Everytime they release a Hitchcock movie on Blu-ray, I rejoice. Hitch is my all-time favorite director and I cannot get enough of his films. So far on Blu-ray the hi def transfer results have been phenomenal. Psycho, To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest, Rebecca and more have all had stellar presentations with only more of the good stuff to come with the Hitchcock Masterpiece collection coming to Blu-ray this month as well. But in the meantime, we have Warner Home Video bringing us Strangers on a Train this month (which looks beautiful) and one of my favorites, Dial M for Murder, remastered in 3D for the first time since the original theatrical run.
Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) is a former professional tennis player and married to the beautiful Margot Mary Wendice (Grace Kelly). When Tony finds out Margot had a brief love affair with American writer and friend to the couple Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings), Tony decides to set up an elaborate plot to blackmail a former college mate (Anthony Dawson) into murdering his wife for him. He plans to set up his own alibi and call Margot at home to set up the murder, then inherit her fortune once she is murdered. But plans often get sidetracked and Tony will have to pull a lot of strings to keep his plan from being discovered by Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams).
When Hitchcock released Dial M in 1954, he only did so in 3D as a gimmick. 3D was very popular at the time but despite the format mainly being used in low budget films to cheesy effect, Hitchcock used the medium to simply give his film depth and make the audience feel even more implicit in the storyline unfolding before them. Despite any gimmicks, Dial M for Murder is a very effective film and works to great effect much in the same way as Hitch’s other (basically) one set film, Rope. Milland, Kelly and Cummings are all excellent here as the murder plot goes afoul, and Hitch’s pacing is captivating and holds you until the end. Basically set up as a stage play, with or without 3D Dial M keeps the audience involved in the proceedings and makes you feel intimately involved in the goings-on. This is Hitchcock’s formula put to great use in one of his most underrated films.
The Blu-ray from Warner Home Video may not shine as much as some other Hitchcock releases this year, but it is still leaps and bounds better than previous DVD versions. The picture is slightly soft and out of focus in some areas, but I think this is more due to the limitations of the 3D presentation it was originally shown in. But that aside, detail is nice and close ups look particularly great. Any outdoor (or fake outdoor) scenes look pretty bad with the use of drop screens in the backgrounds, but all of the interior shots looks pretty nice. Dialogue is nice and clear and the overall presentation made me very happy indeed, a nice upgrade for Hitch fans.