Dial M For Murder (1954)-A Club Discussion

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"The Internal Bleeding Dance." - Violet
Where is your review with mark f's answer?
"I may be rancid butter, but I'm on your side of the bread."
E. K. Hornbeck

"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."

Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Alright, the playwright, screenwriter, Alma and Hitch were ALL unaware of this apparent key plot point??? Possibly but I wouldn't count on it.
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
My IMDb page

"The Internal Bleeding Dance." - Violet
Also, this doesn't look like an automatic locking mechanism to me.
What do you think that little lever next to the knob does? Looks to me like a spring loaded night latch. In other words, it's automatic. The lever disables the automatic lock option. When you get a chance, see how the inspector opens and closes the door.

Spring-loaded brass throw bolt for automatic locking
Unique latch holdback button keeps latch retracted to prevent accidental lockout
Same holdback button also keeps latch deadlock for extra security

I watched this great little film last night again, not having seen it in years. I was struck by how stiff the dialogue and acting were, which tends to be the case in British style stage thrillers. Granted, the plot mechanics were complex and confusing, but some of the dialogue was reeled off, almost as if it was being read-- like at a rehearsal run-through. The exchanges were too perfect-- not natural. I felt the same way watching Rope. Milland and Williams were the standout actors, with Kelly and Cummings being the weaker of the four.

I read that Hitchcock had wanted to do this film as a breather, after previously more involved films, on location and otherwise. In "M", he never had to leave the studio. He reportedly spent much of the off screen time introducing the concept of "Rear Window" to Grace Kelly, who he wanted for the upcoming production.

There are some wonderful Hitchcockian devices showcased in this one. He loved to explain to the audience what was about to happen in order to let them in on it, then gradually let it unfold, all the while building up the suspense and tension. The shot of Swann lurking behind Kelly, poised with the scarf ready to kill her, is a classic. Also Hitch's use of the slow closeup to focus the viewer's attention to an object or plot device.

... When the Inspector switches coats with Tony and takes the key to the apartment, to me it simply doesn't make sense.

He has the key to the apartment and hides upstairs, leaving Tony with Swan's apartment key. When Tony leaves, he doesn't bother to lock his apartment door? This is my issue. We know, from numerous shots of the door on the inside that it doesn't automatically lock when people leave. Clearly Tony would have locked the door and when he did, it wouldn't have worked. Thus tipping him off on the switch. But he doesn't bother to lock the door. The detective proceeds to go to the door and unlock it? What? The door shouldn't be locked.

This would completely change the outcome of the ending. Tony trying to lock the door but not being able to would make him know that something was wrong, he wouldn't have gotten caught.

Second, why would Margot know about the key under the stairs? The Inspector is banking on her not knowing about it, but wouldn't she of just let Swann in anyway? She was home, why the need for her to put the key there. That aspect doesn't add up either. If someone has an explanation, I'm glad to hear it.

As discussed previously, the lock on the door was an automatic one. The door always locked when closed (unless the lever was engaged). The round dial was to manually open the lock from the inside. Swann used the key left under the star carpet to get in. After he'd committed the murder he was supposed to put the key back where he'd retrieved it. After her death Tony would have taken the key and placed it back in his wife's purse.

As it was, Tony removed a key from the corpse and placed back in his wife's purse. But it was Swann's house key. What confused me was that later, the detective realized that the key in Margot's purse was Swann's house key, so he reasoned that Swann had put the key back under the stair carpet after he initially unlocked the door. But I don't believe that was shown. And if Swann hadn't put the key back, why was it not found on his body post mortem? So evidently Swann DID replace the key after unlocking.

Margot never knew about the key under the stair carpet. When she returned from the police station, and, finding that the key didn't work, she walked around and entered through the french doors.

But these inconsistencies and unexplained plot points are not uncommon in Hitchcock's films. Recall in Vertigo where Jimmy Stewart is left dangling high up over an alley, with no apparent way to be saved. How was he saved? And later after Novak had entered the McKittrick Hotel and we saw her at the upstairs window, Stewart came in looking for her but was told she hadn't been seen by the counter lady, and her car was not there. How did that happen? Where did Novak go? Evidently Hitchcock believed that the audience would not notice these errors because they would be so caught up in the plot. And I think he was probably right...


Never seen the film, is it worth it?
The stage production was hauntingly brilliant so don't want to spoil my impression of it.

Keep your station clean - OR I WILL KILL YOU
How cool! I recently saw this film! I agree with every point in your initial review. I will also add on that for me, while some of the shifts and turns were classic Hitchcock effective, others fell short in comparison to some of his other work. I do think it's a very sold film though, and I would still give it a high enough 7.5/10