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Thursday, January 28, 2016

DIAL M FOR MURDER -- Movie Review by Porfle

Grace Kelly's first association with Alfred Hitchcock came in 1954 with DIAL M FOR MURDER, adapted by Frederick Knott from his own stage play.

The theatrical origins of the story are apparent since Hitchcock made little effort to hide them--indeed, he probably considered the limited locations (most of the action takes place in a single apartment) a challenge along the same lines as LIFEBOAT and ROPE.

Peter Bogdanovich relates that in directing the film Hitchcock didn't feel the need to "open it up" cinematically, fearing that this would interfere with the play's intricate construction.

And he finds enough with which to busy himself artistically to keep things visually interesting while briskly moving the dialogue-driven plot along--in particular, since the film was originally released in 3D, Hitchcock seems inspired to explore the possibilities of this novelty device without resorting to the more obvious gimmicks.

Ray Milland is at his slimy-smooth best as former tennis pro Tony Wendice, now living with wife Margot (Kelly) in a luxurius apartment in London.

The arrival of an old friend from the USA, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings)--with whom Margot once had an affair--helps set into motion Tony's plan to murder Margot for her money and blame it on a blackmail scheme gone wrong.

To carry out the murder, Tony hires a cash-strapped con man named Lesgate (Anthony Dawson, who, as "Professor Dent", was famously executed by agent 007 in the first James Bond film, DR. NO).

Their lengthy dialogue scene in which Tony lays out his plan in intricate detail is talky, almost static, yet Hitchcock and his able cast manage to bring the script to vivid life as we hang on every word.

The actual murder scene is executed (so to speak) with exquisite suspense, helped in no small part by Grace Kelly's outstanding performance as the frantic victim.

Later, during the investigation, the introduction of a new character in the form of Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams, whom many baby-boomers will recognize as Sebastian Cabot's replacement in the TV series "Family Affair") turns this suspense thriller into a crackerjack investigative procedural reminiscent of "Columbo" in that the actual culprit arrogantly underestimates the detective.

The resulting cat-and-mouse game of wits makes DIAL M FOR MURDER one to savor.

Read our review of the GRACE KELLY COLLECTION


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