Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dial M For Murder

Dial M For Murder
Originally uploaded by rhettrospective.
A film I revisited for the first time in several years.
Made in 1954, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Ray Milland in his attempt to hire a murderer to kill his wife, Grace Kelly.

One of Hitchcock's quintisenntial films, brilliant in its execution of the stage play of the same name. Simply, filmed like a stage performance, the actor's moves within the frame rather than the camera, with almost the entire film contained within the apartment.

As well, Hitchcock manages to execute the impossible, the viewer feels for both Grace Kelly, then Ray Milland, then Anthony Dawson (Charles Swann pictured), then Robert Cummings. All four protagonists of the films, some evil, some good, yet all at some point in the film, apart of our instinctive rooting towards them to either, escape, commit, fail, or love.

Grace Kelly had yet to become the cinematic superstar she was to be. Her only major performance prior was in Gary Cooper driven 'High Noon', and this was her first of three performances in Hitchcock films (+ North by Northwest, To Catch a Thief). She was however by this time, a cinema beauty, and Hitchcock's subliminial use of colour, and costume, adds to her beauty and to the brilliance of the film.

Take for instance, Kelly dressed in light colours in her early scenes with Milland, and in deep red colours with Cummings. Her costumes as well become strikingly darker throughout the film.

Ray Milland's performance is one of his career's best. The suave, confident, convincing plotter of his wife murder, you can't help but be attracted to his magnetism on screen. His performance, it is worth noting, is simliar to one's he would performance with great skill in later 'Columbo' episodes.

Eagle eye viewers, watch out for the peformance of Sam Harris III, his appearance as the dinner guest who holds up the phone box for Ray Milland is a lovely fleeting appearance. Harris was born in Sydney, Australia and list his career performances at a staggering 331, beginning with the Oscar winning film 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'.

This is not often cited as a powerful Hitchcock film, but although it preceded Rear Window (made same year), Man Who knew Too Much (remake), Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, it still is as powerful as any of those.


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