Back in 1954 master class director Alfred Hitchcock dipped his toes into the at-the-time 3D craze. It wasn’t much different back in the 50s than it was now, but it was an odd choice for such a peculiar director to take on such a gimmicky format. Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder attempts to mix depth and character placement to create the ultimate 3D mystery-murder suspense film, but ends up becoming a serviceable thriller that works better in plain old 2D.
Tony (Ray Milland) has caught onto his cheating wife Margot (Grace Kelly) and her lover/crime novelist Mark (Robert Cummings). Tony is so upset with the news that he plans the perfect murder. He’s got all of the cards in place and now all that needs to happen is the actual murder, but things go wrong and he quickly adjusts the plan to place the blame on someone else and to keep himself in the clear.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder isn’t an iconic piece of cinema or something that will go down as one of Hitchcock’s best, but viewing it almost 60 years later still brings my attention to the screen. The way Hitchcock crafts each and every scene is beautiful and calculated and something that most directors today just don’t do. The film starts out slow and eases you into the story and in doing so allows for you to really soak up the three characters that takeover the film from start to finish.
Ray Milland and Grace Kelly show the strongest chemistry, despite their failed relationship being the center of attention. Milland is a proper gentleman and an all-around good man, but he just hates his wife and wants her gone. This shows in his dark and lifeless eyes that are constantly watching every single thing unfold. He’s always accounting for change and watching Milland take Tony and make him such a smart character is suspenseful.
Grace Kelly and Robert Cummings don’t provide to be as strong, but each one still anchors down their respective role. Kelly is mostly clueless to any given situation, but her guilt adds up as the film’s stakes are raised higher and higher.
Robert Cummings starts out stable, but finishes weak as his character takes breaks from important scenes that could have benefited from his involvement.
Hitchcock balances this out with long shots and well-placed cameras, allowing for each and every scene to unfold like reading a good book. Timing is everything and Hitchcock paces this one just right, with enough interesting character exchanges to grab your attention at the beginning and more than enough detective work to keep you invested until the very end. You’ll want to watch Dial M for Murder simply to see how such a basic planned murder turns out to be anything but.
Dial M for Murder isn’t Hitchcock working at his best, but it’s another one of those films that helps pad his career. He’s not perfect, but it just goes to show you that even when he’s not firing on all cylinders he still can manage to pop out such a tight little thriller that’ll keep you guessing around every corner.
Warner Brothers brings the film to Blu-Ray with a 2D transfer and a 3D transfer. The 2D transfer benefits from strong and bright colors that make each and every set piece pop. Facial texture is a little hard to make out, but skin tones are orange and lively, while general detail remains sharp and semi-consistent. The only troubling thing about this entire encode is the background and how it can be clear and distinguishable one moment and a complete mess the next. Sometimes grain and natural elements takeover the scene and make the transfer hard to make out.
The 3D transfer benefits slightly, but suffers where the 2D transfer does as well. Hitchcock uses proper actor placement, which helps bring out the range of viewing, but everything is merely surface level, with some characters up front and others in the background. It certainly helps open up the viewing, but it never crosses the point of being something that you should strictly revisit in 3D.
The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track is slightly better, with the odd soundtrack blaring when needed. Dialogue is never to be misinterpreted as everything is well-balanced and snug. There’s not really much else to be said about such a basic, yet still impressive track.
The disc comes with both 2D and 3D versions of the film as well as the following bonus material:
- Hitchcock and Dial M (SD): A 21-minute background clip that features various filmmakers discussing Hitchcock and the film he’s made.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD)
Most should be more than pleased with WB’s presentation of Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder. Older films are much trickier to bring to Blu-Ray without people picking apart grain structure or too much DNR’ing. Dial M for Murder doesn’t suffer from too many problems, but natural aging is apparent and it looks like WB did their best with cleaning this one up and making it worth the upgrade.
The inclusion of a real 3D version of the film is a nice gesture, but simply that. The only thing holding the package back is the one short and sweet special feature and the theatrical trailer. Both are presented in SD.
Dial M for Murder is a worthy purchase for Hitchcock completists. Those looking for strong 3D content might be disappointed, but the film’s quality should be more than enough to make this one worth it.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.