Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

03 March 2008

Dial M for Murder, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1954)

NIKKI says:
Of all the film's we've watched so far for our mini-Hitchcock marathon, this is by far my favourite. It's tightly plotted, tense, well-written and acted, and expertly directed.

I loved everything about this one. I enjoyed the supreme malice with which the husband plots to kills his wife, and the way none of that malice ever really shows on his face because it's just something he's going to do. I love how he uses every twist in his own tale to his advantage, such as when his plan goes wrong and he has to think on his feet to come up with another plan to escape suspicion, and thus turns his victim wife into a vicious murderess. It's all so wicked.

I enjoyed the staging of the piece, with it all feeling very much like a play, only with three-dimensional aspects, such as furniture in the foreground, adding a strange depth even in standard 2-D. It was filmed this way to capitalise on the 3-D phenomenon movie going on in the mid-1950s, and still works today because it's not so in-your-face, so to speak.

I relished every twist in this story. I was consistently shocked at just how intricately the plot revealed itself, and when it didn't work one way, off it went in another direction and worked even more majestically than before. This is plotting and structure used to classic effect.


STEVE says:
At the risk of stating the obvious, Dial M for Murder is a brilliant film. Can't fault the story or the performances, and I've found a new respect for Ray Milland, who up until now, had been familiar to me only from sci-fi movies like X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes and The Thing with Two Heads. (Sad, innit?)

If only I'd been able to see it in its original 3D presentation.

There's a featurette on the DVD about the 3D process and how it was used here by Hitch. Unlike many other films of the time, where 3D was used aggressively and almost always unnecessarily (I'm reminded of the paddle-ball guy from House of Wax), Hitch used it here to replicate the experience of seeing the original stage production of "Dial M". He didn't throw things in your face - apart from the scene where Grace Kelly is getting strangled and her hand shoots out at the camera - and instead used the 3D process to literally create a third dimension for the audience. Plants, lamps, chairs - all these things sometimes get "in the way" of the action, never obstructing the audience's view, but instead enhancing it, making it feel as though you're watching it live on stage.

It's to Hitch's credit, though, that the movie doesn't suffer from a 2D viewing. Since the 3D effects were so subtle in the first place, the absence of the 3rd dimension isn't felt, as it so often is when movies make the dimensionally retrograde adjustment for home video release.

Dial M
is what a Hitchcock movie should be. Every single thing about it was - if not perfect - perfect Hitchcock, and it's yet another black mark on my record that I'm seeing it for the first time at 37 years of age.


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