Dial M For Murder (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)

22Apr11

Ray Milland (Tony Wendice), Grace Kelly (Margot Wendice), Robert Cummings (Mark Halliday). Screenplay by Frederick Knott. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Rating: PG. Running time: 105 minutes.

Yet another example of Hitchcock’s obsession with murder, but glorious all the same, Dial M, like Rear Window also of ’54, gives us a husband trying to get rid of his wife, but this time we’re definitely insiders to the unfolding drama. Grace Kelly is no longer the astute and secure Lisa Fremont, and we’re no longer watching from the perspective of a neighbour’s bedroom. She’s now the intended victim of a killing perfectly planned to pan out without even inducing the possibility of suspicion, and we get to see everything from the juicy preliminary work to the act itself and its aftermath. Of course it goes wrong, and of course the purpose is to watch the husband try to cleverly cover up his involvement. That process, though, turns out to be quite a treat, Hitch somehow making it gripping despite filming it quietly, still remaining largely faithful to classical Hollywood’s invisible camera style. The only exception is the film’s focal point: the spiced-up strangulation scene itself. Here we are given real proof of what Hitchcock could do when he let rip. If anything paved the way for the intensity of Psycho – which surely saw the peak of his powers – this scene in Dial M was it.

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