I used to consider this second-tier Hitchcock, but a re-watch proved to me just how excellent the script and directing were, as well as how stellar and underrated both Grace Kelly and Ray Milland tend to be, at least presently, three generations after the fact. The suspense is tied tighter than the proverbial drum. Needless to say, to this day, I never keep scissors on top of my desk anymore...
This 3D, it's murder it is. Middle tier Hitchcock but still one of the finest mystery thrillers around. Ray Milland plays Tony Wendice, a former tennis player married to Grace Kelly's Margot, the source of his wealth. Fearing his lifestyle is about to come to an end due to her dalliances with American mystery writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummins), Tony hatches a plan to have her murdered by an old acquaintance whom he has over a barrel with blackmail. However, the plan backfires and a whole new strategy is needed to save Tony from suspicion. Based on the popular and successful play by Frederick Knott (who adapts for the screenplay here), Dial M For Murder was a film Hitchcock had little time for. In fact, having already started work on Rear Window, Hitch treated Dial M For Murder as a jobbing assignment. His mood was further darkened by Jack Warner's insistence that the film be shot in 3D, with all the camera restraints that such a production brings. Perhaps unsurprisingly though, the restraints and general mood of the director brought about very interesting results. Choosing to go for a claustrophobic single set shoot, Hitchcock resisted the urge to launch things around for 3D effects, instead he used the process to highlight props and angles of the Wendice home. His use of colours here is first rate, particularly around his new found favourite actress, Grace Kelly. Having never seen the 3D version (who has I wonder?) I can't say what impact, if any, the gimmick had. But regardless of Hitch's grumblings and general disdain towards the film, he rose to the challenge by challenging himself and actually produced a fine and technically sound picture. Ray Milland is icy cold yet debonair, while John Williams as Chief Inspector Hubbard strides in and walks off with the film. Kelly is adequate enough (it's her least effective turn for Hitch) but Cummings is awfully bland and threatens to lose the film its momentum when things spice up in the last quarter. Hugely entertaining story though, and of much interest to Hitchcock purists, Dial M For Murder holds up well today as a disquieting mystery thriller. 8/10
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