Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) is a retired champion tennis player. His wife Margot (Grace Kelly) is a rich socialite. Margot is having an affair with an American mystery writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Tony finds out about the affair. If he divorces his wife he will lose his rich lifestyle. His next, and more preferred choice is to have Margot killed. Not wanting to get his hands dirty, he needs to hire someone else to do it.
Charles Alexander Swann (Anthony Dawson) is a small time hood. Tony knows Charles from back in their University of Cambridge days. Tony has been keeping tabs on Charles for just such an occasion. He’s also been planning this for quite some time. Six months ago he stole Margot’s purse and found a love letter in it from Mark. Tony began blackmailing Margot.
Tony tricks Swann into leaving his fingerprints on the love letter. He then pays him a thousand pounds to kill Margot figuring that if he refuses he can turn him in as Margot’s blackmailer. Since Swann is already a small time loser no one would believe him if he tries to implicate Tony. Swann has no choice, he agrees.
Tony’s plan: Tony and Mark are scheduled to attend a stag party. Margot will be at home alone. Tony will leave a key under the carpeting of the second floor staircase outside the door. Swann is to use the key and hide behind the drapes. Tony will call the apartment at eleven o’clock. When Margot answers the phone her back will be to the drapes. Swann should then strangle her, leave signs of a burglary, exit the front door putting the key back under the stair carpeting. Easy peasy.
The following night the plan is executed. Swann enters and waits. Tony calls. Margot answers. Swann strangles. Margot manages to grab a pair of scissors that are on the desk and, reaching back behind her, stabs Swann in the back. Swann falls to the floor landing on his back driving the scissors deeper. Swann is dead. On the phone Tony is hearing this. When he hears Margot asking for help he knows his plans have gone awry. Now he has to think fast to salvage the situation. Instead of Margot being dead, Margot is arrested for murder, found guilty and sentenced to death. Problem solved?
“Dial M for Murder” was released in 1954 and was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is a crime mystery and a thriller. The film was based on a stage play by Frederick Knott. The movie was the only one Hitchcock filmed in 3-D, although it was mainly shown in 2-D. By the time the movie came out 3-D was becoming less fashionable and less reliable.
Imagining Ray Milland as a champion tennis player is a bit of a stretch. Imagining him as a wife murderer however, is easy. He has an air about him of someone who believes he’s smarter and anyone else and of someone quite sure that he could pull it off perfectly. As Tony, his coldness toward his wife is more than just because of the affair. One starts to think that he married her for her money to begin with. His criticism of Margot and Mark’s romantic spaghetti dinner shows that romance is not part of his nature. There is no warmth underneath his endearments to his wife, nor her towards him at this point. It’s as if showing any gentle emotions would be a sign of weakness. It’s no wonder she had the affair to begin with.
Margot is a fair and gentle maiden. She is stunning but doesn’t appear to realize how beautiful she is. It’s a fragile beauty. Mark doesn’t really look like the knight in shining type, try as he might. But he is willing to do whatever he needs to in order to save Margot from not only the gallows but from Tony as well. Her relationship with Tony is of a woman in a psychologically abusive relationship. Tony’s manipulation of her gets extended to Swann and to some extent Mark. He even tries manipulating Chief Inspector Hubbard. That’s the problem with sociopaths; they aren’t quite a smart as they think they are.
Alfred Hitchcock's cameo is in the form of a photograph. At about thirteen minutes into the film Tony shows Swann a photograph that was supposedly taken at a reunion. Hitchcock is one of the people sitting at a banquet table.
A remake of the film was done in 1998 called “A Perfect Murder”. The film starred Michael Douglas, Viggo Mortensen, and Gwyneth Paltrow.