Dial M for Murder

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Dial M for Murder
Dial M For Murder.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay by Frederick Knott
Based on Play: (1952)
Frederick Knott
Starring Ray Milland
Grace Kelly
Robert Cummings
John Williams
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Robert Burks
Edited by Rudi Fehr
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • May 29, 1954 (1954-05-29)
Running time 105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.4 million
Box office $6,000,000[1]

Dial M for Murder is a 1954 American crime thriller film in Warnercolor 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.

Plot[edit]

Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), an ex-professional tennis player, lives in a ground floor flat with his socialite wife, Margot (Grace Kelly). Tony retired after Margot complained about his busy schedule and had begun an affair with American crime-fiction writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings), which Tony secretly discovered. Tony devises a plan to have Margot murdered.

Mark visits, and Margot introduces him to Tony as an acquaintance. Tony sends the two lovers out for the evening and meets at the flat with an acquaintance from Cambridge University, C. A. Swann (Anthony Dawson), who has become a criminal. Tony has secretly been following Swann so he can blackmail him into murdering Margot. Tony tells Swann about 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 Swann refuses, Tony will turn him in to the police as Margot's blackmailer.

When Swann agrees, Tony explains: he will take Mark to a party, leaving Margot at home and hiding her latchkey outside the front door of the flat. Swann must sneak in when Margot is asleep and hide behind the curtains in front of the French doors to the garden. At 11 pm Tony will telephone and Margot will go to the phone. Swann must kill her, open the French doors, leave signs suggesting a burglary gone wrong, and exit through the front door, hiding the key again.

Tony's watch stops, and he phones the flat later than intended. Swann has already put the key back after entering. He tries to strangle Margot with his scarf, but she stabs him with a pair of scissors, killing him. She picks up the telephone receiver and pleads for help. Tony tells her not to do anything. At home, he calls the police and sends Margot to bed. Tony then moves what he thinks is Margot's latchkey from Swann's pocket into her handbag, plants Mark's letter on Swann, persuades Margot to hide the fact that he told her not to call the police, and destroys Swann's knotted scarf, replacing it with Margot's own stocking in an attempt to incriminate her.

The next day, Chief Inspector Hubbard questions the Wendices, and Margot makes several conflicting statements. When Hubbard says 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. Margot is found guilty and sentenced to death.

On the day before her execution, Mark tells Tony to save her by claiming that he hired Swann to kill her. Tony says the story is too unrealistic. Hubbard arrives. Mark hides in the bedroom and Hubbard asks about money Tony has been spending, 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 sees it on the bed, full of cash. Mark stops Hubbard from leaving and explains his theory. Hubbard says he prefers Tony's story, but after Mark leaves, Hubbard discreetly swaps his own raincoat with Tony's, and as soon as Tony leaves, he uses Tony's key to re-enter the flat. Hubbard has already discovered that the key in Margot's handbag was Swann's latchkey.

Mark returns, and 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. The key from Margot's bag does not work, so he uses the hidden key to open the door, proving his guilt. His escape routes blocked by Hubbard and another policeman, Tony makes himself a drink, and admits defeat.

One of the changes between Hitchcock's film and Frederick Knott's play is the contrast shown in the cinematographic version, the Wendices live in a modest little flat in London, which seem to contradict their financial status. While in the play it was evidenced they put emphasis on appearances in the film this disonance is more mysterious, a quality Hitchcock uses to enhance Tony's unclear motives leading him to plan his wife's murder. Feelings are deep buried behind his English good manners and composure, but his attempt at murder is really a passion crime, to restore his control in a marriage that has failed him.

Cast[edit]

Cummings, Kelly, and Milland

Production[edit]

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.[2]

Mark's name was changed for the film. In the original play, he was Max Halliday.[3] Actors Dawson and Williams reprise their Broadway roles (Captain Lesgate, Inspector Hubbard).

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[edit]

The 1954 film was shot using Warner Bros.' own proprietary 3-D camera rig, the so-called All-Media Camera. Originally intended to be shown in dual-strip polarized 3-D, the film played in most theaters in ordinary 2-D due to the loss of interest in the 3-D process (the projection of which was difficult and error-prone) by the time of its release. [4]

The film earned an estimated $2.7 million at the North American box office in 1954.[5] Dial M for Murder marked the end of the brief flirtation with 3D movies of the early 1950s. Hitchcock said of 3-D, “It's a nine-day wonder, and I came in on the ninth day.”[6]

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. did a limited national re-release of the film in February 1982, using Chris Condon's single-strip StereoVision 3-D system.

Warner Bros. released Dial M for Murder as a 3D Blu-ray on October 9, 2012.

The film was shown in 3-D in some UK cinemas during the summer of 2013 and in Italy at the beginning of fall of the same year.[7]

Similar films and remakes[edit]

Dial M for Murder is sometimes confused with Midnight Lace (US; David Miller, 1960), as the two films have a similar setting and subject matter. In this film, a woman (Doris Day) receives harassing telephone calls that escalate until she is in physical danger. In the end, the culprit turns out to be her husband (Rex 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.[8]

A Perfect Murder is a 1998 remake directed by Andrew Davis in which the characters of Halliday and Swann are combined, with the husband (Michael Douglas) hiring, or rather coercing, his wife's lover (played by Viggo Mortensen) into a scheme to kill her (Gwyneth Paltrow). 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.[9]

The original play was also adapted in the Soviet Union in 1981 under the title Tony Wendice's Mistake (Ошибка Тони Вендиса).[10]

The film partially inspired a Hindi-language version in 1985, released as Aitbaar, starring Raj Babbar, Dimple Kapadia, and Suresh Oberoi, and Chaavi with Sathyaraj, Saritha, and Nizhalgal Ravi. The film also inspired a Malayalam-language adaptation as New Year starring Jayaram, Urvashi and Suresh Gopi in 1989. Another Bollywood film, Humraaz (2002), starring Bobby Deol, Akshaye Khanna, and Amisha Patel, was inspired by A Perfect Murder.

The episode "The Fifth Stair" of the TV series 77 Sunset Strip recreated Dial M for Murder with Richard Long portraying Tony Wendice.

Awards and honours[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Simpsons references the film on at least two separate episodes:
  • The Critic's first season featured an episode called "Dial 'M' For Mother."
  • 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.
  • In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic comic book, released February 5, 2014, there is a story in black in white titled, Dial S for Sassy.

Alternate titles of DVDs[edit]

  • Disque M para MatarBrazilian title (translation: Dial K to Kill)
  • Telefonen ringer klokken 23Danish title (translation: The Phone Rings at 11 pm)
  • U spreekt met uw moordenaarDutch title (translation: This Is Your Murderer Speaking)
  • Det perfekta brottetFinland’s Swedish title (translation: The Perfect Crime)
  • Täydellinen rikosFinnish title (translation: The Perfect Crime)
  • Le Crime était presque parfait – French title (translation: The Crime Was Almost Perfect)
  • Bei Anruf MordGerman title (translation: Murder on Call)
  • Τηλεφωνήσατε στην Ασφάλεια Αμέσου ΔράσεωςGreek title (translation: Call 911)
  • AlibiHebrew title
  • Gyilkosság telefonhívásraHungarian 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!)
  • Ring politietNorwegian title (translation: Call The Police)
  • Chamada para a MortePortugal title (translation: Call to Death)
  • Cu C de la crimaRomanian title (translation: With C for Crime)
  • Pozovi M radi ubistvaSerbian title (translation: Dial M for Murder)
  • Crimen perfecto – Spanish title (translation: Perfect Crime)
  • Con M de muerte – Mexican Spanish title (translation: With D for Death)
  • La llamada fatal – Latin American Spanish title (translation: The Deadly Call)
  • Slå nollan till polisenSwedish title (translation: Hit Zero for the Police)
  • Cinayet VarTurkish title (translation: There is a Murder)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Box Office Information for Dial M for Murder. The Numbers. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
  2. ^ "Patrick McGilligan, ''Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light'' (2002) via Google Books". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  3. ^ The Broadway League. "Dial "M" for Murder | IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". IBDB. Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954', Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955
  6. ^ [2][dead link]
  7. ^ (Italian) ilcinemaritrovato.it
  8. ^ TV Guide, June 15–21, 1968, p. A-63
  9. ^ "Portrait of Jocelyn" at TV.com
  10. ^ Oshibka Toni Vendisa

External links[edit]