Dial M for Murder

1954

Dial M for Murder

Critics Consensus

Dial M for Murder may be slightly off-peak Hitchcock, but by any other standard, it's a sophisticated, chillingly sinister thriller -- and one that boasts an unforgettable performance from Grace Kelly to boot.

88%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 43

92%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 38,011
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Dial M for Murder Photos

Movie Info

Based on the popular mystery play by Frederick Knott, Dial M For Murder is more talky and stagebound than most Hitchcock films, but no less enjoyable. British tennis pro Ray Milland suspects that his wealthy wife Grace Kelly is fooling around with handsome American Robert Cummings. Milland blackmails a disgraced former army comrade (Anthony Dawson) into murdering Kelly and making it look like the work of a burglar. But Milland's carefully mapped-out scheme does not take into account the notion that Kelly might fight back and kill her assailant. When the police (represented by John Williams) investigate, Milland improvises quickly, subtly planting the suggestion that his wife has committed first-degree murder. He almost gets away with it; to tell you more would spoil the fun of the film's final thirty minutes. Hitchcock claimed that he chose this single-set play because he was worn out from several earlier, more ambitious projects, and wanted to "recharge his batteries." Compelled by Warner Bros. to film Dial M for Murder in 3-D, Hitchcock perversely refused to throw in the standard in-your-face gimmickry of most stereoscopic films of the era--though watch how he visually emphasizes an important piece of evidence towards the end of the film. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Ray Milland
as Tony Wendice
Grace Kelly
as Margot Mary Wendice
Robert Cummings
as Mark Halliday
John Williams (II)
as Chief Inspector Hubbard
Anthony Dawson
as Capt. Swan Lesgate
Leo Britt
as The Narrator
George Leigh
as William
George Alderson
as The Detective
Robin Hughes
as Police Sergeant
Alfred Hitchcock
as Man in Photo
Guy Doleman
as Detective
Sam Harris
as Man in Phone Booth
Thayer Roberts
as Detective
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Critic Reviews for Dial M for Murder

All Critics (43) | Top Critics (10)

  • Ray Milland is great as cold fish Tony Wendice, a former tennis pro who plans to bump off his adulterous wife. Still, Grace Kelly is mis-cast (or misdirected) as the spouse in question.

    Jul 26, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • The set-up is ingenious and the "kill" scene genuinely thrilling.

    Jul 25, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Second tier Hitch perhaps, but no less enjoyable for it, and still a marvel of cinematic technique.

    Jul 25, 2013 | Rating: 3/5
  • The fun of Dial M lies in its duel of wits...

    Aug 24, 2008 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • Dial M is less a filmed play than a highly cinematic investigation of theatricality.

    Jan 2, 2008 | Full Review…

    B. Kite

    Village Voice
    Top Critic
  • Dial M remains more of a filmed play than a motion picture, unfortunately revealed as a conversation piece about murder which talks up much more suspense than it actually delivers.

    Jan 2, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Dial M for Murder

  • Apr 11, 2016
    John Williams and Grace Kelly are surely great, but Ray Milland is fantastic in this sophisticated and intellectually stimulating thriller that fascinates with its witty, impeccably-written dialogue and the intelligent minutiae of everything that can go wrong in a perfect murder.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 19, 2014
    To receive further assistance, please call 1-800-MURDER. Well, that's only six digits so if you're looking for a good time, then that girl just gave a wrong and profoundly disturbing number. Oh please, that's not too much cheesier than the actual title here, which I still give a lot of credit for being unique. Well, it was unique in 1954, but now, at a time where "The Simpsons" really did release an episode titled "Dial 'N' for Nerder", I reckon it's safe to say that it's not as much fun anymore, so they may as well bill this as the sequel to Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train", "When a Stranger Calls". Honestly, phones aren't hugely prominent in this film, although it is probably the first film that made phones scary, which should tell you just how talented Hitchcock was as a suspense filmmaker, because he somehow managed to make phones suspenseful. I don't know about you guys, but Morse Code confuses me to a practically scary point, so if they ever make a horror film involving telegraphs, then I'll either laugh hysterically or scream whenever I hear that Dire Straits song, you know, more than I usually do. Man, "Telegraph Road" is an awesome song, but hey, this film ain't too shabby either, even though it leaves you "hanging on the line" in certain places (No, the "1-800-MURDER" joke was not lame enough for me). At times, it feels as though the drama is making quite the effort to freshen things up, but in too many other places, it falls short, into familiarity, especially as an Alfred Hitchcock film, complete with formulaic dialogue, predictable plotting and even a touch too much ambiguity for characterization's own good. The film doesn't have much new stuff to discuss, nor does it have much to say at all, at least in terms of development, exposing you to problematic character traits that fail to go justified by thoroughly well-rounded exposition which gets you firmly invested in the characters. That being said, the film still takes plenty of time to bloat itself, and not exactly with an excess in colorful or dynamic material, dragging chit-chat and other minimalist happenings on and on, almost to the point of monotony, but decidedly to the point of blandness. I don't know if the film is so much dull, as its writing and direction have enough bite to keep you reasonably interested throughout the final product, yet there's just so much meandering to this almost aimlessly talkative thriller, and the more it meanders, the more difficult it is to disregard that the film was never to have all that much to say. Not simply conventional, or undercooked, or overdrawn, this film's story is minimal, with only so much lively material to beef up potential, no matter how much Frederick Knott's script works to compensate through overblown dramatic theatrics. What might have worked better on the stage on which Knott introduced his vision feels a touch too melodramatic here, just as the story feels even more minimalist, even with you taking out of account the formulaic and unevenly paced scripted execution that secure the final product as underwhelming. The film could have at least come close to rewarding, but before too long, momentum fails to be sustained, and yet, it's hard to not be at least a little driven on by this decent thriller, at least aesthetically. Although "Rope" was Alfred Hitchcock's first colored film, this particular project really kicked off his streak of colored classics, and while Robert Burks' cinematography isn't quite as lush as it was when backed by Technicolor for "Rope", there's still plenty of bounce to Burks' coloration, while lighting balances matters out with a certain bleakness that both attracts uniquely, and fits the gritty tone of this thriller. For the substance value to this style, credit is, of course, due to Hitchcock, whose solid framing joins visual style in drawing you into the environment, and whose atmosphere secures you through a thoughtfulness that, when not so backed with material of limited meat, bites with an audacious attention to subtle intensity. Of course, even when material to meditate upon lapses, the film never quite loses so much momentum that it becomes boring, for although the film is plenty bland in plenty of places, the thoughtfulness at least does a decent job of sustaining some degree of entertainment value by drawing on the story concept's natural intrigue. Again, intrigue is limited by the sheer minimalism of this story of small scale and little dynamicity, and yet, there's still something fairly meaty about this dramatic study on a murderous plot going all kinds of wrong, and it's hard to ignore that when Frederick Knott's scripted interpretation of his own play really works on the screen, with sharp dialogue and moments of melodrama that are effective enough to be bought in their context. Yes, there are solid moments in a generally pretty improvable script by Knott, with even characterization that is mostly lacking having highlights that do, in fact, draw you into the depths of this character-driven drama, though not as much as the consistently strong performances. Driven by more talk than action, this type of thriller really focuses on the performers, and they really do a fine job of holding their own, immersing themselves in each distinguished role, and further securing their convincingness by exchanging solid chemistry that makes the instrumental interactions in this character drama about as effective as the highlights in direction and writing do. Were the storytelling more consistently effective than the performances, the final product would have stood on the brink of rewarding, and if there was more inspiration, the natural shortcomings might have been transcended, yet when it's all said and done, there's enough intrigue throughout this thriller to engage time and again, even if it truly engrosses only every so often. When the line is finally cut, the film is left standing as too familiar for its own good, yet not so familiar that a sense of underdevelopment joins dragging and natural dramatic limitations to make the final product underwhelming, but not so much so that sharp cinematography, highlights in direction and writing, and solid performances don't prove to be enough to make "Dial M for Murder" a decent thriller, with sharp highlights, few and far between they may very much be. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Oct 02, 2013
    I find it difficult to gush over these older movies. Sure there is a battle of wits between the Inspector and the husband. But the audience knows who did it from the beginning - we have to make do with watching if the Inspector can figure it out.
    Red L Super Reviewer
  • Dec 29, 2012
    I enjoyed Dial M For Murder extremely, it was so beautifully done with minimalistic setting and clever use of props. The acting was fantastic, everything ran smooth and natural. The shots were artistic like every other Hitchcock features, the music was perfect, the twist was clever. It may have been a bit slow in the beginning but nonetheless, it's a great film with suspense. it's those little details like Margot looking for pills in her purse that made the audience jumping out of their seats. Oh, the suspense never dies.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer

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