Dial M For Murder (1954)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Who’s in it? Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cumming
What’s it about? Pioneering at the time, Hitchcock’s colourful adaptation of Frederick Knott’s play was one of the first films shot in first generation 3D. When a rich tennis pro (Milland) suspects his high society wife (Kelly) of having an affair, he blackmails a retired soldier to kill her and make it look like a bungled burglary. He is convinced he’s arranged the perfect murder – but things don’t go according to plan. His wife fights back and kills her assailant. Using only two sets to recreate the stage play’s proximity to the audience, the Vertigo director wrings every ounce of suspense and drama out of the source material. Hitchcock famously quipped concerning the nascent technology that 3D was a “nine-day wonder and I came in on the ninth day”. The film’s vivid technicolour palette is given a new lease of life by Warner Bros’ digital restoration which arguably presents the film as it was originally intended.
Memorable moments? Reluctant to bow to studio pressure for a more gimmicky approach, Hitch used the new tech to enhance the action at key points in the narrative, using the stereoscopic photography to emphasize plot-pivotal props, like a pair of scissors swiping out of the screen past your nose.
Look who’s talking: ‘The depth of focus, framing of characters and objects and use of the claustrophobic sets add extra pleasure to what was already a thoroughly enjoyable “perfect crime” nail-biter.’ – Daily Express
Like that? Try this: Loosely framed on Hitchcock’s film, A Perfect Murder (1998) is a modern reworking of Knott’s play starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen, with a pleasing turn from David Suchet as a Poirot-esque detective.
Trivia pursuit: Cary Grant wanted Milland’s part but the studio felt the audience wouldn’t buy him as the type to have his wife killed.
Ronan Wright writes from Belfast and blogs at Filmplicity.