It may surprise you to hear anyone who writes about film say this, but when I sat down in Theatre 4 at TIFF Bell Lighbox recently to watch a lovely new print of Dial M for Murder in 3D, it was the first Hitchcock movie I had seen in a theatre.
Some may consider this blasphemous, but it’s fair to say that some people’s film tastes run to the more popular fare. And I am one of those people. While I have not seen very much classic film, I am extremely well versed in popular and genre film, which is one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to see this film on the big screen.
Dial M for Murder is a Hitchcock mainstay, but it is also one of his more accessible films. The story centres around an aging tennis player who discovers that his wife is having an affair. In that moment he begins a journey towards a plot to get his revenge by killing her and inheriting her considerable wealth.
The film is based on the play of the same name by Frederick Knott, who also penned the screenplay. Starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly and Robert Cummings, the film has a very “stagey” feel to it, taking place almost solely in one location. But what it lacks in variety of location, it makes up for in tension and ability to rivet the audience.
Having seen a limited number of Hitchcock’s other work on the small screen only, it seems to me that Dial M for Murder might be the perfect way to jump into your Hitchcock viewing career. You see, Hitchcock is revered for his use of the camera movement to mimic the movement of the eye and body, which allows the viewer to feel as though they, themselves, are the ones watching the action, not everyone in the theatre having the same experience. This shared voyeurism ““ the feeling that you alone are peeking in on events and happening that you should never know about ““ combined with the subject matter of his films creates a closeness to the events and characters that isn’t shared by many other film experiences.
The addition of 3D to this feeling was incredibly savvy on Hitch’s part. Since 3D is, by nature, designed to create an added layer of immersion to a film, it enhances the feeling brought on by Hitchcock’s filmmaking style to an almost unbearable level. That is to say, it’s extremely effective. It was also a bold move, since the film was shot at a time when 3D was on its way out, and it was largely in 2D screened by theatres.
The good news is, you can enjoy this film in its original format at TIFF Bell Lightbox starting Friday, October 5, 2012.
Fun Facts About Dial M for Murder
- Dial M for Murder was not the film Hitchcock intended to make after I Confess, but issues with his production partnership stopped production and Warner Bros allowed him to being shooting on this film instead.
- There are several remakes of this film, including a Bollywood production titled Aitbaar (which was subsequently remade into a Tamil film called Chaavi) and a Hollywood remake starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow called A Perfect Murder.
- Grace Kelly objected to the idea that a woman would get up and put a robe on the answer the phone in the middle of the night. When Hitch agreed, they scrapped the robe. Hitch allowed Kelly to make many of her own costume decisions in all projects they did together after this point.
- Hitchcock wanted the film to open with shot of a finger dialing the number 6 on a rotary phone, but the 3D camera wouldn’t focus. As a result, he asked that a giant wood finger be created to achieve the effect. This shot does, in fact, open the movie.
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