Mystery · Thriller

Alfred Hitchcock’s 3D Murder

_____ can't wait for Grace Kelly to put the phone down. Image lsdkfj asd
Anthony Dawson can’t wait for Grace Kelly to hang up. Image: wegotthiscovered.com

We had an almost pure classic movie experience recently.

Well, perhaps not us, exactly, but the woman sitting beside us in the theatre, at the screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder. It was, we might add, SHOWN IN 3D. Whee!

(Note: If you haven’t seen Dial M for Murder, even in 2D, you really ought to ASAP. You can thank us later.)

In the film, Ray Milland plays a former tennis star who discovers his wife (Grace Kelly) is having an affair with an American mystery writer (Robert Cummings). Milland, unwilling to divorce his wife’s money, begins to plan her murder.

The most fascinating element of this film, in our view, is that it takes place on a single set – the couple’s London flat. The one overarching dramatic moment is when the would-be murderer (Anthony Dawson) tries to strangle an unsuspecting Kelly while she struggles furiously, fumbling for a pair of scissors with which to fight back.

(Digression: On the big screen, this moment is riveting. Kelly’s hand desperately gropes behind her for the scissors she knows are within reach; her frantic hand movements reveal a woman who will not let her life be stolen so easily. One can hardly breathe when watching this scene in 3D.)

Even though the action takes place on one set, Hitchcock uses clever camera angles to keep us engaged. For example, when Milland demonstrates to Dawson how the killing should be done, Hitchcock mounts the camera high above the set; it feels as though we’re watching a crime via security camera.

Ray Milland choreographs the perfect murder. Image: lskdjf asdjk
Ray Milland choreographs the perfect murder. Image: leninimports.com

After Dawson has been unexpectedly killed, Milland straightens the room and manipulates bits of evidence before police arrive. Here, Hitchcock places the camera very close to the floor, as though we’re witnessing this as the dead man might.

This film is perfectly cast. Kelly and Cummings are brilliant, and Milland – Great Scott! His lengthy monologue to Dawson, recounting his discovery of Kelly’s affair, is mesmerizing. And when police start to suspect Kelly of cold-blooded murder, the smirky Milland is dazzling as laughs at suggestions that she may be guilty. The police see him as a man defending his wife, but we know he’s delighted that he’s, ahem, getting away with murder.

We (as in, yours truly) have seen this film several times, but it took the big screen and 3-D to make us appreciate it in a new way.

It also took the reactions of the young woman sitting next to us. She had never seen an Alfred Hitchcock film, and – get this – she had never seen a 3-D movie.

One would not have believed it possible in our society.

However. Her reactions would have been similar to someone seeing the film when it was newly released 1954. The woman gasped as Kelly drove the scissors into her attacker’s back. She said, “Oh ho!” at various plot twists, and laughed when, at the end of the film, the inspector (John Williams) combs his moustache while phoning Scotland Yard.

She provided an almost pure classic movie experience because it was like seeing Dial M for Murder for the first time, as Hitchcock intended it to be seen – in a theatre and in 3D. It was a pleasure to be seated next to someone who expressed nothing but admiration for this remarkable film.

Dial M for Murder: Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Frederick Knott. Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., 1954, Warnercolor, 105 mins.

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30 thoughts on “Alfred Hitchcock’s 3D Murder

  1. I’m so jealous!! I’m not a fan of 3-D, but I would have loved to see this one as originally released. You make THE perfect case for watching these movies in a theater. While thankful for the fact we have so many available to watch at our leisure, there’s no substitution. I had a blast reading this, Ruth.

    Aurora

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  2. It wasn’t in 3D, of course, but a few years ago I had the opportunity to see Rear Window in a theater. I was ASTOUNDED at how the (relatively young) audience ate that movie up! It was one of my favorite movie-going experiences ever. It made me so happy to know that a classic film could totally captivate a modern audience.

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  3. If you ever trip over a copy of the 1952 TV play/movie that birthed this, then grab it with both hands. the wonderful Elizabeth Sellars is the faithless wife. By the way of these things, I saw the TV version version first (maybe in the late ’50s?); when I later saw the Hitchcock movie it seemed like a pale copy.

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    1. Really? Well, I will check it out if I ever come across the 1952 Elizabeth Sellars version. Not having seen it, it’s hard to believe it could be much better than “Dial M for Murder”, but I’m keen to see it. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  4. Ruth, I’m delighted that you were able to see and enjoy DIAL “M” FOR M for MURDER at an honest-to-goodness movie theater, just the way my husband Vinnie and I saw it at NYC’s s Film Forum several years ago, complete with 3-D! And for the record, I thought Robert Cumming’s war more sympathetic, though Ray Milland and John Williams were fun to watch! 🙂

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    1. Yes, Robert Cummings seemed to have more depth on the big screen but, as you say, no one can hold a candle to Milland and Williams. They are sheer delight to watch.

      Glad to hear you & hubby got to experience the 3D version too. I wish I could go back & see it again!

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    2. While we’re on the subject, Ruth, you might also get a kick out of Team B’s DIAL M FOR MURDER in our double-feature with cheeky wit from a few years ago
      http://doriantb.blogspot.com/2011/07/tale-of-two-dials.html! Also, I meant to compliment you on your hilarious, playfully spoofing of DIAL M! But most of all, your comment “Ray Milland, …”unwilling to divorce his wife’s money…” had me laughing out loud! Great post, my friend, as always! 😀

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      1. Thanks and you’re welcome, my friend! I always look forward to your witty Silver Screenings posts, but this one is one of my favorites to date. Have a wonderful week, pal! 😀

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  5. Fantastic story! Thank you for taking me back to seeing this in 3-D a few years back and loving every minute of it!! I loved how it felt so natural and ungimmicky! And yes, it’s great to see classic movies with people who’ve never seen them. It helps you re-appreciate (okay now, in my excitement, I’m making up words!) all the fabulous things you’ve seen before. I really enjoyed this, as with all your stories!!

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    1. Re-appreciate is a good word. I might “borrow” it! 🙂

      Your description of the film as “natural and ungimmcky is so true! I hadn’t thought about it before, but you’re right – Hitchcock didn’t succumb to the temptation of cheap 3D tricks.

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  6. My husband and I love Alfred Hitchcock movies. We saw this one a long time ago, and I barely remember it so am going to have to watch it again soon. It must have been so much fun to see it in a theater. I’ve always been fascinated with the way Hitchcock uses different camera angles like you mentioned and also his use of shadows. We just saw another Hitchcock movie, North by Northwest, last weekend. We went to Mount Rushmore this summer so thought it would be fun to watch it again since some of the movie takes place there. Thanks for reminding me about this movie, Ruth!

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    1. Oh yes, you’ll have to make time to see “Dial M for Murder” again. But YOU have just reminded ME that I haven’t seen “North by Northwest” for far too long. Must fix that!

      Thanks for your warm, positive comments. 🙂

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  7. You always pick good movies, and then you say the interesting things, and I find lately that I’m compelled to comment on how lovely the main actress in each film is. Grace is really, beside being a splendid deliverer of interesting characters, a wonderful being to look at. In an art-hanging-in-gallery sort of way. Astounding.

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  8. How nice to hear a story like this. Too often I hear of younger audiences laughing derisively at revival showings of classic movies. Glad this young lady had some taste and class.

    Also, did I mention how jealous I am that you got to see this on a big theater screen, and in 3D yet? Grace Kelly in a Hitchcock film just lights up the screen.

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    1. She certainly does light up the screen. I’ve always been a fan, but I admire her talent even more now. She is perfect in this role.

      As for the 3-D showing, I couldn’t believe the theatre would actually do that. What a thrill!

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