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Film: Dial M for Murder

Dial M for Murder is a 1954 thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on a play by Frederick Knott, who also wrote the screenplay of the movie.

Retired tennis player Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) discovers that his wealthy wife, Margot (Grace Kelly) is cheating on him with crime author Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Tony decides to have her murdered, because if she would divorce him he'd lose her money. With a mixture of blackmail and reward, he gives the task to Swann (Anthony Dawson), an old classmate of his, whom he knows to be a crook. Tony creates a plan which he thinks to be perfect; however, things go wrong, when Margot manages to kill Swann. Tony, however, is able to use the situation to his own advantage, making things look as if Margot killed Swann because he was blackmailing her. It appears to be working, except Mark doesn't believe she's guilty and the police uncover a few anomalies...

The film was remade in 1998, with the title A Perfect Murder.

This film provides examples of:

  • 3-D Movie: Dial M For Murder was filmed in 3D, but by the time of its release, the 3D fad was dying out, so it had only a brief original release in 3D, followed by a conventional, "flat" release.
  • Affably Evil: Tony
  • Assassin Outclassin': Margot turns the tables on her hired killer Swann and is able to stab him to death instead.
  • Batman Gambit: Tony's plans.
  • Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word:
    Tony: I was hoping sooner or later I might catch you at something and be able to...
    Swann: Blackmail me?
    Tony: Influence you.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor, poor Margot. She's almost strangled, then convicted of murder and sentenced to death, then discovers her husband (for whom she had started to renew her love) was the one trying to kill her. By the end, she's surprised at how calm she is over all this, and Mark assures her she'll soon have "the most wonderful breakdown."
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Margot wants to go out at the night she's supposed to be killed, Tony persuades her to stay home instead, and finish pasting her newspaper clippings. She forgets to put away the scissors she uses for that, and eventually manages to stab Swann with them.
  • Chekhov's Armory: Almost every single detail in the earlier scenes ends up affecting the course of the investigation.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Margot wears bright colors at the start of the film, then progressively darker ones as time goes on.
  • Creator Cameo: As usual for Hitchcock, but a particularly clever example—he is in the class reunion photo along with Swann and Tony.
  • Curtain Camouflage: The killer hides behind the curtains.
  • Faking and Entering: Type 2
  • Graceful Loser: Tony. After a brief moment of shock when he's eventually caught, he calmly congratulates everyone and pours them some wine.
  • Gold Digger: Tony is a male example, as he married Margot for her money. She, however, as opposed to most Meal Tickets is young and beautiful.
  • Improvised Weapon: Margot stabs Swann with her scissors.
    • And he was trying to strangle her with a scarf.
  • The Joy of X: The title is frequently parodied.
  • Key Under the Doormat: The key under the staircase carpeting is a key plot point.
  • Killing In Self Defense: Margot manages to stab Swann while he's trying to strangle her.
  • Lady in Red: Margot wears a sexy red dress when she meets with Mark.
  • Lingerie Scene: Margot is in her nightgown when she's attacked. In the original script, she was to put a robe on, but Grace Kelly argued that a woman who thinks she's alone would have no reason to do that.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Margot is found guilty and sentenced to death.
  • The Perfect Crime: Tony wants to commit the perfect murder; he even asks Mark if he believes in it. Mark says that it's possible on paper, but not in real life.
  • Police Are Useless: Subverted; the police officers at first seem to fall for Tony's manipulations and arrest Margot, but Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams) eventually solves the case. Near the film's climax, he even scolds Mark for nearly blowing the case.
    Hubbard: They talk about flatfooted policemen. May the saints protect us from the gifted amateur.
  • Pretty in Mink: Margot wears a brown fur wrap for a date.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: The audience knows from the beginning that Tony is behind everything.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Tony gets overconfident and makes the mistake of giving one to a policeman.
  • Shout-Out: A clever little one to Strangers on a Train (which Hitch made three years before, in 1951), when Mark is talking about how he would plot the perfect murder, and he alludes to a possible scenario involving a tennis champ (like Tony—or like Guy in Strangers).
  • Spanner in the Works: Tony eventually fails, because he underestimates the intelligence of Swann.
  • Speech-Centric Work: Most of the film consists of people talking.
  • This Is Reality: Near the end, Mark is desperate to save Margot from being executed and comes to Tony with an idea he's worked out of how Tony could claim he had been trying to kill Margot and spend a few years in prison in exchange for saving her life. Unknowingly, he proceeds to outline almost the exact same plan that Tony actually used. Tony says that nobody would believe a story like that.
  • Villain Protagonist: Tony.
  • Wrongly Accused: Margot
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: One of the great film examples.

Deep RedMystery And Detective FilmsDick Tracy
Devil Girl From MarsFilms of the 1950sThe Egyptian
I ConfessFilms By Alfred HitchcockRear Window

alternative title(s): Dial M For Murder
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