Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder ★★★½

hmmm... not convinced that this fully works. granted, the hitchcock i watched immediately before this was rear window, and most other films would suffer in comparison to that, let alone one made by the same director. however, i wasn't really enamored with this on its own merits either.

i think part of the problem is how cold and clinical this is. hitch's interest is plainly in the mechanics of how a perfect murder is planned and goes wrong, not the human beings involved in it. the people we're supposed to be rooting for- the wrongfully framed grace kelly and her boyfriend played by robert cummings- flit in and out of the picture, not making all that much of an impression. kelly is given barely anything to work with and cummings has even less material. kelly's evil, conniving husband (who is played magnificently by ray milland) is the star of the show but he's not exactly a palatable or even all that interesting figure to be spending almost two hours with. he's meant to be a bland sociopath and he stays in that mode for the entire film.

plainly put, i didn't really care all that much about what was happening on screen except in the most intellectual, removed sense. and don't get me wrong- there are some wonderful moments that work very well in that register. the early conversation between milland, and the man he's trying to convince to murder his wife is absolutely thrilling. talk about building suspense just through a mild conversation! it starts as just slightly off, before slowly spiraling into something dastardly purely through a series of questions that seem perfectly innocent if odd. milland's bland, grinning face manages to highlight the chilly banality of the trap lying in wait perfectly.

i also have to give hitch props for the ballsiness in completely revealing the whole murder plot in the first twenty minutes of the film. i imagine similar movies, particularly at the time, would have started around the mid-way mark- when grace kelly has just survived an attempted murder by a mysterious man. but hitch knows damn well that suspense works best when the audience happens to be ahead of our protagonists and knowledgeable enough to be fearful for them. it's the ticking bomb under the table principle in fine action.

it's just a crying shame that i wasn't all that worried about the protagonists! i can't help thinking that there needs to be some sort of connection with the person sitting at the table for me to give a damn if the bomb goes off. having grace kelly's lovely face smiling at me isn't quite enough! another reviewer said that this seems like an exercise more than a fully fledged story and i have to agree.

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