HITCHCOCKED: “Dial M For Murder” (1954)

26 06 2011

The perfect murder is always the perfect scenario for a Hitchcock movie.  “Dial M for Murder” is then by definition a quintessential Hitchcock, and watching it would give anyone a taste of the director’s style and methods.  In fact, all it’s missing is some Jimmy Stewart.

The perfect murder here is planned by former tennis player Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), who hires the perfect stranger – or old friend – to execute it for him.  Through blackmail and clever thinking, Tony coerces a Cambridge acquaintance, C.A. Swann (Anthony Dawson), to murder his cheating wife Margot (Princess Grace Kelly).  He has the perfect alibi to save him from any suspicion; while Swann commits the murder, he will be at the gentleman’s club.  Yet things go haywire thanks to a pair of scissors, and Tony has to cover his tracks to avoid being discovered.

Hitchcock makes this single-room thriller compelling and suspensful, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has seen “Rope.”  The only real complaint I could lodge against this one is that at times it feels a little too theatrical (the movie is based on a play) and less cinematic, almost as if he filmed it a live performance on a Broadway stage.  But I have no problem with live theater, nor do I have a problem with Hitchcock, and this elaborately plotted murder mystery ranks up there with the best of them.

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