Having been scarred by seeing the most terrifying scenes of The Birds at a young age, I’ve mostly avoided Alfred Hitchcock’s films. Nothing personal, it’s just the thought of those feathered killers that kept me away. After many years I think I’ve finally recovered and am able to take in the renowned filmmaker’s archive. Since it was on Netflix streaming, I decided to watch Dial M for Murder.
Tony (Ray Milland) is a former tennis star whose wealthy wife, Margot (Grace Kelly) is cheating on him with an American crime writer Mark (Robert Cummings). Tony finds this out and decides he’s going to kill his unfaithful wife. The deceit within deceit proceeds with no shortage of twists for which even I, a Hitchcock newbie, am aware are a hallmark of the prolific director.
Everything takes place in one setting which means it is heavily dependent on the acting. Fortunately, the acting is top notch, not annoying as this period of films (really anything before the late 60’s) tends to encourage. Annoying only because the times change, not because it was terrible acting. If we could take back some of today’s best performances and show them to those in the ’50s the audience there would probably wonder if our men and women in front of the camera are even attempting to perform.
Not being the biggest crime and mystery film fan on the planet, I found the constant twists and turns to be a bit tiring towards the end. That’s me, but my eleven year old and seven year old children were fascinated by it all. Even though they struggled to keep up with the fast talking English accents, they were glued to the screen. In fact, my daughter asked me if she could watch the first part of the movie she missed. Who knew that Hitchcock films would appeal to grade schoolers in the year 2012?
Dial M for Murder feels more like a play than a film due to its single setting. Nonetheless, it holds up with compelling performances and a story that begs you to hang on until the very end. Plus, there are no killer birds stalking people in this one. That’s a bonus for my fragile psyche.