It takes real mastery to be able to create a suspenseful atmosphere throughout a film where we, the audience, know what has happened, and this is exactly what Alfred Hitchcock manages to do with this adaptation of Frederick Knott’s stage play (the playwright was responsible for the screenplay too). Ever the experimental auteur, not only did Hitchcock film Dial M for Murder in colour, he also filmed it in 3D, adding further perspective to his disturbing thriller.
He has assembled a fantastic cast for the film. Being a blonde, Kelly was a natural favourite of Alfred Hitchcock; she’d already starred in To Catch a Thief so he hired her while she was at the top of her game. The year she made this film she went on to win an Oscar for her performance in The Country Girl (1954). Ray Milland, who allegedly took on a role that Cary Grant quite fancied, is absolutely perfect as the cruel and heartless mastermind behind the murder delivering his snappy dialogue in clipped, uptight tones.
The story of an ex-tennis pro, Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) who finds out that whilst he was away on tour his wife, Margot (Grace Kelly) cheated on him with an American crime writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Margot and Mark are blissfully unaware that Tony has discovered their secret and that he has decided that he’ll kill her. However, not wanting her blood on his hands, he decides instead to blackmail an old college friend Captain Lesgate (Anthony Dawson) who has pursued a life of crime.
It seems like he has planned the perfect murder, to rid him of his wife and inherit her fortune. But as we know, there is no such thing and the plan doesn’t work as smoothly as he’d hoped. This is classic Hitchcock, huge amounts of suspense, plenty of manipulation and a carefully constructed, complex murder plan. Look out for one of Hitchcock’s famous cameos – an image of him appears in the film after 13 minutes when he can be seen in a photograph.
We get a real insight into Hitchcock’s mastery as a director, his ability to build the tension through his cinematography and score. There’s a sense that Hitchcock wasted nothing and you feel a real economy that makes the taut action even more effective. There are limited locations in which the action takes place, but Hitchcock deftly directs the action using clever camera work and piling on the claustrophobia by virtually confining the action to one room