Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Dial M for Murder (1954)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Frederick Knott
What makes Alfred Hitchcock such a great director, and arguably the best of all time,is more complex than just saying something like he is a great storyteller, which he is, but the question is why is he a great storyteller. On top of that, one must realize his output as a director. Ole Al directed about 60 titles over his long career, something that directors now a days would only ever dream of, perhaps with the exception of Woody Allen, who still churns out a new movie, mostly good too, every year. Hitchcock was able to sustain his greatness over a long period of time, producing such taut thriller's as this film, Dial M for Murder.
Tony (Ray Milland) is an ex-tennis pro who is married to the beautiful Margot (Grace Kelly). They live in England in a nice little flat, but when their friend, American mystery writer Mark (Robert Cummings) arrives for a short vacation, things get complicated, real complicated. Tony has learned of a wicked thing and has decided to hire a hitman (Anthony Dawson) to commit the perfect murder...of his own wife. But the devious plot sees some twists and turns that no one saw coming.
Patience. That is the answer as to why Hitchcock is such a great director. Perhaps not for all of his films, but at least for this specific film, patience is Hitchcock's best trait. The story is simple on the surface, but with all the twists and intricacies it would have been easy to overdo it and rush into what needn't be rushed in to. For instance, if this were to be remade today, I am confident that there would be infinitely more sex and violence, but in this film there is hardly any of either, though the plot includes it. Hitchcock is patient and lets the story breath, and grow as the suspense and intrigue also grows.
The cast does a good job of portraying the characters. Ray Milland, Anthony Dawson, and Robert Cummings are all good, but the star here has to be Grace Kelly. Perhaps her performance is not amazing, as her character doesn't really call for it, but one can't help but to be mesmerized by her beauty and presence, as Hitchcock himself was. The two would collaborate again in Rear Window and To catch a Thief, as Hitch did have an obsession with beautiful blonds and Grace was one of the most beautiful.
It is hard to overstate the brilliance of Hitchcock, who has directed so many classics. What he does with Dial M for Murder is just let the brilliant story and screenplay do the talking. But at the same time, it takes a steady hand like Hitchcock to know just how to tell such a complex thriller. It is films like these that just go to show how great he was. It is a lesser known Hitchcock and many would say it is lesser Hitchcock in its greatness (compared to his other greats), and yet it is better than most other films, now or then.