Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder ★★★★

With Notorious, Hitchcock discovered just how cinematic a ‘key’ can be in a narrative of suspense, and eight years later he decided to up the ante with the devilishly entertaining and exquisitely crafted Dial M for Murder. Of course, the irony that a key literally and metaphorically unlocks this mystery isn’t lost on anyone, Hitch included. And he showcases it by being so playful with his camera in such a tight environment. I almost wished he had done without the ‘one take’ gimmick in Rope and went with this route, because that story certainly deserved the kind of visual delights displayed here. Anyway, Dial M for Murder boasts a tremendously clever structure that subverts basic convention by constantly switching the question from “how will he do it?” to “how’s he getting away with it?” to “how’s he going to get caught?”, being completely entrancing during each segment. And it’s anchored by great, witty writing and fun performances. Dial M for Murder might not have the psychological weight of Hitch’s most revered works, but as far as an exercise in pure pastiche goes, it’s as good as it gets.

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