Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dial M for Murder in 3D now on YouTube (Well, a few highlights, anyway)

Okay, it's been up there for a few months, but I just discovered it recently. So, grab a piece of red and a piece of blue cellophane, sit back and enjoy.

(Click thru to the YouTube page itself and then click on the 3D icon to choose the format you prefer - including "cross-eyed."(!))

Although Alfred Hitchcock was at first dubious of the 3D process (he correctly saw it as a flash-in-the-pan), he approached the technical challenge with enthusiasm and a fresh viewpoint, assuring his friend and sometime business partner Sydney Bernstein that there would be "no spears or chairs to throw at the audience." Almost perversely, the film's primary setting is a one-bedroom flat in London.

Hitchcock almost had Cary Grant booked for the role of Tony Wendice (finally casting him in the role of a wife killer), when producer Jack Warner vetoed the idea, on the grounds that he was a "light comedy type." Nevertheless, Ray Milland gave the film a superb performance. I can't help imagining that at least part of his onscreen charm was buoyed by that fact that his costar, Grace Kelly, had developed a crush on him during shooting. At least, I know it would work for me.

Kelly, however, was very available -- and the price, as Bob Barker would say, was right. Not yet a major star, she received $14,000 for her role; Milland by contrast received $125,000.

Dial M comes across as a profiterole in Hitch's works -- light and satisfying, but with little substance. Set in one room, the script was barely changed from the original Broadway play on which it was based. But Hitch just made it look easy. Knowing that it might be released as a "flattie" as he called it, he nevertheless took advantage of the 3D process to add depth to its setting. The visual effect brought an otherwise ordinary apartment to life, giving audiences the experience of a night at a live theater performance. He mused on the possibilities of 3D filming, but was constantly thwarted by the technical restrictions posed by the unwieldy 3D camera.

Those disappointments notwithstanding, Hitch's adaptation differs in many subtle ways from the play. The 3D effect of the murder scene is Gothic horror at its most sublime. And, though he made few changes to the dialogue, it may be the most cinematic stage play ever to find its way the screen.

For those reasons, when asked about Dial M for years afterward, I believe Hitch was merely demonstrating his inability to resist a pun when he replied, "I could have phoned that one in."

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Christian said...

Hitchcock's "Dial M for Murder" was presented by French/German TV broadcast arte at the end of August but the picture quality of the youtube scenes is far more better than what was shown on TV.
Here's a comparison of the arte broadcast with the 2D-DVD: http://www.bibra-online.de/movie-compare-dialm.htm

Joel Gunz said...

Wow, thanks much for the link, Christian!