Review Dial M for Murder Alfred Hitchcock, Chapter Arts Centre by James Knight

Dial M for Murder, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, one of cinema’s great misanthropes, is playing this week at Chapter Arts Centre. Playing as part of the “Ray Milland Season”, Milland born Reginald Truscott-Jones in Neath, took the name Milland after Neath’s Milland Road, which is now an industrial site come train station car park, oh the Hollywood romance.
Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) a former tennis pro, blackmails an old university chum into murdering his cheating wife Margot. Grace Kelly plays the wife (notice how she first appears in the reddest of rouge dresses, blood and murder are immediately on the mind, notice actually how the colour red is used throughout to denote blood, Hitchcock manages to make a bloody film without any blood), whilst Robert Cummings plays American crime writer Mark Halliday, the man Margot has been carrying on with. The film is an intriguingly complex viewing experience; we want Milland to succeed yet Kelly to survive, we want Milland to be caught but would also revel in his escape, we want Kelly and Cummings to run off together yet we want Milland and Kelly to live happily ever after.
There are at least three reasons to see Dial M for Murder. Firstly, for Grace Kelly, for her tenderness, for her beauty, for her movie stardom, no one photographed her as brilliantly as Hitchcock, see Rear Window for the most beautiful close-up in cinema as she leans in to kiss Jimmy Stewart. Secondly, for Ray Milland, for the devil in his movie star blue eyes and the charisma to his dark scheming murdering plans. Finally, for Hitch himself, for his genius. Primarily for his combination of camera movement and montage, his masterful use of close-ups and inserts, how through a simple close-up of Milland’s hand he manages to convey all the film’s psychology and terror. There are two moments of obvious brilliance in the film, one where Hitchcock films Milland planning the murder from above with a bird’s eye camera, making it all seem like a deadly game of human chess, and secondly a one shot of Kelly as she makes a court appearance which is a sequence of pure visual artistry. Also be on the lookout for Hitchcock’s comedic touches which often go unnoticed in many of his pictures, most notably here in John William’s performance as the Chief Inspector. Lookout for his moustache twirls, his crumpled raincoat, the way he wrestles with Robert Cummings over Milland’s bank statements, but the most brilliant example of Hitchcock black comedy can be found in the little detail of who hands Grace Kelly the now infamous pair of scissors.
Dial M for Murder is a film that gets richer with each viewing. It’s pure Hitchcock which means that it’s pure cinema.
Dial M for Murder (PG)
USA/1954/101mins/PG. Dir: Alfred Hitchcock. With: Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings
At Chapter Art Centre
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Tuesday July 7th – 2:30pm

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