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USA 1954
Directed by
Alfred Hitchcock
105 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Dial M For Murder

Although his studio, Warner Bros, insisted that Hitchcock film Dial M for Murder in 3-D, the director makes minimal use of the technique which needless to say adds nothing to what is a highly cerebral effort in which the fun is in following the sinuous twists of its diabolical plot.

Based on a stage play by Frederick Knott, Hitchcock barely departs from its single room setting with the plot unfolding almost entirely through the spoken word. Ray Milland plays a British former tennis pro, Tony Wendice whose wealthy wife, Margot (Grace Kelly), has been having an affair with an American crime writer (Robert Cummings). Milland persuades a dodgy former college pal, Swan (Anthony Dawson), into murdering his wife and making it look like the work of a burglar but the plan goes awry and Margot ends up accused and convicted of the murder of Swan.

Knott’s play is clever, particularly in its third act resolution, and Hitchcock with his essentially English sensibility does it justice adding suggestion and suspense by use of visual cues but largely letting the dialogue take us on its deadly ride. If psychologically the essentially ludic plot doesn’t have much credibility in terms of either Tony's murderous intent or Margot's infidelity, Welsh-born Milland is excellent as the supercilious villain and Grace Kelly chicly innocent (well nearly so given her status as an adultress) as his unsuspecting victim with John Williams, who played the role on stage adding a lot of fun as a canny mustachio’d Scotland Yard detective who saves the day. The sexless Robert Cummings, an actor best known as a support player in Hollywood musical comedies, was a poor choice for Margot’s beau but Anthony Dawson, who had also been in the stage play, makes for an effectively dubious would-be killer.

Dial M for Murder might well be a time-marking entry in the Hitchcock catalogue but it is an enjoyable one.




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