Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1954 classic stars Ray Milland as ex-tennis pro Tony Wendice who for a year has known about his wife Margot’s (Grace Kelly) affair with an American crime novelist (Robert Cummings). Wanting revenge, and the wealth his dead wife would bring, Tony blackmails a petty criminal (Anthony Dawson) into helping him pull off the perfect murder. When things don’t go to plan Tony rolls with the punches and tries to frame his wife for the first-degree murder of the would-be assassin.
Dial M for Murder delivers several of Hitchcock’s trademark touches including a charming sociopath – even though Milland’s character is trying to bump off Grace Kelly (in her first collaboration with Hitchcock) we somehow don’t begrudge him the opportunity. We also get the central role of a staircase to the plot, and the planning and boasting of a perfect murder.
Adapted from the stage play stage play by Frederick Knott, it’s amazing how much of Dial M for Murder is nothing more than characters standing around calmly discussing murder. Given that almost the entire movie takes place in a single room as tension builds throughout the film, Dial M for Murder has a near claustrophobic feel at times. Aside from the short scene involving the assassin’s death there’s almost no action in the entire movie, and yet Hitchcock continues to build the suspense throughout based on a single key and an inspector (John Williams) who won’t let the case rest.
Of the three movies Hitchock made with Grace Kelly this is probably my least favorite, but only because of how much I adore both Rear Window and To Catch a Thief. Although the film was originally shot in 3D most have never seen it in that format and the story is strong enough on its own without relying on the gimmicks of the format. Unless you don’t already own the movie, or have a 3D television, there’s little reason to make this new version stand-out.
The new Blu-ray edition includes the film in both 2D and, for the first time on home video, in 3D (as it was originally released). Without a 3D television I can’t judge the effect but of the reviews I’ve read online for the transfer have been mixed at best. The new edition includes the same extras from the previously released DVD including the film’s trailer and a documentary “Hichtcock and Dial M” showcasing other filmmakers discussing the movie.
[Warner Home Video, $35.99]