Murder by the rotary dial, remember those? Alfred Hitchcock needed to “recharge his batteries” so he adapted a stage play to film (the title does read “Screen Play”). I didn’t think that I was going to get grabbed in this confined 3D thriller but it did get the job done.
By all appearances, Tony (Ray Milland) and Margot (Grace Kelly) appear to be happily married. As in a Hitchcock film, appearances can be deceiving. At breakfast, Margot happens to notice a ship arrival from America and when Mark (Roberts Cummings) gets off the boat we see that she is very happy to see her lover.
Tony appears to want to buy a car from a stranger who we find out is called Swann (Anthony Dawson) and is an old schoolmate of Tony’s. Tony has more on his mind than automobiles as he enlists Swann in the well-planned murder of Margot. Again as in a Hitchcock film, things don’t go as swimmingly as Tony hopes but he does make lemons from lemonade but still has to avoid the sleuthing eye of Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams).
Dial M for Murder is based on a stage play by Frederick Knott and it shows. The action takes place mostly in one apartment (and a small one at that) and when Hitch does go outdoors it turns out to be process shots that haven’t really aged all that well. Heck, the film even has an intermission at the 45 minute mark, that would appear to separate the two plots of the stage play.
It also seems an odd choice for the master to adapt to the fad of 3D, as the action or lack thereof really doesn’t lend itself to the format (can you imagine the Psycho shower scene in 3D?). However, Hitch was never one to follow conventional rules and it may be Hitch’s devilish sense of humor and irony at play.
I don’t have a 3D TV so I lost out on seeing it in that. What I did find was that besides initial misgivings that I was pulled into the storyline by several factors.
The first of which was an excellent performance b y Milland as a likeable cad. I always used to hear him called a substitute for Cary Grant and never got it since I was only familiar with the older Milland but this slick character of Tony brings that factor into “play.” I can now see how charming Milland could be.
The other was that the storyline, still smacking of playwright’s tricks, still draws you into it with its twists and turns. I may not be ideally suited for the “coming at ya” of 3D but Hitch still makes lemonades with imagined lemons. He was a master filmmaker after all.
Dial M for Murder is presented in a 1080p transfer (1.85:1) in both 2D and 3D. Special features include the 21 minute “Hitchcock and Dial M” with fans and historians dialing down the film and the 2 minute theatrical trailer.
Dial M for Murder certainly dials up the suspense. Maybe the 3D isn’t used to best effect, but those with the proper equipment should be happy that these original films that used the process are making there way back out again (rumor is that the original House of Wax is coming in 2013 – I’d guess Halloween).
No busy signal here as I got drawn into the film, no matter its perceived shortcomings.
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