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The Perfect Murder: Dial M for Murder

Mar 24, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Ray Milland, John Williams,

Cons:Grace Kelly, Bob Cummings, Story

The Bottom Line: Dial M for Murder is one of the Hitchcock's that, while good, is not in the same league with his top tier movies like Psycho.


Dial M for Murder (1954)

This is one of the famous Hitchcocks that featured cool blonde Grace Kelly as a rich gal with everything, including an extramarital affair and a jealous husband. Kelly's husband is old smoothie Ray Milland, once a tennis player but now given mainly to gambling when he isn't sitting around the living room plotting his wife's murder. He's a meticulous planner and has spent a year setting up what he thinks is "the perfect crime." We see Milland making his preparations during the first half of the film. He even goes so far as to get the guy who cuckolded him to be his alibi.

Of course, with Hitchcock, nothing is simple. Rather than kill her himself, Milland decides to blackmail an old acquaintance into doing the job for him; and, of course, it wouldn't be Hitchcock without the mastermind's theoretic discussion of the prospective murder with his rival for the victim's affections, who reminds him that while you can plan a perfect murder on paper, human beings do not always act according to plan and can therefore screw up the most foolproof plan royally.

Well, as the plot unwinds, that's exactly what happens, every bit of Milland's plan unravels, but, as resourceful as he is, he is able to change plans on the fly and implicate his still alive wife in a crime that will get her the death penalty. He still gets rid of her and gets the insurance money also. There is no downside, is there?

It turns out that the police inspector (John Williams) whom Milland thinks he outfoxed is a little bit smarter than he realizes, and by the time the film plays out he has Milland showing himself for the cad he really is. But I think you better see just how he does that for yourself.

Dial M for Murder is based on a stage play by Fred Knott, who also adapted his play to the screen. Its stage origins are manifest with its action confined almost entirely to the living room of the couples' apartment. The action also gets stage bound and talky at points, which is a minor con.

The actors do a creditable job with their roles, but only a few have much to do - Milland and the Inspector have memorable parts, but Kelly and Bob Cummings have surprisingly little to do for headliners. Kelly got another chance the same year in Rear Window, considered one of Hitchcock's best, but Dial M for Murder despite having some interesting moments is definitely not in the same class as Rear Window.

The Warner Bros DVD contains the 105 minute movie, in color, in full frame format. There are two short featurettes included as extras, as well as English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

In conclusion, Dial M for Murder is a Hitchcock, but it is a Hitchcock without much depth and doesn't contribute appreciably to his stature as auteur. If you want to see one of his better works, try Psycho.





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