Dial M for Murder (1954)

One of Hitchcock’s stagier thrillers, confined largely to a single set, where Grace Kelly kills in self-defence only to find herself accused of her attacker’s murder.

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“The script sticks closely to a stage contraption by Frederick Knott, but Dial M [for Murder] is less a filmed play than a highly cinematic investigation of theatricality.”
B. Kite, The Village Voice, 2003

Alfred Hitchcock found his ideal ‘cool blonde’ in the shape of the 23-year-old Grace Kelly. In the first of three successive films for him she plays Margot, the victim of an elaborate murder plot by her suave husband (Ray Milland).

As with the earlier Rope (1948), Hitchcock stays true to the theatrical origins of the source material, shooting largely on a single set of a ground-floor London flat. Warner Bros demanded he shoot in 3D, which restricted his ability to move the camera. Though the film was largely released ‘flat’ following the decline of the 3D craze, the murder sequence itself remains a Hitchcock tour de force as Kelly grapples with her attacker, reaching a hand out towards us to grope for a pair of scissors.

Kelly went on to make Rear Window and To Catch a Thief for Hitchcock. Gwyneth Paltrow attempted to emulate her in the Dial M remake A Perfect Murder (1997).

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