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Grace Kelly Deals With Murder in Dial M for Murder

Jun 28, 2010 (Updated Aug 4, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Cast.  Good, interesting story.

Cons:Could have been more suspense.  Not much development for some characters.

The Bottom Line: Dial M for Murder has a few minor issues, but it holds up well as an entertaining Hitchcock movie.

I first saw part of Dial M for Murder a few years ago when it was on television.  I eventually decided to add the DVD to my collection when I found it on sale.  I just watched the entire movie for the first time.

Retired tennis player Tony Wendice and his wife Margot live in London.  Margot had a relationship with mystery writer Mark Halliday who is just returning to London.  The two of them ended their relationship a year before, just before Tony told Margot that he was retiring from tennis.  Margot introduces Mark as a school friend before the two of them leave.  Tony was supposed to go too, but he comes up with a reason to stay behind and he then gets Captain Lesgate to come to the apartment.

It turns out that Lesgate is using a fake name and he and Tony went to school together.  Tony talks about how he discovered his wife having the relationship with Mark and how he starting thinking about killing her.  Tony then spotted Lesgate and spent months following him to gather enough information to blackmail him into killing Margot instead.  Lesgate eventually agrees to the plan that Tony claims is perfect.  Things don't go as Tony planned, and Lesgate is the one who ends up dead.  Tony then tries to figure out how to turn the new situation to his advantage.

Dial M for Murder is based on a stage play written by Frederick Knott.  He also wrote the screenplay for the movie.  I hadn't realized before that the movie was based on a play.  When watching the movie, I didn't really pay much attention to the fact that basically every scene is set in the apartment where Tony and Margot live.  That does add to the atmosphere of the movie and I think it works well overall.  This is not the only Hitchcock movie with a limited set and this one actually has a few scenes set outside the apartment.  There have been other versions of the movie made over the years, some made for television.  In 1998, A Perfect Murder, a remake, was released.  I have seen that movie a few times and enjoyed it.

Things do start off a bit slowly in Dial M for Murder as the characters and situation are introduced.  Mark shows up in the apartment within the first few minutes and it is very quickly clear that he and Margot have more than just a friendship.  That does seem to be an attempt to make people feel sympathy for Tony since his wife has been unfaithful.  Tony is quickly shown to be a schemer who has been planning for a while how he could get rid of Margot but keep all her money.  Things are spelled out when Tony and Lesgate have their meeting, which does make a few things predictable, but there are also some surprises since things do go as planned.  There is a bit of mystery tied to what Tony will do once things go so wrong.  Things do move at a slower pace overall which may bother some viewers.  I think the slow pace works perfectly for the movie and what is going on.

Because of how things are set up in Dial M for Murder, there isn't a lot of mystery with what is going on.  Tony explains the plan step by step, so the audience knows what is supposed to happen.  Complications pop up once things start going wrong.  After that, there is a bit of mystery connected to how Tony is going to try to make things work in his favor and if his plotting will be discovered.  I think there is a good amount of suspense in several scenes, though there isn't as much suspense as there has been in several other Hitchcock movies.  

When Dial M for Murder was made in 1954, 3D was popular.  Many movies were made in 3D at that time and Hitchcock was pushed into doing it for this movie as well.  By the time the movie was released, 3D wasn't as popular and the movie was just released in the normal format in most theaters.  The 3D version has been shown at different times.  I really only noticed one obvious shot used for the 3D.  The other things just blended in and worked fine with the non-3D version.  I have a feeling in that there wouldn't have been stuff flying in the audience's face with this one.  Several years ago when I went to Universal Studios in Florida, there was this show thing tied to his movies.  One part of it showed a short clip from this movie in 3D and from what I remember, the shot was really well done.

It comes out very early in Dial M for Murder that Margot and Mark had an affair when he had been in London the year before.  The first time they are shown together, they are kissing.  They are somewhat affectionate with each other, though not that much is shown.  Margot is also shown to be affectionate with Tony, though there does seem to be more distance in that relationship.  Not a lot of details about the affair come out, but enough is shared to make it clear what happened and that they still care for each other.  The relationship really doesn't add any romance to the movie and there are no sex scenes.

Things are sort of set up at first to give a bit of sympathy to Tony since Margot had an affair.  Even knowing that, I never did like him that much.  There is just something smarmy about him that made me not like him from the start.  He is very smug and clearly thinks that he has everything figured out.  Tony is very good at making everyone think he is devoted to his wife when he really wants her dead.  Ray Milland does really well with the part.

Margot seems to be trying to make things work with her marriage though she clearly still has feelings for Mark.  She is a bit clueless about a few things and she never has a clue about her husband's true intentions.  She is a nice enough character, though it would have been nice if she had been developed a bit more.  I do think Grace Kelly did good with the part.  Mark Halliday is a mystery writer who returns a year after his affair with Margot ended.  He seems a nice enough guy, though he isn't developed much either.  Robert Cummings is fine in the part.        

Captain Lesgate is the man that Tony follows so he can blackmail him into killing Margot.  Lesgate, whose name is actually Swann, plays a very important part in the movie even though he really isn't developed much.  Anthony Dawson does a really good job with the part.  Chief Inspector Hubbard is the police officer investigating what happens.  He is methodical in doing his job.  John Williams does a good job with the part.

Main Cast

Robert Cummings - Mark Halliday
Anthony Dawson - Captain Lesgate/Swann
Grace Kelly - Margot Wendice
Ray Milland - Tony Wendice
John Williams - Chief Inspector Hubbard

Alfred Hitchcock - Director

DVD Information

My DVD of Dial M for Murder has the standard version of the movie.  I don't remember ever seeing a widescreen version.  There are two short documentaries that are very interesting.  Hitchcock and Dial M discusses different things tied to the making of the movie.  Some pictures taken during the filming are shown. 3D: A Brief History shares some information about how 3D movies were made in the 1950's and how the popularity of them decreased fairly quickly.  I hadn't known how 3D worked before, so I did find that interesting.

Dial M for Murder progress a little slower than some other Hitchcock movies, but it is still very well done and deserves to be seen.  Fans of Hitchcock movies should definitely check it out.  

This review is part of CaptainD's Good Movies EpiGuide 3 Write Off.

Hitchcock Movie Reviews
The Birds ~ Family Plot ~ Lifeboat ~ The Lodger ~ The Man Who Knew Too Much ~ North by Northwest ~ Notorious ~ The Paradine Case ~ Psycho ~ Rear Window ~ Rebecca ~ Rope ~ Sabotage ~ Strangers on a Train ~ Suspicion ~ To Catch a Thief ~ Vertigo ~

Recommend this product? Yes

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