A lot’s on the line for Anthony Dawson and Grace Kelly.
DIAL M FOR MURDER directed by Alfred Hitchcock, screenplay by Frederick Knott. A Warner Bros. release. 105 minutes. Opens Friday (October 5) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. See times. Rating: NNN
Alfred Hitchcock's only 3D production, Dial M For Murder, is based on a stage play. It takes place almost entirely in a single location and makes virtually no effort to pop things out at the audience, as was the style at the time. Hitchcock had a pretty weird sense of humour.
Warner's home-video division went to some trouble to create a new 3D master of the 1954 feature for a Blu-ray release coming out Tuesday (October 2); that master was screened at the Toronto Film Festival last month, and now it's back at the Lightbox for a limited run.
First things first. This 3D presentation of Dial M is the best I've ever seen. I caught an anaglyphic screening at the Royal at least six or seven years ago, and it was unremarkable; the red-blue glasses made a hash of the colour palette and weren't all that great at the 3D either.
Warner's new master was created by reverse-engineering digital 3D from a 2D image. Basically, the engineers recalculated the specific spatial relationships of each shot and then post-converted the image to order. The result is pretty convincing, and uses standard dark glasses rather than colour lenses.
The movie itself is one of Hitchcock's lesser productions, a trifle he tossed off on the way to making the far more involving Rear Window.
Grace Kelly's English accent is awful, but you make allowances because everyone else is pretty broad, too. Ray Milland's a hoot as the endlessly self-satisfied husband who's spent a year devising what he's sure is the perfect murder. Robert Cummings is exactly the right sort of well-meaning tool as Kelly's crime-novelist lover. And John Williams brings a drawing-room veteran's dignity to the role of the police inspector whose job it is to suspect everyone of everything.
And it's certainly fun to watch Hitchcock use the 3D process to subtly remind us of his movie's stage origins; shots are framed as though the camera is in the orchestra pit or the mezzanine, with our view of the actors occasionally obstructed by an uncooperative prop.
I can't say I ever cared about the story, but I sure did enjoy watching the master tell it.