Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dial M for Murder

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by Frederick Knott from his own play, Dial M for Murder is the story of a man who plots to have his wife killed not just for her extramarital affair but also to inherit some money. The film is an intriguing story in which man conspires with another to have his wife killed where the plan suddenly goes wrong which forces him to find ways to get his wife’s money. Starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings, Anthony Dawson, and John Williams. Dial M for Murder is a splendid and riveting film from Alfred Hitchcock.

The revolves around a former tennis pro who learns that his wife’s old lover has returned to Britain where he conspires with an old friend to have her killed so he can gain her inheritance as well as humiliate her lover. It plays into a man who knows that his socialite wife is having an affair but doesn’t want her to know that he knows where he would do whatever to humiliate her and have her money. Once the murder takes place, something does go wrong but the character Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) would find a way to still profit from these misfortunes as he would charm and talk his way to the authorities including Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams) about what had happened.

The film’s screenplay by Frederick Knott largely takes place in the apartment home of Wendice and his wife Margot (Grace Kelly) where Wendice would do his conspiring as well as where the murder, investigation, and aftermath would occur. It’s a film with a very intimate setting with few scenes set outside of the apartment as there’s also some very stylish dialogue that doesn’t just drive the story but also pinpoint key moments in what is to happen and such. Knott’s script also helps play into the suspense where its first act is about Wendice conspiring with old college friend Captain Lesgate (Anthony Dawson) where it would involve some blackmail as it becomes clear in how much in control Wendice is. The second act is about the murder and its aftermath where Hubbard is in control as it raises a lot of question as Margot’s lover Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings) believes something isn’t right as he knows about these things since he is a writer.

Alfred Hitchcock’s direction is very engaging for the intimacy that he creates where there are a few scenes shot on location in London yet most of it is shot inside the apartment. While Hitchcock does maintain a sense of intimacy and theatricality into the setting, he also infuses it with some stylistic shots such as some unique crane high camera angles, slanted angles, and other moments to help play into the sense of mystery and intrigue. Hitchcock’s usage of close-ups and wide shots would also play into that air of high drama and suspense as it relates to Margot and how she is caught off guard in her husband’s scheme. The way Hitchcock would play up the murder scene just adds to his mastery of suspense as it’s a slow build-up where something does happen but he also finds a way to subvert it. Even in the aftermath where Hubbard takes control as he figures out every scenario that occurs where Hitchcock knows how to frame him and everyone else in these scenes. Especially for the third act where he and Halliday both go into their own investigations as it plays to what was at the crime scene and what wasn’t. Overall, Hitchcock crafts a very gripping yet intelligent film about a man’s plan to have his wife killed for greed and revenge.

Cinematographer Robert Burks does excellent with the film‘s colorful cinematography to play into the look of London in some of its exteriors while using some unique lighting schemes and mood for the scenes set at night in the apartment. Editor Rudi Fehr does fantastic work with the editing with its usage of rhythmic cuts for some of the conversations along with some stylish cuts to play into its suspense. Art director Edward Carre and set decorator George James Hopkins do amazing work with the design of the apartment and its rooms as well as some of the apartment halls which add to the sense of intimacy throughout the film.

The sound work of Oliver S. Garrettson, Stanley Martin, and Robert G. Wayne do terrific work with the sound to help play into the atmosphere of the suspenseful moments as well as the very quiet moments in the film. The film’s music by Dimitri Tiomkin is superb as its lush orchestral score play into the drama along with some eerie themes for its suspenseful moments.

The film’s cast includes some notable small roles from Leo Britt as a storyteller at a party Wendice and Halliday go to, Patrick Allen and George Leigh as a couple of detectives aiding Hubbard, and Robin Hughes as the police sergeant who helps Hubbard in the film’s climatic third act. Anthony Dawson is excellent as Wendice’s old friend Captain Lesgate who is asked to kill Margot in exchange for not having his identity revealed over his criminal activities. John Williams is amazing as Chief Inspector Hubbard as the man who investigates the murder as he tries to figure out every scenario but also see what he overlooked as it’s a very fun and witty performance.

Robert Cummings is fantastic as Mark Halliday as a writer who is also Margot’s lover as he tries to figure out what is going on as he knows something isn’t right about what had happened. Grace Kelly is brilliant as Margot Wendice as a socialite who is unaware of what her husband wants to do as she spends time with Halliday which would play into the target on her back. Finally, there’s Ray Milland in a marvelous performance as Tony Wendice as a former tennis pro who conspires a plan to kill his wife in not only getting revenge on her but also take her inheritance as it’s a performance full of charm as it allows him to bullshit his way through everything as it’s just a fun performance to watch.

Dial M for Murder is a remarkable film from Alfred Hitchcock. Featuring a great cast, a compelling premise, and some stylish yet intimate direction, the film is definitely one of Hitchcock’s finest films. Especially in the way he manages to find ways in playing with the ideas of suspense and plotting. In the end, Dial M for Murder is a phenomenal film from Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Hitchcock Films: (Number 13) - (The Pleasure Garden) - (The Blackguard) - (The Mountain Eagle) - (The Lodger) - (A Story of the London Fog) - (The Ring) - (Downhill) - (The Farmer’s Wife) - (Easy Virtue) - (Champagne) - (The Manxman) - (Blackmail) - (Juno and the Paycock) - (Murder!) - (The Skin Game) - (Mary) - (Lord Camber’s Ladies) - (Rich and Strange) - (Number Seventeen) - (Waltzes from Vienna) - (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 film)) - The 39 Steps - (Secret Agent) - (Sabotage) - (Young and Innocent) - The Lady Vanishes - (Jamaica Inn) - (Rebecca) - (Foreign Correspondent) - (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) - Suspicion - (Saboteur) - (Shadow of a Doubt) - Bon Voyage - Lifeboat - (Spellbound) - (Notorious) - (The Paradine Cage) - Rope - (Under Capricorn) - (Stage Fright) - Strangers on a Train - I Confess - Rear Window - To Catch a Thief - (The Trouble with Harry) - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 film) - (The Wrong Man) - Vertigo - North by Northwest - Psycho - The Birds - Marnie - (Torn Curtain) - (Topaz) - (Frenzy) - (Family Plot)

© thevoid99 2015


Dell said...

Not my favorite Hitchcock, but still a very engaging film.

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying reciting this title over and over in best creepy voiceover voice.
Great review!

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-So far, it's in my top 10 as I enjoyed the hell out of it. I got one more for this month for now and hopefully do a whole lot more next year. is the best way to sell a film.

Brittani Burnham said...

Great review! I have this on my preliminary Blind Spot list for next year.

Chris said...

You are right to highlight the plotting. I really enjoy the story in Dial M For Murder, even on rewatch it captivates me. Think it would be in my top 10 Hitchcock-directed films

keith71_98 said...

I feel Dial M often gets lost among Hitch's greats. Personally it is one of my very favorites of his. So much drama, tension, and suspense confined in such a small piece. Brilliant film.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-Thank you. There's a lot of Hitchcock to cover as I hope to do a whole lot more next year. This one I enjoyed a lot.

@Chris-I think the way it sets everything up in terms of scheming and plotting is what makes the film so great. I just enjoyed the hell out of it.

@keith71_98-For me, this is one of Hitchcock's more essential films and certainly one of his more entertaining ones.