Dial M For Murder (1954)

Another mantle piece for the definitive suspense master, Dial M For Murder boasts an unbelievably-intelligent ‘perfect-murder’ screenplay, twisty tale of jealousy/blackmail in classic-Hitchcockian auterism, & elegant performances. 8.7/10.

Plot Synopsis: Ex-tennis pro Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) wants to have his wealthy wife, Margot (Grace Kelly), murdered so he can get his hands on her inheritance. When he discovers her affair with Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings), he comes up with the perfect plan to kill her. He blackmails an old acquaintance into carrying out the murder, but the carefully-orchestrated set-up goes awry, and Margot stays alive. Now Wendice must frantically scheme to outwit the police and avoid having his plot detected.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

Review: “…is that you darling?” When the infamous-strangle scene first shocked audiences over 65 years ago, Hitchcock was well into the prime of what would become the greatest directorial career in the *history* of cinema. Channeling his proverbial suspenseful talents into genre-definitive thrillers, 1954 saw the Master of Suspense birth two masterworks of detective stories: Rear Window following the insatiably-intelligent Dial M For Murder. Another mantle piece for the definitive suspense master, Dial M For Murder boasts an unbelievably-intelligent ‘perfect-murder’ screenplay, twisty tale of jealousy/blackmail in classic-Hitchcockian auterism, and elegant performances for a clinic in thriller construction.

Elaborate sculpting of screenplay in an unbelievablyy-smart, twisty blackmail story. Dial M is one of the ultimate displays of Hitchcockian majesty for how beautifully every aspect of the film melds together in final product. Wherein a majority of films put faulty ingredients on the chopping block for final consumption spelling doom for the project before it’s even begun, the intense attention to detail in chiseling such a magnificent screenplay highlights the filmmakers’ old-world craftsmanship. The winding, intricate tale of deceit, jealousy, blackmail, and murder we’re taken on is absolutely jaw-dropping: one so complex even having seen it before, you have to pause or rewind a couple of times just to even piece together the whole story and follow the detectives’ tracks. The film deserves *serious* praise for how unbelievably-well they plot out the perfect murder even going two to three levels of mapping/considerance of others’ positions and thought-avenues into making the blackmail and murder plan work. Absolutely sinister in plan with esoteric, lofty intellectual back-planning and material goals to murder his wife for sole access to her fortune, the meat of the film and Wendice’s journey is weighted in human emotion, mistakes vs. idealism, and true crime/noir elements guising under the false-pretense of things working out as planned when life has different ideas – only boosted by its impeccable cast and Victorian-level.

Top-notch Shakespearean performances by its impeccable cast. This fantastic, intricacy-unparalleled filmic shell to work with is brought to life by an equally-masterful canvas of performances. Grace Kelly gives an iconic performance – one of her career’s best – opposite the sensationally devilish/conniving and screen-stealing Ray Milland, Anthony Dawson’s sympathetic taken-advantage-of Swann, Cummings’ Mark Halliday, and John Williams’ Inspector Hubbard. This is acting at its highest-level. Beyond the performances and screenplay, every other aspect of the film translates beautifully from the phenomenal plush/swanky London townhouse locational setting, fluttering score opening in contrast with the dark, dour dissonances of the orchestrally-bludeoning suspense sequences, camerawork inventive in shots like occasional overheads of the entire room for mapping the murder, and a just-right tonal mix with the perfect hint of wry humor and humanity-depraved morality to make the idea of such a blackmail/murder-story soar.

Flaws include such a rapid-fire delivery that it can sometimes be unnerving, and occasional overindulgence in detail. The pace at which the characters talk in-film is so incredibly quick that it’s easy to miss things and important details when watching at normal speed, sometimes requiring second-takes and 10-second rewinds to make sure you’ve got/understood every meticulous point laid across this *insanely*-elaborate murder-attempt. Only clocking in at ~1 hr 50 min, they might have taken 10-15 minutes longer to slow the pace down even 1/8 to make for a far smoother translation of information. Also, in parts the story and plan itself become a little bogged down by unnecessary details shrouding/contriving the main points and only adding to this complexity that still certainly works overall but could’ve been a little decluttered for an even more phenomenal final product.

Overall, Dial M For Murder is another mantle piece for the definitive suspense master boasting an unbelievably-intelligent ‘perfect-murder’ screenplay, twisty tale of jealousy/blackmail in classically-Hitchcockian auterism, soaring score, inventive camerawork, and elegant performances by its sensational cast. Remind me to let any call coming in late-night alone simply go to voicemail.

Overall Score: 8.7/10