Dial M for Murder
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60 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2004
Former tennis pro Tony Wendice found out many months ago that his wife Margot was in love with another man, Mark Halliday, an American author of crime novels. After many weeks of planning, Tony sets in motion the perfect plan to kill his wife. The only problem is, as Halliday unknowningly remarks, there's no such thing as a perfect murder, and when something goes wrong, Tony has to quickly formulate another plan to do away with his wife.

This is a classic of suspense from director Alfred Hitchcock, based upon a very successful stage play. All the actors - Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings and John Williams - all give fine performances, but Milland's as Tony Wendice is a standout. You're instantly won over by his conniving charm, and I admit to following his plan with a tiny bit of satisfaction. He's never over-the-top, remaining perfectly cool and collected even when things go awry. Hitchcock's directorial style also keeps the viewer confined to the apartment, only venturing outside very infrequently. As with the play, much of the action takes place in that small space, and Hitchcock uses it to his advantage with intricate staging and camera angles.

The DVD is wonderfully clear with sharp sound as well. The two featurettes are equally worth watching, especially the one on 3D. I never knew that the film was originally shot as a 3D feature, and this goes into some detail about how Hitchcock set up many of the shots without relying too much on the effects. Even as a flat screen movie, the film works perfectly. This movie is a genuine pleasure to watch and should be part of any movie buff's collection.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2012
I will not go into the details of the movie, as this has been done countless times already. I am only rating based on picture quality and 3D.

I was a little disappointed in the overall quality of the picture, but for a 60 year old film, I can live with the graininess and lack of sharpness. Overall, the picture quality was acceptable. Nowhere near today's standards, but again, this film is 60 years old.

I had never seen this film before, so was eagerly awaiting it's release, to see it in 3D. The story itself was gripping, in the usual Hitchcock fashion, and supenseful to the end. I was a bit surprised at the story line, as I was confusing this with one of my favorite Barbara Stanwyck films - "Sorry, Wrong Number". I was expecting the plot to be along the lines of that movie. However, the story line was quite enjoyable.

I don't know why so many people complained about ghosting in the 3D version of the film. I have two 3D TV's - a 32" Visio passive (polarized) LCD, and a 42" Panasonic Plasma Active Shutter TV.

I have to say that the film looked much better on the polarized screen. There was really not much ghosting at all, even in the beginning credits which were somewhat out of the screen. On the active shutter plasma, ghosting was much more evident, very much so during the opening credits, and at various points in the film, especially during dark scenes. While it was noticable, it certainly was not to the point of being annoying. But again, I repeat, this film looks much better on a polarized screen, whcih is the way it was originally shown.

As for 3D effect, it was simply brilliant. Those that complain about the film being rather flat do not know the correct usage of 3D. This film uses 3D in a very natural way.

Viewing in 3D is not about things always popping out of the screen. This is part of the effect of 3D, and sometimes used too much in some films. This is what gives 3D a bad rap in some people's opinion because they see it as gimmicky.

3D in the cinema should be used to display the image in a natural manner, where you are aware of the depth of the scene, and the relationship and distance between objects. In this respect, this film handles 3D very nicely. There were really no "gimmicky" popouts, with the exception of the opening credits, and those were comfortably viewed through my polarized TV (not so much with the active Plasma screen).

The only thing that bothered me at times were the outdoor scenes when the front of the building is shown with the street as a backdrop - the buidling and the characters in front of the building were in 3D, but the backdrop was flat. I can forgive this due to the age of the film and not having the advanced effects that are available today, but it did bother me somewhat.

I too also noticed a blue halo effect around the characters at some points, but it was not overly bothersome.

I did also notice the part near the end where the scene switched to 2D. At first I hadn't realized, but then it hit me that the scene was 2D. I don't know if this was intentional or just that that part of the film could nt be restored to 3D. But more than likely it was intentional as they surely would have mentioned this on the packaging if it was a defect of the transfer.

Overall, a very enjoyable film, one which I will watch many times again. I am thrilled that I have finally gotten to see this film in 3D.
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47 of 60 people found the following review helpful
This is a fine example of the kind of mystery that little old ladies from Pasadena (or Russell Square) adore. Perhaps Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) starring Cary Grant might be comparable in its genteel and bloodless ability to glue us to the screen.
This is certainly one of Hitchcock's best, but most of the credit must go to a devilishly clever play written by Frederick Knott from which he adapted the screenplay. (He also wrote the play upon which Wait Until Dark (1967) starring Audrey Hepburn was based.) Hitchcock does a good job in not tinkering unnecessarily with the material. He also has the exquisitely beautiful Grace Kelly to play the part of Margot Wendice.
Ray Milland plays, with a kind of high-toned Brit panache, her diabolical husband, Tony Wendice, a one-time tennis star who married mostly for security. John Williams is the prim and proper Chief Inspector Hubbard. He lends to the part a bit of Sherlock Holmesian flair. One especially liked his taking a moment to comb his mustache after the case is solved. Robert Cummings, unfortunately plays Margot's American boyfriend as inventively as a sawhorse. For those of you who might have blinked, Hitchcock makes his traditional appearance in the photo on the wall from Tony Wendice's undergraduate days.
The fulcrum of the plot is the latchkey. It is the clue that (literally) unlocks the mystery. There is a modernized redoing of this movie called A Perfect Murder (1998) starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in which a similar business with latchkeys is employed. I am not very good with clues so it was only after seeing that movie and Dial M for Murder for the second time that I finally understood what happened. Follow the latchkey!
Of course I was too distracted by Grace Kelly to fully appreciate such intricacies. I found myself struck with the ironic notion that anyone, even a cuckolded husband, might want to kill Grace Kelly or that a jury might find her guilty of anything! She remains in my psyche America's fairytale princess who quit Hollywood at the height of her popularity after only five years and eleven movies to become a real princess by marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco. Something was lost there, and something was gained. She was in essence the original Jackie Kennedy Onassis. I think, however, that the old saw about the man who marries for money, earning it, might apply to American princesses as well.
At any rate, Grace Kelly's cool and sublime bearing was on fine display here. Hitchcock cloths her in discreet nightgowns and fitted (but certainly not clinging) dresses that show off her delicate figure and her exquisite arms and hint coyly at her subtle sexuality. She was 25-years-old, stunningly beautiful, and in full confidence of her ability as an actress. She had just finished starring opposite James Stewart in another splendid Hitchcock one-room mystery, Rear Window (1954), and was about to make The Country Girl (1954) with Bing Crosby for which she would win an Oscar for Best Actress.
So see this for Grace Kelly who makes Gwyneth Paltrow (whom I adore) look downright gawky, and for Ray Milland whose urbane scheming seems a layer or two of hell removed from Michael Douglas's evil manipulations.
By the way, the "original theatrical trailer" preceding these Warner Brothers Classic videos is what we used to call the "Coming Attractions"--that is, clips directly from the movie and a promo. You might want to fast forward to the movie itself.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2014
Hitchcock agreed to make this movie to finish his Warner Brothers contract and move to Paramount where he would not only retain creative control but own some of his movies ("Rear Window", "The Trouble with Harry", "The Man Who Knew Too Much", "Vertigo). Apparently the director wasn't pleased with shooting in 3D and there were problems with the equipment during principal photography where is why there are some non 3-D shots in the film. Also, Hitchcock preferred to work with the Technicolor lab which offered superior processing and dye transfer release prints rather than the shoddy Warnercolor which had grainy opticals. In any event, he made an entertaining if somewhat stagey thriller with good performances and a famous murder scene. This was part of the director's experimentation of creating a suspense story in a confined location which was attempted with "Lifeboat", "Rope" and this movie. He finally got it right (if not perfect) with "Rear Window" after which he abandoned that concept. The film had a very limited release in 3D back in 1954 since the cycle of dimensional pictures had fizzled out. The problem of keeping two projectors in perfect synchronization cause grief for some theater owners. The original 3D and flat versions were shown in the 1:85 ratio. The movie was re-released in 1979-1980 with new dual projector prints and shown in 1:33. Warner Brothers also made a single strip 3D version for a broader re-release in 1981 also in 1:33. The advantage of the square format was that more of the image was shown and Warnercolor needed all the help it could get, especially the grainy opticals that used the inferior duplicating stock of the time. (Note: The Paramount VistaVision format had camera negative opticals because they negative was A & B rolled meaning that each negative went through the printer twice and the fades and dissolves were made as the image was exposed). This Blu ray release does contain the original color timing (which is good considering how faded the negative(s) must be so many decades later) but it was mastered in 1:85 (16:9). That means the somewhat grainy Warnercolor image was enlarged to crop the top and bottoms of the frame. This makes the image even grainier than it was in the eighties 3D re-issue. I would've preferred the film released in 1:33 to show more of the photographed image which would've reduced the grain. Or at least, they should've offered both aspect ratios for consumers. The film actually looks fine in either ratio in terms of composition and since most people saw it in 3D in 1:33 between 1979-1981, that would've looked better on Blu ray in that ratio since digital tends to exaggerate the grain of a movie. If the film is fine grain to begin with, it will look ultra-fine grain digitally (i.e. "The Trouble with Harry"). However, if the movie is a little grainy to begin with, the digital format will exaggerate that grain and make it more noticeable. That aside, the subtle use of 3D does enhance the narrative but there are only two 'off screen' shots that the process was known for at the time...the murder scene and the key in the hand. Otherwise, the depth is used to open up the confined set.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2013
I purchased this movie from Amazon as a pre-order. A lot of people are putting the transfer of this 3d movie down.I saw this movie in the 80's wheb it was converted to side by side production. It is identical to the blue ray release. This movie only had 2 out of screen 3d effects. A hand coming out of the screen with a key near the end, and the hand with the scissors. The depth inside the screen was great. I guess they shot it like that as it was a stage play. The blue ray was dark and could have benn brightened up a bit, however it was dark in the theater as well. This movie played in the theater with House of Wax 3d. Dial M had a great picture compared to house of wax. It was also side by side conversion. Most of House of Wax was washed out in either left or right eye sometimes both. About half way through I left the theater because of a headache. If the dual strip they made house from is the only copy it is going to need a ton of work. I am satisfied with the quality of this blue ray as it is exatly as the movie was released in 3d.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2004
Two Grade-A Alfred Hitchcock motion pictures were released in the year 1954: the spectacular "Rear Window" and this other delicious little number called "Dial M For Murder".

Scissors, latch keys, stockings, telephones, and blackmail notes are all important set-pieces that help drive this movie along.

"Dial M" is heavily dialogue-driven, although the attempted murder scene is very well done -- and quite suspenseful indeed. I'm guessing that when viewers watched this film in movie theaters in '54, there was probably a huge cheer after Grace did what she had to do to stay among the living. Great scene.

But, for me, the very best part of this stylish thriller/drama comes near the beginning of the film. The scene I refer to is a very lengthy one (22 minutes long to be precise). It's the scene in Ray Milland's apartment (flat) where he coaxes Mr. C.A. Swan into taking the grisly job which Milland has to offer.

I love the way this "set up" scene is written and plays out. It has a very realistic (and kind of eerie) feel to it. Tony Wendice (Milland) has certainly done his homework, and that fact is conveyed to us with little doubt. Tony's got everything figured out right down to the exact minute he needs to call the flat to "entice" his wife to the telephone the next evening. And he's very nearly thought of everything. Very nearly....everything except those pesky scissors that Grace left on the desk.

Tony's murder weapon in this fiendish plot is C.A. Swan, played to absolute perfection by Anthony Dawson. Dawson emanates a kind of creepiness and shadiness that fits his character to a tee (similar to an eerie role Dawson played six years later in the Doris Day film, "Midnight Lace", which has Dawson exuding a heightened level of "creepiness" in various scenes in that 1960 thriller).

The moment Swan (Dawson) enters Wendice's dwelling, a subtle feeling of tension and slight uneasiness comes across the screen. You know something is afoot. Hitchcock seems to have had an unparalleled ability to convey this sense of dread, disquiet, and trepidation without having to beat us over the head with it. It's just THERE, slightly beneath the surface. You can feel it somehow.

Veteran character actor John Williams plays Chief Inspector Hubbard, who is working overtime to crack this tricky case. And he does a fine job of it too, as it turns out. Williams, it seems, made a living out of portraying this kind of law-enforcement character. He played the exact same type of role in the aforementioned movie, "Midnight Lace", in addition to a similar recurring role as an "Inspector" in Mr. Hitchcock's very own self-titled TV series.

"Dial M For Murder" plays out kind of like a Sherlock Holmes mystery, Alfred Hitchcock style, with Williams in the part of Sherlock here, as he pieces together the clues to resolve the case. It's a low-key drama that is set in virtually one single location -- an apartment. Very few scenes take place outside Milland's home setting, which is very reminiscent of Hitchcock's other 1954 endeavor, "Rear Window", which also takes place practically in just a single room.

Video quality is excellent on this disc, IMO. The film looks clear, detailed, and rich in color. Some grain and "noise" are evident in some scenes, but it's never distracting in the least. Overall, a darn good-looking digital video transfer. The aspect ratio is Full-Frame (1.33:1), which was the original framing as shown in theaters in 1954. Audio is supplied by a highly-adequate Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono soundtrack.

Menus are simple (and static) in nature. A "scissors" icon guides our way around the menu screens (which seems most appropriate here). :)

Packaging is attractive and colorful, and appears to come from original 1954 artwork for the film. No paper (chapter) insert is included with this DVD release. "Scene Selections" are included on the disc itself (as is the norm, of course, for nearly all movies on DVD). There are 5 separate "Scene" screens on this disc, providing instant access to any of the film's 28 different chapters.

DVD Bonus Features:

Two short featurettes are included on the disc --- "Hitchcock And Dial M" (with a run time of 21:33) and "3D: A Brief History" (7:06). ...............

"Hitchcock And Dial M" is an enjoyable and informative bonus, produced by "DVD Supplemental Materials King" Laurent Bouzereau. Several talking heads, including Peter Bogdanovich, chat about "Dial M" and about Hitchcock's filmmaking techniques. Clips from the film are shown throughout this bonus feature, as are many behind-the-scenes still photographs.

"3D: A Brief History" is another Laurent Bouzereau short, which gives us a cursory overview into how "3-D" movies were made back in the 1950s. "Dial M For Murder" was indeed originally shot by Mr. Hitchcock in the 3-D process -- with the famous scissors literally "leaping" out of the screen at audience members who saw the film in theaters, provided each movie-goer was wearing a pair of those cardboard "3-D glasses". (I can see why 3-D films failed to catch on in a really big fashion. Having to sit through a two-hour film while constantly wearing those ill-fitting, uncomfortable makeshift eyeglasses would get tiresome very quickly, in my opinion. LOL.)

Even though "Dial M" *was* filmed with "3-D" in mind, there is no way to view the movie in 3-D while playing this DVD-Video (even if you happen to have a pair of those colored glasses lying around the house). But that's really a minor point; because "Dial M" doesn't really need any "gimmick" (like 3-D) to be enjoyed. It's a winning Hitchcock effort no matter how it's viewed.

One other bonus resides on this disc -- The Theatrical Trailer for "Dial M" (2:35). For some odd reason, this trailer is shown in Widescreen format here, even though the film itself was photographed in a Full-Frame ratio.

Other disc info ....... Spoken Languages on this DVD are English and French (Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono for both). There are Subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

This movie is one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock flicks, being firmly anchored by two highly-rewatchable moments/scenes --- that very intriguing lengthy early act in the picture featuring Milland and Dawson .... and those very handy scissors!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2000
Although reviews tend to vary on this movie, I think it is one of Hitchcocks 10 best. Although the movie does not have as much mystery, suspense, or action as many of Hitch's other films, it does feature terrific acting, a good plot, and great direction, editing, and cinematography. Ray Milland and Grace Kelly put in terrific performances. Milland puts in such a good performance that you almost find yourself rooting for him to get away with his crime. I thought Robert Cummings was just average, but the role of the Inspector is one of the better supporting characters in any Hitch film. The ending, while not as famous as those in North by Northwest or Strangers on a Train, is so casual that I think it ranks as one of the best, if not the best, of all Hitch endings.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2012
I've been waiting for "Dial M for Murder" to be release on 3D Blu-ray or for that matter any classic 3D film. It's a good film, although not one of Hitchcock's best, but even mediocre Hitchcock is better than almost anything most director's put out. the word is that "Dial M" is a better film in 3D. I can believe that; look at Avatar which looks mediocre in 2D but sensational in 3D. I'm hearing that "Dial M" will look better on Blu-ray than it ever has looked. Hope this one's followed by "Kiss Me Kate" and "House of Wax". Can't wait.

6/24/2013 - "Dial M" was great in 3D. In fact, I was in awe watching it; I felt like I was looking over Hitchcock's shoulder watching him decide how to film each scene. That is why "Dial M" in 3D is an important film. After seeing it in 3D, you get a glimpse of how the master thinks. I think I'll go watch it again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 1999
This is undoubtedly one of Hitchcock's classics and one of my favourite all time films. The cast and the suspense are second to none. The conclusion is gripping. One to watch over and over again.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2009
Dial M For Murder takes place almost entirely within the confines of one room, breezes by in two acts, contains very little action, features only five characters of any real significance, and yet it feels absolutely epic. Its dialogue-saturated narrative ripples with tension, wit, and menace, every word of the script serving to propel, complicate, and enliven one of the most wonderful and quintessentially Hitchcockian plots you've ever seen. The story revolves around retired tennis player Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) as he attempts to murder his wealthy and unfaithful wife Margot (Grace Kelly. Be still, my beating heart!). A clever and calculating man, Wendice orchestrates a brilliant scheme that, if executed properly, will leave his wife dead and him with an airtight alibi. The plan goes off with exactly one hitch, but it's a pretty big one: Margot doesn't die. Not to be deterred, Wendice sets about turning the situation to his advantage.

I wouldn't want to give anything else away, so suffice to say that the fun of this movie is watching Wendice manipulate the police, Margot, and her lover Mark (Robert Cummings) into resolving the situation in his favor, all the while playing the concerned husband. He's a villain that's fun to root for; we hate his intentions but love his wit, his meticulous attention to detail, and his prodigious talent for improvisation. Squaring off against Wendice is the Columbo-like Inspector Hubbard (John Williams), whose talent for discovering the truth is as intuitive and uncanny as is Wendice's for concealing it.

Milland and Williams steal the show here. Their performances are understated but brilliant. Each man is dapper, witty, and charismatic, and they convey a charming sort of arrogance, an awareness of and admiration for their own cleverness. In their scenes together, they seem to talk over the heads of whoever else happens to be in the room, as if they're facing each other in a private game that nobody else is aware of. Except us, of course.

Hitchcock keeps the tension high, letting the labyrinthine plot strain against the edges of its claustrophobic setting, turning Wendice and Hubbard's conversations about extra latchkeys and missing attaché cases play like high drama. Classic.
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