Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder ★★★★½

A Century of Cinema Challenge: 1954

Good ol' Hitchcock. Never failing to deliver the thrills and chills, the murder and the mystery. This one is a little different than most though, because it is essentially confined to one location, and I think this was an excellent choice for the master of suspense. Barring two, maybe three scenes, Dial M for Murder never goes farther than a single room, the parlor of Tony and Margot Wendice. Hitchcock takes us through a detailed study of murder, using a complex cat and mouse game to show that things rarely turn out like they do on paper.

True to its minimalist nature, it features a rather small cast, but from the few players we get enormous performances. Ray Milland is dapper, devious, and deceitful and it's utterly thrilling to watch as he coolly maneuvers his way around every unexpected turn thrown his way. Well, except one, of course. Hitchcock's choice to make Milland's Tony the protagonist is perfectly on point. We're never kept in the dark about his schemes, leaving the suspense to be built by the unpredictability of the other characters. And will he get away with what he plans or will he eventually slip up? It's not the kind of suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat, but it does keep you completely hooked. All the action comes from the dialogue, Hitchcock's masterful writing and wit lending themselves to the wonderful premise. Plaudits also to Grace Kelly and Robert Cummings, and even to the occasionally overdramatic John Williams as Inspector Hubbard.

All I can say now is what I usually do. Hitchcock was a master in his craft, which just got better and better the longer he was at it. He's one of the greatest filmmakers in cinema history for a reason.