performances from the three lead actors) that is the movie's downfall.

But apparently I'm alone in this thought as the film was #9 on the American Film Institute's best mystery films of all time.  Also of interest, this film was originally shot in 3D, oddly enough, and based on a short documentary on the dvd, it looks like it would have been quite good in that format.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-


  1. I'm digging how all your ratings are the opposite of what I believe. (Besides like frenzy and lifeboat, which i've never seen)

    And that you're giving all hitchcock movies like a C average currently.

  2. I'm actually surprising myself at this point with what I'm liking and disliking.

    Like with this one, I remember watching it before and really liking it, but this time it didn't sit well with me.

    And the opposite was the case with Shadow of a Doubt. I think we talked about it a few months ago and both said that we didn't understand what the fuss was about. This time around, I really fell for it.

    I've certainly never thought Hitchcock was a perfect director (there are certainly several more coming up that I know are kind of a bust), but I still appreciate the guy for what he did for my favorite genre of film -- the mystery/thriller.

    I must say that I'm enjoying myself quite thoroughly going through his oeuvre. It's not a chore in the slightest and even in his worst movies (except Lifeboat), I'm finding shots that amaze me.