Hitchcock can get away with murder.
September 8, 2012 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Hitchcock frets not at his narrow room. David Bordwell takes a look at Dial M for Murder, its roots in filmed theater and its dealing of the conventions of 3D filmmaking.
posted by shakespeherian (6 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
So... here's my excuse to watch Dial M For Murder tonight!
posted by carsonb at 2:29 PM on September 8, 2012

Oh, this is awesome. Also probably one of the best endings in cinema.
posted by griphus at 3:42 PM on September 8, 2012

Okay, but no mention of the gun. IIRC, there was a monster gun created (no, I am not thinking of Spellbound) so as to keep it all in depth of field.
posted by CCBC at 2:32 AM on September 9, 2012

This is probably the only 3-D film I would willingly go to a theater to see, if the opportunity would ever arise in my area.

What's interesting is how well the compositions and photography hold-up in 2-D, unlike so many 3-D films where shots stick out painfully as "ooooo! 3-D!!!". Really, in Dial M, only the hand holding the key (and maybe the hand reaching for the scissors) hit you as completely transparent "3-D for 3-d's sake" shots. Sure, you can watch it and note that all those damned lamps in the foreground of so many shots are taking advantage of 3-D, but they also work as framing devices. And, to me, they also create the sense that this is a small, real-life apartment, cluttered with the stuff people really have scattered about...like lamps.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:33 AM on September 9, 2012

all those damned lamps in the foreground of so many shots are taking advantage of 3-D

The objects in the foreground are certainly intended to emphasize the 3D, sure, but the foregrounded objects also subtly reinforce a major motif of the film: flowers for the lovers, trophies for Tony Wendice. I wrote about it briefly here:
Despite Hitchcock’s claim that he simply transferred a successful play to the screen, Dial M shows Hitchcock’s gift for using subtle elements of the set design to mirror the interpersonal dynamics. The lovers sit amid flowers (in vases, inlaid on a cabinet, on the upholstery, in a splashy still-life) in the background and foreground, while Tony’s scenes draw the eye to the shelves of trophies from his tennis career, those trophies echoed in the shapes of lamps and vases throughout the set, in the carved backs of wooden chairs and the swooping curves of his wing chair, and again in the headboard of the bed prominently foregrounded in the last act.
Examine the screenshots at the David Bordwell link above and you'll see the trophy shapes repeated over and over again when Ray Milland is onscreen. The trophy motif (and Wendice's pacing, pouncing bearing and delivery) reminds us, consciously or unconsciously that though Margo is a faithless wife and a fluent liar, her husband is the worse spouse. He's a master manipulator who has come to view his marriage as a zero-sum game, a match where he can win by delivering the killing blow --- first, to his wife at the hands of his handpicked blackmailed murderer-to-be, then, when that shot fails, at the hands of the state.
posted by Elsa at 11:08 AM on September 9, 2012

Not sure if anyone is still paying attention to this, but Film Forum (in NYC) is playing Dial M for Murder in 3D from 9/26-10/4.
posted by griphus at 9:53 AM on September 20, 2012

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