Dial M for Murder is a great film noir style crime drama that has an entertaining premise. The title of the film feels silly by modern standards, but the film is not. Another Alfred Hitchcock film that lives up to the expectations set by the directors acclaim. The film sets the stage early for a murder plot that’s compelling on its own, but then has a major twist early that changes the direction of the film. Dial M for Murder gets the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.
Tony Wendice (Ray Millan) is an ex-tennis pro who has planned his wife’s murder. He recruits Charles Swann (Anthony Dawson) to kill Margot (Grace Kelly) after discovering an affair she had with Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Tony has everything planned perfectly, but fate seems to be in the way and the murder doesn’t go as planned.
There are a lot of scenes in the film that are extremely compelling. Tony laying out his trap for Swann to be forced into accepting the offer to kill Margot is such an amazing sequence. The audience isn’t really sure of Tony’s plan, but it is clear that he is up to something as we are privy to the truth behind the lies he sells Swann over the phone. We watch him do a series of odd things that will later pay off in the scene. As his intent is revealed, the audience sees the noose tighten around Swann who clearly seems to have little choice in the matter. It looks like Margot is a goner and Tony will easily get away with murder and the money she’ll leave him in the will.
Suspenseful and compelling to the end
The night the murder is supposed to take place is full of suspense. I had no reason to want Margot killed, but I was nervous about the plan not going off. Tony had only shown to be a horrible person, yet, I kept wincing at the potential issues with his plan. As one thing leads to another, how confident he always seems makes it hard not to root for him at time. Yet, Grace Kelly’s performance is so sympathetic that I quickly felt shame that I’d been anticipating the success of the plan. She manages to kill her would be murderer and Tony only shows how quick on his feet he is.
Enter Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams), who is my favorite character in the film. The way he begins to unravel the actual events of the plan is so impressive. He’s subtle, and much like Tony’s earlier unclear actions leading to the main plot, Hubbard starts to do what seems like inconsequential things. However, Hubbard’s ability as a detective starts to reveal itself with what seemed like random questions and actions. He solves the mystery in a spectacular way and one that I didn’t see coming.
This isn’t my favorite Hitchcock film, but it is a compelling story. It hooked me right from the beginning when we learn that Margot has been having an affair with Mark. It’s easy to sympathize with her plight, but also with Tony. Everyone has their own agenda and no one is perfect. A common theme in the noir genre, but one that I find a lot of joy in the storytelling. If you can watch it, I definitely recommend it.