Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Dial M For Murder


The current obsession with 3D is not the first one. Whether modern 3D will last is still to be determined (I suspect it will), but the one that blasted into theaters in the 1950s turned out to be just a fad. There were two processes involved there. The one that’s best remembered was that truly horrible thing that involved wearing glasses with a red and a blue plastic lens. Guaranteed headache after thirty minutes. The other was much like the modern one, using polarized light sunglasses. A few good directors dabbled in this. Hitchcock was always interested in the cutting edge of cinema technology, so he made this in 3D. It was not like most of the others, which were obsessed with throwing things in your face or making something seem to stick out of the screen. He used it sparingly. I would dearly to see the 3D version, which is shown from time to time at film festivals and such.

It’s a pretty good mystery story. Well, not really a mystery, because we know from the start whodunit. It’s Ray Milland, as a man not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, setting out to commit the perfect crime, i.e., the murder of his wife, Grace Kelly, who has been having an affair with Robert Cummings and intends to divorce him and take away all the easy money he’s been accustomed to. He blackmails an old college chum into doing the actual dirty work, but the plan goes awry and she kills him. (This is where Hitchcock uses 3D to best effect, when her hand is reaching out toward us, desperately grasping for the pair of scissors she will stab the killer with.) But that dirty snake-in-the-grass Ray makes it look like she was involved with the killer, and deliberately murdered him. She is tried, convicted, sentenced—all in about thirty seconds—and is about to be hanged when a police inspector (John Williams, in the best role in the film), who has had his doubts, finds an ingenious way to ensnare Ray. As usual, it’s a small detail, but it is enough to hang him. Bravo! It’s all well-written and acted, based on a long-running stage play, and takes place almost entirely in the couple’s apartment. Again, I would love to see the 3D version someday.