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Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder (1954)

My last two viewings of Alfred Hitchcock’s work before this film were “Rope” and “Strangers on a Train”. What do all three films have in common? They are all based around the theory that one can commit the perfect murder and like “Rope” this film is once again an adaptation of a play.

In “Dial M for Murder” Tony Wendice discovers that his wife Margot has been having an affair and after stealing a letter sent from her secret lover he uses it to blackmail an old college friend of his Charles Swann. The perfect murder in this film sees Swann follow a precise set of instructions that are based around a phone call made by Tony who would himself have the perfect alibi.

When things do not go to plan, Tony Wendice improvises a brilliant plan B that would see his wife framed for the murder of Swann.

The screenplay is superb, the film is 105 minutes long and largely takes place in one room, yet our interest is engaged for the full 105 minutes as we listen carefully to every line that is spoken. Every line is greatly delivered by the cast and each character brings their own unique personality, the screenplay is so intelligent and tight that it plays like a classic Agatha Christie murder tale, we are engaged so closely to the tale as it keeps us thinking throughout. We listen to each line of dialogue, searching for clues as the landscape changes throughout, the characters know things we do not and we are scrambling to work out who knows what and what will be the end for each character.

The film’s lead stars Ray Milland and his wife Grace Kelly are both superb. Milland gives a performance you would expect from a Hitchcock lead man such as Grant or Stewart, he is calm, intelligent and ruthless, although what he is doing is wrong we do not really oppose his evil plan to start. But the beautiful Grace Kelly steals the show as we really sympathise with her following her wrongful verdict of guilty, she shows her talent in this film in what was a great year for her, also starring in Hitchcock’s more famous “Rear Window”.

I have to give a mention to another actor who I was very much impressed by. John Williams is superb as the detective who becomes involved in the case, his character combines the serious element of the crime with humour, he provides some great and memorable dialogue and is the character that engages our interest the most throughout the second half of the film.

“Dial M for Murder” is another excellent Hitchcock film that I have seen from the great director, certainly one of his stronger and more enjoyable efforts. It has the same elements of many of his other films but feels very much different, it is not a murder mystery as we no exactly who murdered who but it feels like one because of the way we are constantly engaged in the story and its dialogue as we eagerly wait for the film’s conclusion.