Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dial "M" for Murder

(1954) *****

Margot, a wealthy English wife, is having an affair with an American crime novel author. Her husband, Tony Wendice, learns of this affair and goes to great lengths to have his wife murdered. Things of course, go wrong, and much of the film is spent showing everyone else trying to figure out exactly what happened on the night of the attempted murder.

This film is brilliant. It is an adapted stage play, and more than 95% of the film takes place inside of one room. It is astonishing then, that this could essentially be a filmed version of a play, and still, it is gripping. The performances are charming - a word I've never used to describe acting before. The pure courtesy and gentility of each character makes Jane Austen's characters look like drunken Oakland Raiders fans after a win. Even the villain, once exposed in the final scene congratulates the detective and offers the victim a drink before being arrested and taken away.
I didn't even know that was Grace Kelly.

The denouement of this story isn't revealed until the final minutes. We figure out that the inspectors will catch the criminal, and although we know exactly what happened, we are on the edge of our seats trying to find out what it was that we missed. Hints are given, and maybe a smarter person could have figured it out earlier, but, I was hooked.

I picked this film because it was spoofed on the Simpsons Halloween show this year and I'd never seen it. Funny, I was just talking to my friend Tami and her boyfriend the other day about how there were so many things that we didn't know existed until we saw them on the Simpsons. Other than Vertigo and Psycho, I've never seen much Hitchcock, but this will definitely motivate me to seek out some more.


Octopunk said...

I think I've seen this. Is there a scene towards the beginning in which a guy gets another guy to touch (and get his fingerprints on) a letter that the first guy is keeping in a little billfold? I recall the first guy saying "I've got your fingerprints on this" and the other guy says "Sure but what about yours?" and then the first guy says "Uh uh, I never touched it." And then I rewound to see if he was lying and he wasn't.

True story!

Catfreeek said...

One of my favorite films, great choice and nice review Trevor.