Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mystery #9 - Dial M For Murder (1954)

Dial M For Murder is my first ever Alfred Hitchcock movie (Who was, as I'm sure I don't need to point out, a knight), unless you count the original The Man Who Knew Too Much, which I don't because I really wasn't paying much attention to it. So far, things seem to be boding well for the master of horror and suspense, because I really liked this movie. I was entertained through the whole thing, it was well-done, all of the actors were really good. It's not even supposed to be one of the better Hitchcock movies out there. It was not, though, actually very mysterious at all. It was a mystery in the sense that it was about solving a crime, as the American Film Institute defines it, but it was not a mystery in the sense that the audience doesn't know anything.

You see, Dial M For Murder is about a man who plans to murder his wife by blackmailing someone else to do it for him. He helps out the murder by getting his wife out of bed by calling their apartment, which is where the title comes from. We learn all of this in the first half hour or so of the movie, so their really isn't much mystery for the audience. I was hoping for some good old-fashioned Who Dunnits, but out of the movies I've watched so far I haven't got one. The Usual Suspects wasn't really even about solving a crime so much, either. The movie doesn't want you to think too hard about who Kaiser Soze might be, and therefore the culprit is. There simply isn't that much mystery in Dial M for Murder, despite it being labeled as such. Sure, people solve a mystery, but not the audience, which I've always thought was essential in a mystery.

But that's beside the point. I did really like Dial M for Murder. What's crazy about this movie is that every single element that ever becomes even slightly important in the plot has been introduced earlier. The movie never has to explain itself because we've already seen what's happened, which is terrific. I haven't seen a movie like that before. It's so neat and put together and knows exactly what it's doing all of the time. I read on that Alfred Hitchcock meticulously planned every element of his movies for months before they were filmed, and often became depressed during filming because it was comparatively boring. I don't have any trouble believing this. Everything in this movie is there from the beginning, and nothing comes out of nowhere. It's absolutely fantastic.

Grace Kelly is the wife in this movie, and she seems...nice. I don't really know anything about Grace Kelly, other than the fact that she was supposed to be very elegant and married into the royal family of Monaco, and this is the first time I've ever seen her in a movie. I was hoping it would be more exciting than it was, since she's such a big movie star, but she didn't really stand out anymore than the rest of the cast. The guy who played the murder, Ray Milland, was very good - He was very menacing and sophisticated and charming at the same time, qualities I personally always look for in a murder - and John Williams, not the composer, I assume, was a competent police officer, which is always a comfort. Police are very often useless in fiction, and I don't like that. It's scary. And of course Alfred Hitchcock was in it. I think that one of the things I'll enjoy the most about watching Hitchcock movies is looking for Hitchcock himself. I already knew where he was in this one - it's a pretty famous example - but I'm ready for the hunt in future movies. I'm actually very excited about it.

And speaking of future movies, here's to one of them actually being mysterious in the future. And as for endings, I've decided not to spoil them, but anything happening in the first half of the movie is fair game.

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