DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) 

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Grace Kelly
Ray Milland
Robert Cummings
John Williams
Anthony Dawson
Patrick Allen

Alfred Hitchcock



Time: 105 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Suspense/Thriller

DIAL M FOR MURDER is a fabulous murder mystery that makes you think twice about cheating on your spouse. It takes place in one location – the apartment of a married couple pretending to still be in love. It's an extraordinary character piece filled with lies and deception, which is the main reason why everyone's been dying to remake it. Actors don't get this much to chew on very often anymore. Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Douglas try to recapture the magic in A PERFECT MURDER, a modern retelling, but don't even come close. Hitchcock proves in this version that you don't need fancy clothes and pretty sets to make a compelling film that keeps you glued to your seat from the first frame to the last. What you do need is good actors, a well-planned plot and a little case of attempted murder. He seems to be the only director who can make you feel more sorry for the conniving killer than the intended victim. This film proves even a perfect plan can't account for the infinite surprises of life.

Ray Milland plays Tony Wendice, a sports equipment salesman who wants to murder his wife, Margot (Kelly). Not only did she cheat on him, she's been lying to him about it since the affair began. Pretending that she's still in love with him, when he knows the truth. His life is a mess and it's all her fault. She made him give up playing professional tennis so they could have a real marriage. Apparently, he waited too long, for she found someone else to satisfy her need for love. In order to save his marriage, he quits and settles down into a regular routine. Unfortunately for her, he's just toying with her, giving himself time to figure out how to settle the score. It takes him a year, but he devises the perfect murder plot. One that will result in her death while ensuring he gets away scot free. He blackmails an old college acquaintance to become the perfect murder weapon – a surprised burglar. The entire evening is choreographed down to the last detail, except for one thing he overlooks. The will of his wife to live. The joy of Hitchcock is in watching him slowly tighten the screws, making our villains suffer with the knowledge that they're not going to get away with their actions.

"Do you really believe in the perfect murder?"

Though the husband is clever, as the film points out there is no perfect crime. The killer always makes one fatal mistake. Their inevitable undoing is a cop who's smart enough to know where to look for it. Milland's performance is fantastic. He's so clever and charming, you almost wish he'd get away with it. He makes you root for the creep, which isn't easy to pull off. Kelly is good here, but she's kind of stuck with a thankless role. She's not entirely sympathetic, though you don't want to see her die either. To see her really strut her stuff, rent REAR WINDOW. Hitch uses her to perfection there. What makes this film great is the unravelling of the mystery, watching Milland try to cover his tracks. I guess divorce never occurred to him. The single set adds to the clausterphobia of the situation, trapping you with them in an awfully uncomfortable place. On the flip side, it stunts the theatricality of the piece. That's probably why Hitch originally shot it in 3-D. To open it up, as well as capitalize on the latest, greatest film technology. Always a forerunner, I'm sure he wasn't about to be left in the dust when this new trickery surfaced. There are a few sequences where it's obvious the angle is used to incorporate this method, but it doesn't make much of a difference today. Though somewhat dated, DIAL M is pure Hitchcock, a film that makes you think twice about pissing off your spouse.

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