DIAL M FOR MURDER
Review by Michael Jacobson
Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings, John Williams, Anthony Dawson
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: Documentary, Trailer, 3D History
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: September 7, 2004
you really believe in the perfect murder?”
does a prolific film director do when he finds himself running low on ideas?
Alfred Hitchcock’s solution was to find a terrific play and film it;
simply and directly.
M For Murder was
such a play…a hit live performance that gave the Master of Suspense just the
diabolical plot he needed to bring a vision of mystery and murder to the screen.
It’s not as stylish as some of his master works, but as he himself
said, he had good material to work with…no need to embellish it for the sake
begins with a love triangle. Margot
(Kelly) is married to Tony (Milland), but having a secret affair with Mark
(Cummings). One of Mark’s letters
to her turned up missing from her handbag, followed by anonymous blackmail
notes. The lovers fear they can’t
keep their secret much longer.
it turns out blackmail is the least of their worries. Tony, a one time tennis star who has found himself living
largely on his wife’s money, plans the perfect murder for her, using a
financially needy old college chum (Dawson) as the perpetrator. His plan is painstaking and foolproof; nothing could possibly
go wrong. Which, in the case of
mystery stories, is always the surest bet something will.
first 45 minutes are a splendid look at the intricate planning of the murder,
culminating with what should have been the execution of it.
But things don’t go as planned, leaving Tony scrambling for another
solution to his problem. His diabolical quick thinking leaves us wondering at first
what he hopes to accomplish, but we slowly see the dastardliness of his vision
unfold, and the second half of the movie shows his second plan in action, while
leaving us to wonder if he’s really going to get away with it all.
the picture came out in 1954, cinema was trying out new ways to win back their
audiences from television. One was
widescreen, another was 3D technology. When
Hitchcock set out to make his film from Frederick Knott’s play, he decided to
go the 3D route. Only instead of
using cheap shocking “coming at you” effects, he decided to employ 3D to
help craft the illusion of a live performance. Foreground objects like tables or bottles or fences were
often placed between the audience and the actors…those viewing the movie would
feel more like they were watching a theatrical production instead of a motion
by the time the film hit theatres, 3D popularity was already waning, and soon a
traditional flat screen presentation was ushered in. Before they closed the Hitchcock exhibit at Universal
Studios, fans could go and see the famous murder scene in the original 3D
format, but now, unless that technology is revisited for DVD, the traditional
way is the only way we can experience the film.
the one hand, it’s difficult to elevate Dial M For Murder to the ranks
of Hitchcock’s truly original and influential masterpieces like Psycho,
Strangers on a Train or Vertigo. But
then again, the sheer entertainment value of this movie is undeniable.
Audiences have tended to lean forward in their seats, hanging on every
plot point and twist. The
well-paced thriller never lags, and works its way through the turns towards a
artist pounds out an occasional piece of work just for the fun of it.
Dial M For Murder may not be vintage Hitchcock, but it’s still a
dynamite piece of entertainment that remains a solid crowd pleaser after 50
years. And like most of Hitch’s
films, you won’t be able to turn it off once it starts.
classic film, shot in “Warnercolor”, has held up beautifully over the years,
and the full frame DVD transfer is lovely to look at. Colors are rich and vibrant throughout, and the cleanness of
the print helps the digital rendering to come across as smooth and clear.
One or two instances of noticeable grain abound, but that’s hardly a
complaint considering the source material is half a century old.
with most original mono tracks, this offering is serviceable if not exemplary.
Spoken words are clean and clear, background noise is minimal, dynamic
range somewhat level.
is a short documentary on the film, plus a brief look at the history of 3D and
the original trailer.