An ex-tennis pro carries out a plot to have his wife murdered after discovering she is having an affair, and assumes she will soon leave him for the other man anyway. When things go wrong, he improvises a new plan—to frame her for murder instead.
Another excellent Hitchcock film, just one of the many that the director made which exceeded all my expectations. This murder mystery has a twist - we know the identity of the culprit from the start, it's just a question of waiting to see whether the cast work it out or not. The film takes place in a single location, a low key apartment, much like the Audrey Hepburn thriller WAIT UNTIL DARK. It's a slow paced and talky affair with an absolutely intricate plot that's likely to tie you up in circles if you don't watch it closely enough, but of course that's part of the fun.
Personally, I thought the script was superb - one of the best, ever. Every little detail has been worked out and even if there are a couple of weak explanations along the way, you can easily forgive them thanks to how enjoyable watching the twists and turns play out is. The clever title refers to the pivotal scene, a sterling set-piece of suspense and murder, in which the lovely Grace Kelly is menaced by a sinister thug. Ray Milland is the deliciously slimy anti-hero and I love his stiff upper lip and confident air of self-assurance that propels him along throughout the movie. John Williams, a carry-over from the stage play on which this is based, supplies the much-needed comic relief and Anthony Dawson is as delightfully sinister as he's ever been.
The fun from this film comes from watching Hitchcock ratchet up the suspense in numerous unexpected ways - such as the simple turning of a key in a lock. There isn't a cliché in sight, just strong plotting and decent scriptwriting. I even enjoyed this over the Hitchcock film I watched previously, NORTH BY NORTHWEST; it's one of those films where I wouldn't change a thing. I know I'm gushing, but this is a real treat. NB. I've recently re-watched this film in 3D, but that aspect is almost needless, merely adding depth to a few sequences; there's only one stand-out bit (during the attempted murder) so I wouldn't go to the trouble, personally.
Reviewed by Lejink7 / 10
M for masterful
A treat for the eyes and exercise for the brain, "Dial M For Murder" is Hitchcock's second "drawing-room perfect murder" movie, after "Rope", the latter a darker and more sinister affair altogether. Hitchcock himself in interviews played down the quality of this movie, amongst other other things indicating that it was treated almost as a warm-up for the more ambitious "Rear Window" which immediately followed it in his career.
However. it actually has a lot going for it, being beautifully shot in luminous colour, extremely well acted in almost every role and peppered throughout with those eye-catching and brain-satisfying flourishes which so distinguished the director from the rest.
Yes, it is very set-bound, betraying its stage origins and likewise very talky, especially on exposition, but it keeps the viewer alert throughout and delivers a neatly satisfying conclusion. I do wish Hitchcock could have done better with his back-projection unit (an old-fashioned, jarring trait he still hadn't grown out of by "Marnie" some 10 years later) and I occasionally found the constant too frivolous background music an intrusion, but it's well paced throughout, helped considerably by an on-form cast.
Ray Milland is excellent in a kind of darker Cary Grant type persona, Grace Kelly (who'd want to murder her?) goes convincingly from loveliness to wretchedness while it's pleasing to see Robert Cumming to the fore, recalled by Hitch for the first time in over a decade (since "Saboteur" in 1942). The actors playing the would be murderer and nosey police inspector are just fine too.
About those flourishes..., perhaps the most famous being the changing spotlight on Grace Kelly's doomed face as her trial is condensed into just a few terse minutes and of course the murder scene itself, even if one can't imagine her extended stabbing gesture being strong enough to cut through Swann's jacket far less kill him stone dead, but I also enjoyed the raised tracking shot looking down on Milland as he explains his plot to Swann and particularly the parting shadows of lovers Cumming and Kelly at Milland's unexpected approach.
Yes, it's old fashioned Hollywood movie-making, but it's old-fashioned Hollywood movie-making at its best and in my opinion an unjustly overlooked effort from the Master.
Reviewed by MartinHafer9 / 10
A relatively simple story that is very deftly handled
The star of this film is Ray Milland, though Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings and John Williams are there to provide support. The marriage between Milland and Kelly is on the rocks, though neither is letting this on to the other. Grace has been cheating on him and Milland, who knows this, is planning on killing her. Why kill her instead of a divorce? Well, Kelly is wealthy and Milland wants to remain in the lifestyle to which he's become accustomed.
Originally Milland's plan is just to have her killed by an old college associate who's gone bad, but when Grace miraculously survives this attack, his plans quickly change and he tries to make it look like she murdered the assassin. While clearly self-defense, Milland is very clever and seems to have thought of just about everything in order to get her convicted of murder. However, the plan is perhaps too clever and too well thought-out and in the end, there is a terrific confrontation with the police investigator and Milland's plans unravel.
Probably the most memorable and amazing scene in the movie is the scene where Kelly kills the would-be murderer. It was done very vividly--particularly when he fell backwards--further driving the scissors into his body. This was a brilliant scene and it made me wince. In fact, throughout the film, there were many well-constructed and executed scenes that make it obvious the script writers and director were in top form. While not among his most famous films, this is one of Hitchcock's better movies and he has a very deft hand in creating a fascinating and literate murder mystery.