Plot – A tennis player tries to arrange his wife’s murder after learning of her affair – Dial M for Murder.
Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Released – 1954
Although not one of Hitchcock’s best-known films, Dial M for Murder is a beautifully intricate and absorbing game of cat-and-mouse between an attempted murderer and a police detective, that for the most part succeeds in keeping the viewer’s attention right to the very end. Helped massively by Hitchcock’s using just one location for almost the entirety of the film and keeping the small cast to provide more time to focus on the intricacies of the plot.
While the plot doesn’t sound the most complicated, centring on a retired tennis pro Tony Wendice (Milland) plotting to get rid of his rich, unfaithful wife Margot (Kelly), Hitchcock found the time to inject the story with some fine surprises, while making sure that we focus both on the characters actions and on the clues left behind.
Milland gives a fine performance as the desperate Wendice, with the audience able to admire his resourcefulness despite his amoral life choices, while John Williams is excellent as the police inspector who knows more than he lets on.
The only thing that prevents this from being one of Hitchcock’s truly best films is the weaknesses of the other two major characters. As Margot, Grace Kelly is her usual charming self but is let down by poor writing, with her character making some rather obvious mistakes and coming across as pretty naïve for someone as supposedly conniving as the film wishes us to believe.
The same can be said for her lover/Tony’s best friend: Robert Cummings. Who feels one-dimensional at best, with the film never explaining in great detail why either were willing to deceive their friend/husband.
Thus making it hard to like or sympathise with either character. That being said, Dial M for Murder will give a lot of satisfaction to fans of the mystery and thriller genres as you attempt to figure out where it will take you next and how it will end.