Dial M for Murder
|Dial M for Murder|
theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
|Directed by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Produced by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Screenplay by||Frederick Knott|
|Music by||Dimitri Tiomkin|
|Editing by||Rudi Fehr|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Release date(s)||May 29, 1954|
|Running time||105 minutes|
Dial M for Murder is a 1954 American thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, and Robert Cummings. The movie was adapted from a successful stage play by Frederick Knott, and was released by the Warner Bros. studio.
The screenplay and the stage play on which it was based were both written by English playwright Frederick Knott, whose work often focused on women who innocently become the potential victims of sinister plots. The play premiered in 1952 on BBC television, before being performed on the stage in the same year in London's West End in June, and then New York's Broadway in October.
The single setting in the stage play is the living-room of the Wendices' flat in London (61A Charrington Gardens, Maida Vale). Hitchcock's film adds a second setting in a gentleman's club, the well of a staircase, a few views of the street outside, and a stylized courtroom montage. Having seen the play on Broadway, Cary Grant was keen to play the role of Tony Wendice, but studio chiefs did not feel the public would accept him as a man who arranges to have his wife murdered.
In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "Ten Top Ten" list - the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres - after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Dial M for Murder was ranked the ninth best film in the mystery genre.
Tony Wendice is an ex-professional tennis player who lives in a London flat with his wealthy wife Margot. Tony retired after Margot complained about his busy schedule, and she began an affair with American crime-fiction writer Mark Halliday, which Tony secretly discovered. Motivated by resentment, jealousy, and greed, Tony devises a plan to have Margot murdered.
When Mark visits England, Margot introduces him to Tony as a casual acquaintance. After sending the two lovers out for the evening, Tony makes an excuse to meet at the flat with petty criminal C.A. Swann, an old acquaintance from Cambridge. Tony has been following Swann in order to blackmail him into committing the murder. Tony tells Swann of Margot's affair, including a love letter from Mark which she once kept in her handbag. Six months ago, Tony stole the handbag and anonymously blackmailed her. After tricking Swann into leaving his fingerprints on the letter, Tony offers to pay him £1,000 to kill Margot. If he refuses, Tony will turn him in to the police as the blackmailer.
When Swann agrees, Tony explains his plan. He will take Mark to a party, leaving Margot at home and hiding her latchkey under the carpet on the staircase outside the front door of the flat. Swann is to sneak into the flat after Margot goes to bed and hide behind the curtains in front of the French doors leading to the garden. When Tony telephones from the party at 11 p.m., Margot will go to the phone. Swann is to kill her from behind, open the French doors, and leave signs suggesting a burglary gone wrong, then exit through the front door, again hiding the key under the staircase carpet.
The plan works until Tony phones the flat later than intended, as his watch has stopped. Swann, about to give up waiting, has already put the key back under the staircase carpet when the phone rings. He tries to strangle Margot with a scarf, but she defends herself with a pair of scissors, killing him. She then picks up the telephone receiver and pleads for help. Realizing the plan has gone wrong, Tony tells her not to do anything. At home, he calls the police and sends Margot to bed. Then he moves what he assumes is Margot's latchkey from Swann's pocket into her handbag, plants Mark's letter on Swann, and replaces Swann's scarf with one of Margot's stockings. He also persuades Margot to hide the fact that he told her not to call the police.
The next day, Chief Inspector Hubbard questions the Wendices and Margot makes several conflicting statements. When Hubbard explains that Swann must have entered through the front door, Tony falsely claims to have seen Swann after Margot's handbag was stolen and suggests that Swann made a copy of her key. Hubbard does not believe that story because no key was found on Swann. Hubbard arrests Margot after concluding that she killed Swann for blackmailing her with Mark's letter when he came to collect. Margot is found guilty and sentenced to death for murder.
On the day before her scheduled execution, Mark tries to persuade Tony to save her by telling the police that he hired Swann to kill her. Tony refuses, insisting the story is too unrealistic, just before Hubbard arrives. With Mark hiding in the bedroom, Hubbard asks Tony about money he has been spending lately, tricks him into revealing that his latchkey is in his raincoat, and asks him about an attaché case. Tony claims to have lost the case, but Mark notices it on the bed, full of cash. Realizing that the story he thought he had invented is true, Mark stops Hubbard from leaving and explains his theory. Hubbard claims to prefer Tony's story that Margot gathered the money to pay Swann before deciding to kill him, but after Mark leaves, Hubbard discreetly swaps his own raincoat with Tony's, and as soon as Tony has left, he uses Tony's key to re-enter the flat. He really does suspect Tony, having discovered that the key in Margot's handbag was Swann's.
Mark returns after seeing Tony leave. Meanwhile, on Hubbard's orders, police officers release Margot. She tries to unlock the door with the key in her purse, then enters through the garden, proving she is unaware of the hidden key. Hubbard has the handbag returned to the police station, where Tony retrieves it after discovering that he has no key. When he is unable to unlock the front door with the key from the bag, he takes Margot's key from the staircase and opens the door, proving his guilt. With his escape routes blocked by Hubbard and another policeman, Tony makes himself a drink.
- Ray Milland as Tony Wendice
- Grace Kelly as Margot Mary Wendice
- Robert Cummings as Mark Halliday
- John Williams as Chief Inspector Hubbard
- Anthony Dawson as Captain Lesgate (Swann)
- Leo Britt as the storyteller at the party
- Patrick Allen as Detective Pearson
- George Leigh as Detective Williams
- George Alderson as First Detective
- Robin Hughes as Police Sergeant
After 1953's I Confess, Hitchcock planned to film The Bramble Bush, based on the 1948 novel by David Duncan, as a Transatlantic Pictures production with partner Sidney Bernstein. However, there were problems with the script and budget, and Hitchcock and Bernstein decided to dissolve their partnership. Warner Bros. allowed Hitchcock to scrap the movie, and begin production on Dial M for Murder.
Mark's name was changed for the film. In the original play, he was Max Halliday. 
Alfred Hitchcock's cameo is a signature occurrence in most of his films. In Dial M for Murder, he can be seen thirteen minutes into the film, in a black-and-white reunion photograph, sitting at a banquet table among former students and faculty.
3-D release 
The 1954 film was shot with M.L. Gunzberg's Natural Vision 3-D camera rig. This rig was notable for being the same rig that started the 3-D craze of 1953 with Bwana Devil and House of Wax. Intended originally to be shown in dual strip polarized 3-D, the film played in most theaters in normal 2-D due to the loss of interest in the 3-D process by the time of its release.
The film earned an estimated $2.7 million in rentals at the North American box office in 1954.
In February 1980, the dual-strip system was used for the revival of the film in 3-D at the York Theater in San Francisco. This revival did so well that Warner Bros. re-released the film using Chris Condon's single-strip StereoVision 3-D system in February 1982.
Warner Bros. released Dial M for Murder as a 3D Blu-ray on October 9, 2012.
Similar films and remakes 
Dial M for Murder is sometimes confused with Midnight Lace (US; David Miller, 1960), starring Rex Harrison and Doris Day as the two films have a similar setting and subject-matter. In this film, a woman (Day) receives harassing telephone calls that escalate until she is in physical danger. In the end, the culprit turns out to be her husband (Harrison). There is a police inspector around (in both cases played by John Williams), and the setting is very British.
Being one of the classic examples of a stage thriller, it has been revived a number of times since, including a US TV movie in 1981 with Angie Dickinson and Christopher Plummer. The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) produced a two-hour color version in 1968 featuring Laurence Harvey as Tony, Diane Cilento as Margot and Hugh O'Brian as Max.
A Perfect Murder is a 1998 remake directed by Andrew Davis and starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in which the characters of Halliday and Swann are combined, with the husband (Douglas) hiring, or rather coercing, his wife's lover (played by Viggo Mortensen) into a scheme to kill her. However, the lover hatches a revenge plot against the husband. Things go disastrously wrong for both of them, bringing in the cold, smoothly dogged police inspector (David Suchet), whose role is much reduced, as it is Gwyneth Paltrow's character, the wife, who unravels much of the mystery.
The television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents premiered in the United States the year after Dial M for Murder was released. The main character in an episode from the series's first season, "Portrait of Jocelyn," is named Mark Halliday. In the episode, Halliday's wife, Jocelyn, has disappeared several years earlier, and at the conclusion, it is revealed that he murdered her.
The film was remade in Bollywood in 1985 as Aitbaar, starring Raj Babbar, Dimple Kapadia, and Suresh Oberoi. Aitbaar was remade that same year in Tamil as Chaavi with Sathyaraj, Saritha, and Nizhalgal Ravi. Another Bollywood film, Humraaz (2002), starring Bobby Deol, Akshaye Khanna, and Amisha Patel, was inspired by both films as well as A Perfect Murder.
Awards and honors 
- American Film Institute
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – placed #48
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains – nominated villain: Tony Wendice
- AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 – placed #9 mystery film
In popular culture 
- The Simpsons references the film on at least two separate episodes:
- In cartoon series Dexter's Laboratory produced by Hanna-Barbera, the Dial M for Monkey shorts feature Dexter's pet lab monkey, Monkey, who, unknown to Dexter, has superpowers and fights evil with his lovely secret agent and a team of superhero partners.
- Season 8 of Family Guy includes an episode titled "Dial Meg for Murder", in which the Griffin family daughter Meg is sent to jail for harboring her fugitive boyfriend, and during her stint becomes a hardened criminal who, upon being released, punishes her family for years of teasing her.
- Season 4 of Castle includes an episode titled "Dial M for Mayor" in which a phone call leads the murder investigation to the Mayor's office.
- In the finale of Season 1 of Archer titled "Dial M for Mother", Archer is brainwashed to murder his mother.
- In the Season 2 episode of The West Wing titled "Ellie", President Bartlet watches the film in the White House with his daughter Ellie.
Alternate titles 
- Cu C de la crima – Romanian title (translation: With C for Crime)
- Disque M para Matar – Brazilian title (translation: Dial K to Kill)
- Telefonen ringer klokken 23 – Danish title (translation: The Phone Rings at 11 pm)
- U spreekt met uw moordenaar – Dutch title (translation: This Is Your Murderer Speaking)
- Täydellinen rikos – Finnish title (translation: The Perfect Crime)
- Le Crime était presque parfait – French title (translation: The Crime Was Almost Perfect)
- Bei Anruf Mord – German title (translation: Murder on Call)
- Τηλεφωνήσατε στην Ασφάλεια Αμέσου Δράσεως – Greek title (translation: Call 911)
- Alibi – Hebrew title
- Gyilkosság telefonhívásra – Hungarian title (translation: Murder for a Phonecall)
- Il delitto perfetto – Italian title (translation: The Perfect Crime)
- Daiyaru M o mawase! 「ダイヤルMを廻せ！」Japanese title (translation: Dial M!)
- Chamada para a Morte – Portugal title (translation: Call to Death)
- Pozovi M radi ubistva – Serbian title (translation: Dial M for Murder)
- Crimen perfecto – Spanish title (translation: Perfect Crime)
- Slå nollan till polisen – Swedish title (translation: Dial Zero for the Police)
- Cinayet Var – Turkish title (translation: There is a Murder)
- Ring politiet – Norwegian title (translation: Call The Police)
See also 
- Box Office Information for Dial M for Murder. The Numbers. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
- "AFI's 10 Top 10". American Film Institute. 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
- Patrick McGilligan, Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light (2002) via Google Books
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954', Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955
- TV Guide, June 15–21, 1968, p. A-63
- "Portrait of Jocelyn" at TV.com
- Oshibka Toni Vendisa
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- Dial M for Murder at the Internet Movie Database
- Dial M for Murder at AllRovi
- Dial M for Murder at Rotten Tomatoes