Dial M for Murder DVD Review
Reviewed by Peter West
DVD released by Warner Bros.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Frederick Knott (play & screenplay)
1954, Region 1 (NTSC), 105 minutes, Rated PG
DVD released on September 7th, 2004
Ray Milland as Tony Wendice
Grace Kelly as Margot Wendice
Robert Cummings as Mark Halliday
John Williams as Chief Insp. Hubbard
Anthony Dawson as Charles Swan - 'Capt. Lesgate'
The story starts with Margot Wendice (Grace Kelley) in the arms of both her husband Tony (Ray Milland) and her lover Mark (Bob Cummings). Little does Margot know that her husband is well aware of the affair and confirmed it by blackmailing her anonymously after he found a letter from her lover. Margot goes over her fears of the blackmail plot with Mark, not aware at all that the blackmailer is her husband. Thinking her affair safe for now, Margot has Mark over for drinks with her and Tony. Tony invites Mark to a bachelor party the following evening, little does Mark or Margot know that murder is on the menu.
Enlisting the help of a down on his luck college chum Charles Swan (Anthony Dawson, best know as the Sheriff of Nottingham on the Robin Hood TV series), Tony devises a elaborate plan to do in Margot while he's out with Mark as his alibi. However as the best laid plans often go astray, Margot kills Swan and the plot gets far more complex. Fixing the evidence, Tony sets it up for Swan to be the blackmailer and Margot to be the killer trying to keep her affair secret. Enter a eccentric police inspector (John Williams, a Hitchcock regular) and now it's a question of whether Margot can escape the gallows.
Derived from the hit play, Dial M for Murder remains today a exciting and complex thriller still to be enjoyed.
I had not seen Dial M for Murder since around 1965. I had forgotten what a complex thriller it is. Hitchcock did not modify the story at all from the play. "If you buy a good play, you just shoot it." he was quoted as saying about the film. His creative genius was much more evident in the camera angles to enhance the 3-D experience for the audience. You'll notice a lot of shots that are low to emphasize the objects on tables etc. 3-D along with widescreen films were the major ways of competing with TV, however eye strain by the audience did in the 3-D format, unfortunately.
Grace Kelly is a unsympathetic heroine in this Hitchcock vehicle. Immediately we know that she's having a affair on her husband by the two love scenes so early in the film. Hitch loved working with Grace and had a lot of affection for her. Unlike other actresses he did not physically abuse her (like Tippi Hedren in The Birds) in her roles. Ray Milland won a best actor Oscar for The Lost Weekend, he should have won a second one for this film. He is absolutely charming as the evil husband Tony. His lines at the end of the film are a perfect way to finish a great movie! Fifty years later Dial M for Murder is as exciting as it was when it was first released. I highly recommend seeing this movie, you won't regret it.
Video and Audio:
Shot in 3-D and in a color process called "WarnerColor", Dial M for Murder retains it's bright and vivid colors pretty good for a 50 year old film. Backgrounds are a little dull on shots outside the apartment (where 95% of the film takes place). It is presented in the standard 1.37:1 of the day. Warner has done a very good job with this one!
Dial M for Murder has a Dolby Digital mono soundtrack which works well with the music by Dimitri Tiomkin (a composer of many Hitchcock films). It's free of hiss and distortion. Especially good are the moments leading up to the murder.
Along with a theatrical trailer there's also a documentary on the film and the process of filming in 3-D. The early '50s were a time of evolution for the movie industry having to compete with TV for audiences. I really wish a 3-D presentation of the film was included on the DVD.