For my first Hitchcock Haul of 2014, I decided to revisit an old favorite of mine: Dial M for Murder. I made a cup of tea, broke out my knitting, and curled up on the couch to enjoy what I think might be my most watched of his films.
Whether you’re a fan of the original or of the modernized adaptation, A Perfect Murder (starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen), Hitchcock’s simplistic and at times goofy thriller about a man who pays an old acquaintance to carry out the perfect murder is a story many people know and love. There’s no denying that Dial M for Murder is a really good time. It’s been parodied and remade, and the play on which it is based enjoyed a healthy life.
The plot of the film, set almost entirely in one room, is clean, contained, and unexpectedly layered. We watch, completely captivated, while the scheming, gold-digging Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) blackmails an old school chum, Swann (Anthony Dawson), into killing off his wife, Margot (Grace Kelly), so he can inherit her money. We marvel at his calculations, how he’s thought of literally everything. It soon becomes apparent that he’s been crafting the perfect murder for some time now. He almost reminds me of the sociopathic Amy in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and it’s no secret I love characters with a devious side.
There’s simple motivation for the murder. Tony knows of Margot’s affair with an American TV writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings), and can’t have her running off with him, leaving Tony penniless. He also doesn’t really want to be married to her anymore. Since he was named her beneficiary, murder is the obvious solution. But it would also be obvious to the police, which is why he’s involved Swann to commit the murder while Tony builds creates an alibi.