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An Alfred Hitchcock Classic

Dec 6, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Ensemble cast, director, plot, b&w

Cons:no visible chemistry between female & male leads

A few weeks ago while scanning the preview channel I saw Dial M For Murder being shown on the Arts & Entertainment channel. The movie started five minutes earlier but I was quickly drawn into the plot.

Dial M For Murder is shown in Black & White dated from 1954 lasting about 1.5 hours. I had never seen this before and noticed that Grace Kelley was part of this ensemble. Unfortunately the movie is all about her intended death so she is not visible to the viewer for much of the movie.

Margo is married to Tony, played by Ray Milland while having an affair with Mark, a friend of theirs for the past year. Tony is aware of this but keeps it to himself. He contacts a college acquaintance that he has been tracking his movements and it seems like an interrogation when Tony lays out the plan to murder his wife thus being committed by this “stranger”.

Tony then walks around the living room showing how this event will happen. He knows how many steps to get to the phone, how long it will take Margo to answer the phone. They turn off the light while doing a practice death scene. There are several specifics that play a key role in this taking place with no glitches. They discuss the closing of the screen door to the porch, the placement of the key, the time the telephone call will be placed from Tony to Margo.

Later that afternoon Mark, Tony and Margo are chatting in the living room like three regular friends. Mark leaves while Tony has some sort of meeting he must go to a restaurant and they discuss what Margo will do at home.

The plan seems to go according to schedule but Tony is to be placing a call to his home where Margo would answer the phone and the “stranger” would enter from the screen door. Some things changed that made all this come apart. Margo had her sewing box out and left it open, which had the tools she needed to defend herself during the attack.

Back at the restaurant Tony seems very anxious while checking his watch and asks what the time is from someone at the table. It turns out his watch was not adjusted to the correct time. I am unclear if this was part of his plan or he made an error in this one step. He called home and heard the struggle and forgot to make his other call to cover his tracks and rushed home via taxi.

When he got home he moved some things around and took the key out of the “stranger’s” pocket and kept it. He was under the impression that this was his key left at the stairwell for the killer to enter the apartment.

He then briefs Margo on what to tell the Inspector and many twists and turns kept me glued to the couch waiting for the next clue. The details in Dial M For Murder were well thought out, funny and thrilling all at the same time.

The tables get turned when the Inspector investigates who the killer was and there is a letter placed in the coat pocket that was between Margo and Mark. Tony realizes the story of this stranger coming into the apartment does not work and then plots to frame Margo for trying to kill this man saying he was blackmailing her.

It was turned once again while Margo was in custody after the trial, this time the Inspector made arrangements that revolved around the key and the results are what truly makes this a Hitchcock flick to see.

There are generations of moviegoers who were born long after the death of Grace Kelly and Alfred Hitchcock who would benefit from watching these talents. This is available for about fifteen dollars at Amazon. Also try looking for this at video stores for rental and/or purchase. When joining movie clubs through the mail and the internet there are many older classics and this may be offered that way.

I would say the only thing that I noticed was no chemistry between the female character and the two males she was involved with. I bet if this were done today there would be another twist to have her involved with the Inspector as well. Dial M For Murder is truly a black and white gem worth watching.




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