“Dial M for Murder” – 5 Reasons Why You’d Better Dial
Hollywood, 1953. An acclaimed Bri ish director with a hard-earned three-decade career, a chubby belly, and a balding head; with a pouty lower lip and a double-chin chuckle; the director you’ll keep bumping into on every “10 best” list; the guy we assume got named after the Hitchcockian type of movies; “The Master of All Suspense”; that is, director Alfred Hitchcock is in the process of directing “Dial M for Murder”, set to premiere the following year.
The movie storytells of Machiavellian character Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), a Londoner who viciously but elaborately plots to have his unfaithful wife Margot Wendice (Grace Kelly) murdered.
1. Camera: “Dial M for Murder” started out as a simple theatre play wannabe and slowly social-climbed its way up to the lair of… up to Hollywood. So, with the humble hopes of settling for the vibes of a theatre play, one day as he went about his day destroying Tippi Hedren’s career (that didn’t really happen until years later), Hitchcock had a magical light bulb over his head telling him to set the entire movie in One.Single.Room.
This room is as goode as your uncredited cast member, one whom you’ll never notice until you’ve been through it all together – you’ve seen it change shape, you’ve sensed it set people up, you’ve heard it breathe with the breath of a beast.
What more could Hitch do to ensure the à la mode, bleeding-edge 1954 experience, you ask?
The use of 3D cameras is your key ingredient.
And so he did.
So, this is a color feature, which, naturally, brings about:
2. Costume design: Grace Kelly in a glamorous red A-line in the second-to opening scene.
A vibrant scarlet Passiflora at her bloom’s peak; similar use of symbolisms as the you-know-what train entering the you-know-what tunnel in a different Hitchcock epic.
An advanced thought provoker, you see.
If, say, the dress were white (purity, innocence) or a faded color with a modest silhouette (sadness, unavailability), however, it would have never hit us the same and we would have never gone like “Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater” at Grace Kelly way before we ever got the chance to see who is the monster and who is the man of the story.
And, speaking of an A-line, well 50’s fashion is full of them. A woman’s figure, her curves, and her sex appeal became ever more praised and defined by fashion than they were in the 40’s. What is your opinion on that? How did it come to be? Who had the final call there and why? What, you think designers? How about war?
3. Acting: Have you ever seen an Alfred Hitchcock film with bad acting? He had the world at his disposal. All the guy had to do was put in a hard day at work and eeny-meeny-miny-moe between talented Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, or Tippi Hedren. Oh, and yeah, not forget to call it a day.
4. Dialogue: After having completed your Saturday cinema treat, decide if you can:
– would you rather have the sound off and – wait for it – watch the feature’s visuals;
– listen to some priceless Hitchcock dialogue and – wait for it – dary.
So, this Hitchcock guy we keep mentioning believed in this “pure cinema” thing, i.e. visual storytelling. Nevertheless, in this movie, he placed great emphasis on dialogue. It’s idyllic, it’s theatrical, we love it.
5. The story: Give a man a shock and you will feed their attention for 10 seconds; give them suspense and you will feed them for an hour 45’!
Warning – Spoilers Ahead!!!
But, here’s where he comes short: Although we hail his majestic execution in both drama and cinematography, could you honestly claim he ever sold you on that police work?! Oh, is that how we solve cases? Well, as long as we’re alive in the 50’s we might as well just walkout, go home, and binge-read Agatha. Way better police work there, oh they even check if it’s the right key before they put someone to death most of the time. Yeah yeah, we just told you, it was an adaptation, the plot was not his idea, blah, blah.
But, the guy’s always doing that. Just sayin’. No, we’re not angry. Don’t call us angry. That’s just how we talk.