**/**** Image B Sound B Extras C+
starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings, John Williams
screenplay by Frederick Knott, as adapted from his play
directed by Alfred Hitchcock
by Walter Chaw I've never seen Dial M for Murder in 3-D, but I can imagine how, in that format, Hitchcock's slow push-ins and dolly-outs would create a habitable space, perhaps a sense of looming menace in his flower vases and teapots and of course the scissors with which poor Margot (Grace Kelly) manages to save herself late one night. In 2-D, Dial M for Murder is literally and figuratively flat: an adaptation of a smash stage play that Hitchcock transplanted without much "opening up"--a dry run for sister film Rear Window, a more polite rounding off of Rope, and what I have to believe was another visual/tonal experiment in a different format. How else to explain its complete airlessness in the middle of the Master's masterpiece period? Maybe it was, as Hitch described it to Truffaut, a piffle, a contract film peeled off to appease Warner Bros.: "Coasting, playing it safe." His own words about it comprise a good chunk of the total scholarship on the picture, but in that brief, three-page section in Truffaut's book-length interview with him, Hitch admits that he hollowed out a pit in the floor of the soundstage, the better to create relief in low-angle shots. In 3-D, the sense of forced intimacy as we as an audience engage eye-level with, body-level with, betwixt our urbane plotters and murderers could be both suffocating and grand. I had a dream once that I attended a screening of this film in 3-D in a large, velvet-lined auditorium. Freudians, take note.