Review: Dial M for Murder [1954] - dir. Alfred Hitchcock

Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) is a former tennis player who married Margot (Grace Kelly) partly for her money. To please his wife, he has given up tennis and now sells sports equipment. Margot once had a relationship with Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings), an American crime scriptwriter, but broke it off when he went back to the U.S. for a year. In time they stopped writing to each other, and when Mark returns to London she tells him that she burned all his letters but one.

Tony and Margot have made their wills, naming each other as beneficiary. For a year, Tony meticulously plans Margot's murder. She has no idea that Tony knows of her love for Mark...
I am ashamed to say this, but I had never seen this Hitchcock 'classic' before this week, which considering a few years ago I put myself through the torture of Michael Douglas in the pedestrian remake 'A Perfect Murder' which I now realise succeeded in removing all the humour and pace of the original. As you would expect from the 'Golden Age' of cinema the cast are impeccable. Ray Milland is dashing, devious and at times downright evil as the smooth ex-tennis pro. Grace Kelly is typically aloof and delicate providing an almost innocent calmness to the character of Margot. Where Hitchcock excels is casting John Williams as the dogged Chief Inspector, an obvious role-model for the 70's detective Columbo, as he keeps turning up to work through the clues until he finally irritates his prey into submission.

With 95% of the film taking place within one room it's roots as a stage play are obvious, and adds to the intimacy of the action as it unfolds. With cinemas current 3D obsession, now would seem a perfect time for a restoration of this classic in it's little seen 3D version, just for a chance to see the murder weapon teetering precariously over the edge of the screen would be worth the price of entry.

Did I expect anything less from Hitchcock, not really, although sometimes revered out of pure 'intellectual' expectation, I often think the true aim of Hitch has been lost in the barrage of movie analysis and dissemination over the decades, I am fairly confident in saying his raison d'etre was always to entertain and keep the audience on the edge of their seats, with this film once again he delivers on both, in spades.


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