Produced at the height of the first 3D phase in 1953 (which for anyone who was sentient at the time mercifully only lasted the entirety of a whole year) Dial M For Murder was Alfred Hitchcock’s sole experiment with the process, and has always been something of a curio for film fans to experience as the auteur originally intended.
The story, one of Hitchcock’s one-set chamber pieces (like Lifeboat and Rope), involves a husband (Ray Milland) planning the murder of his unfaithful wife, Margot (Grace Kelly), only for his best laid plans to go hopelessly awry when her boyfriend, crime writer Mark (Robert Cummings), intercedes with the help of an extremely intuitive Scotland Yard detective (John Williams) . Fans however, will inevitably be less interested in another regurgitation of the plot and the merits of its execution and more interested in what the extra dimension adds to the proceedings.
The difference between the versions, like other films from the same period, is most readily apparent in the films credit sequence. The phone that quite literally dials ‘m’ comes out of the screen in a moment that will warm the heart of any seasoned film buff. The films centrepiece murder will also be the other point of interest for fans. While the well-executed sequence certainly looks great, it may perhaps be overselling the 3D to say that it makes it any more incredible, with Grace Kelly’s far reaching hand and the shot of the knife driving into the victim’s back when he falls onto the floor, no less effective with the added visual layer.
The rest of the film will also be of interest for the way Hitchcock designs his shots to accommodate the format. The foreground becomes constantly filled with a variety of household appliances to separate it from the action in the background. One wouldn’t think that the film’s one location setting would lend itself to the process of 3D, but instead it limits Hitchcock from the potential to over utilise the effect of things flying out into the audience (as was the custom of the time).
Still as effective as ever, the re-release of Hitchcock’s minor classic will definitely be worth the wait for fans who have long waited to see it as intended. The story is still so-so but any chance to see the Master of Suspense on a big screen is worth it.