For the 2013 New Zealand International Film Festival I figured I’d try and keep some kind of a review diary covering each of the 20 or so films I’m planning to see. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks.
I had myself convinced before entering the cinema that Dial M for Murder was a Hitchcock film I hadn’t previously seen, but as I was watching it slowly began to come flooding back. I can’t for the life of me recall when I had seen it, but ultimately it didn’t matter. Dial M for Murder is pure Hitchcock mastery, an elaborately plotted work with the greatest filmmaker of all time at his experimental peak.
In terms of the master’s canon, Dial M for Murder sits comfortably with his one-shot exercise Rope, and is definitely a precursor to the film he made next Rear Window. Set almost entirely in one apartment, the story concerns one man’s (Ray Milland) jealous and greed-fueled ambition to commit the perfect murder. His wealthy wife (Grace Kelly) has been unfaithful, and after securing the services of an old college acquaintance (Anthony Dawson), he plots a seamless scheme to exact his revenge, collecting a hefty inheritance in the process. Unsurprisingly, not all goes to plan.
Several times Hitchcock tested himeslf to do a lot with little, and Dial M for Murder is a classic example. By restricting himself to such a confined space he is obliged to fire through very heavy dialogue sequences, and while it’s a lot to absorb, it’s all crafted so exquisitely that it’s never hard to keep up. It’s also one of his funniest films (second only perhaps to North by Northwest), with Hitchcock not afraid to self-reflexively call his film out when various red herrings begin stretch the limits of feasibility.
Dial M for Murder was the only film Hitchcock shot in 3D, and in an interesting side-note, at the NZIFF this year it was presented in converted 3D, a rare treat. I’m no great fan of the format, but with Dial M for Murder it was unobtrusive to the point of non-existence for the most part, however it was worth it for one iconic shot that people will know when they see, should they ever get the chance to see it in this way. However you choose to see it, Dial M for Murder is a fantastic film that deserves its place among Hitchcock’s greatest.