Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Anthony Dawson and Grace Kelly  
DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954). Director: Alfred Hitchcock.

Margot Wendice (Grace Kelly) is married to former tennis bum Tony (Ray Milland), but after she senses a certain change in her husband she falls in love with the American writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). The viewer learns early on that Tony basically married Margot for her money, and has no intention of losing it if she divorces him in favor of Halliday. What to do? What to do? He runs into an old acquaintance of his (Anthony Dawson) who has seen better days and offers him a proposition. But the best laid plans ... Based on a play by Frederic Knott (who also wrote the screenplay), Dial M for Murder can be talky and a bit stage bound at times --- there is even an intermission [as if between acts] even though the film is under two hours long -- but it has its cinematic moments as well, although the pivotal sequence isn't handled with as much Hitchcockian inspiration as one might have hoped for. The second half drags a bit, with characters talking too much about things we and they already know. A trial sequence is filmed so cheaply that it's almost comical. However, the movie is very well acted by Kelly, Milland, and Dawson; Cummings is more than adequate; and John Williams nearly steals the picture as Chief Inspector Hubbard. As British mysteries go it's no Witness for the Prosecution, but it is quite entertaining (if a bit improbable at times), and it's fun to see how the villains will be ultimately out-witted. I believe this was Hitchcock's one and only experiment with 3-D.

Verdict: Smooth if unspectacular Hitchcock. ***.

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