Dial M For Murder

Alfred Hitchcock was a supremely gifted and innovative filmmaker and master of suspense…and a bit of a psycho in his own right, according to recent biographies on him. His films are the benchmark standard that nearly every suspense thriller since has taken its cues from. And in 1954, Hitchcock shot Dial M for Murder in the 3D format at a time when the novelty of 3D films was waning.

Ray Milland plays a notable society man with financial problems who discovers that his wife (Grace Kelly) is cheating on him and devises a seemingly foolproof plan to have her murdered and collect the insurance money. Adapted from a popular stage play in which the entire story takes place in one room, Hitchcock deliberately does little to elevate the material beyond the confines of its original source. That approach might have worked well for Rear Window, but not so much here. What may have been conceived as a carefully executed artistic decision just comes off as laziness. Even Hitchcock himself admitted that the “batteries were running dry” at this stage of his career.

313dialm.box.jpgThis is a single-disc Blu-ray with both the 3D and 2D versions plus the extras. The digitally restored 3D version features passable depth of field but suffers from appallingly bad halo and ghosting effects around the actors and background objects, which is distracting to the point of aggravation. It’s undoubtedly a better presentation than what people saw in 1954, but by current standards, it’s still pretty shoddy. I had hoped to find solace in the restored 2D version, but it too offers little in the way of an improved picture. There is continual soft focus and heavy pixilated grain typical of films of this era, but I only give that so much credence. If present standards of digital technology can restore Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz to the point of looking like they were shot yesterday on the back lot, then they can here, too. You could argue that it was done deliberately to preserve the integrity of the director’s original vision, but I think even Hitch today would have pushed for a clearer picture.

The sound has been remastered to a mono DTS-HD Master Audio mix. They’ve done wonders with it and it’s the best audio rendering of it thus far, but the age of the film still showcases its limitations sound- wise. Extras are minimal—only a short documentary called Hitchcock and Dial M and the theatrical trailer.

Blu-Ray 3D
Studio: Warner Bros., 1954
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
Length: 105 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings