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DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) - The cult Hitchcock classic and its link with 3-D and an Intermission. (Movies To See Before You Die - Suspense) (Exclusive by Bobby Sing at Bobbytalkscinema.com)

21 Oct, 2007 | Movies To See Before You Die / Suspense

One of the finest and most impactful movies from the maestro Alfred Hitchcock, DIAL M FOR MURDER also happens to be one of those first few films that deeply inspired me to watch the World Cinema classics made by the masters all over the world. And hence it has a special place in my memories related with Hitchcock in particular.
The film is a crime suspense drama starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings and John Williams with a limited character narrative and is based on a successful play written by Frederick Knott. One the most confined attempts by the director placed in a single indoor location for most of its duration, DIAL M FOR MURDER focuses on its few characters planning against each other with many highly engrossing and unexpected twists and turns thrown in at regular intervals resulting in a great show.
The film also enjoys a special status in the history of World Cinema as it has a long chain of several TV and big screen adaptations in the later years that even include many Indian inspired version made in various Indian languages. In Hindi the key projects taking it all from the Hitchcock classic are AITBAAR (1985), HUMRAAZ (2002) and probably more too.
Adding to the interesting facts related with the film, it was one of the first few films in colour by the master filmmaker and you got to notice the way he uses the red and white colours for Grace Kelly’s wardrobe at different instances in the film (her first film with Hitchcock).
Based on a hit play, when the director was asked why he made this film, Hitchcock answered,
When the batteries are running dry, take a hit play and shoot it”, but also added, “If you have a hit play, just shoot it, Don’t open it up. Don’t try to make it cinematic. Just shoot the play” (as revealed by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich in a documentary).
Now the statement might have its weightage, but no doubt it has to be shot in the way Hitchcock did, because nothing less would convert any play into a must watch film.
However, the most amazing fact related with DIAL M FOR MURDER is the lesser discussed truth about how the film was actually shot with 3-D cameras to be released in 3-D. It was the era when the production houses wished to bring back audience into the theater by making the film bigger and much more spectacular in comparison to the TV at home. 3-D effect was one of those methods to bring in the much desired change and most of the films were being made in either widescreen or 3-D. So Hitchcock was also forced to make DIAL M FOR MURDER in 3-D, though he was reluctant to the idea but still did it in a remarkable style of his own. The film was released in 3-D, but unfortunately, after the preview performance and a few shows it was noted that the 3-D feature was actually putting the people off and they were staying away for the very reason. So it was quickly decided to drop the 3-D version and show it as a flat 2-D film to the viewers.
But with that, another feature taken off from the film was an INTERMISSION (as stated by Joe Alves and Peter Bogdanovich in the documentary). Actually since at that time, the 3-D format required two projectors to push up an image on the screen collectively with an overlapping, hence the only 2 cameras available in the projection room used to get occupied all the time. So they had to have a break for reloading both the projectors again which led to an INTERMISSION, which was later taken off in the 2-D projection.
Post the giving away with the film’s 3-D version, when Hitchcock was questioned on the experience with the format, then he said, "It's a nine-day wonder, and I came in on the ninth day.”
Though the maestro said that, but how he shot his only film in 3-D so subtly without falling into the trap of gimmicks is really commendable. And I really got stunned watching the film yet again from ‘shot in 3D’ point of view witnessing certain shots (using low angles) and movements of actors instead of the camera. Especially it is a learning how props are used, well chosen by the director like the lamps, bottles, the key and much more, including a giant telephone and a finger built for one shot creating the desired effect. In addition, if you just consider the iconic scene of the girl being murdered, then it has also been shot keeping the 3-D format in mind (with the hand coming out for help) and the same has been used in the film’s main poster too.
Interestingly where the 3-D version was immediately dropped at the time of its release in 1954, DIAL M FOR MURDER was later released in 3-D post the revival of the format in the 80s and it did really well. In the recent years its Bly-ray DVD in 3D was also reportedly released by Warner Bros.
Summing up, this is a film that truly deserves to be there in your personal movie DVD collection including the important documentaries talking about its making. For me this is one of those important films that shaped my passion for cinema, giving it a specific direction since the early 90s. And from here onwards I was completely sold to the name Alfred Hitchcock forever.
Bobby Sing – BobbyTalksCinema.com
(Upgraded/Rewritten in April 2020)

Tags : DIAL M FOR MURDER Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Alfred Htichcock classics at BTC, Movies To See Before You Die List by Bobby Sing, Must See Movies List By Bobby Sing
21 Oct 2007 / Comments ( 3 )

Hi Bobby,
I would like to bring one movie to your notice -Double Indemnity (1944) directed by Billy wilder, one of the best film noir ever.
Just watch it and believe me you will add this movie to your favourite list as soon as you watch it, highly recommended from my side.
Plot - a woman together with an insurance salesman conspire to kill her husband to cheat insurance company and eventually their scheme starts to unravel.
Double Indemnity is nearly flawless and an excellent filmmaking and is a classic film that should not be missed, the sort of film you love to tell people about.

Also i am a true suspense\\thriller\\mystery movies lover, so if there is any unsung suspense thriller you know hindi\\English\\japanese no matter (though i preferred B&w, courteosy hitchcock), please share those with me.


Bobby Sing

Hi Abhishek,
As a fan of Billy wilder I have seen "Double Indemnity" (1944) long back and still remember its few sequences....However for including in the list I would have to see it again to find out that why I didnt add it then....So would get back soon after watching it again.

But as you would go through my list, you may find many reputed movies not there since I have a different viewpoint about the additions in it.
For instance, your will not find movies purely dependent upon technology or action in big numbers in the list.

However I am always open to recommendations and suggestions from any part of the world, so do send in more info, whenever you feel like after watching a great film.

And regarding the Suspense / Thriller movies do chek out these 2 categories in the "Movies To See Before Your Die" section of the site and Keep Visiting as I keep on adding more movies every week.



Hello Sir

After reading your review was tempted to see the movie and was praying at the end....please God let the husband turn around and produce the key underneath the carpet running through the stairs. A master stroke by the mystery king in the end...and a valuable insight into how the karma turn arounds the table....

Best wishes


Bobby Sing

Hi Nazia,
Glad that you liked the film a lot.

Keep Visiting and Writing in.

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