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DIAL M FOR MURDER

Hitchcock is said to have joked that he could have phoned in his directorial job on DIAL M FOR MURDER ($36). However, by utilizing some great camera work, I’ve always thought Hitchcock did a terrific job with some obviously stage bound material, and yet again, the director proved his ability to work effectively on a confined set. Based upon Frederick Knott’s play, DIAL M FOR MURDER is one of those drawing room thrillers that worked so marvelously on the stage- thusly the playwright and director saw little need to open up this work for the cameras. The plot of DIAL M FOR MURDER finds former tennis pro Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) plotting to do away with his lovely wife Margot (Grace Kelly), whom he believes has been unfaithful with Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Not wishing to get blood on his own hands, Tony blackmails an old acquaintance, Charles Swan (Anthony Dawson), into committing the deed. Unfortunately, Tony’s fine tuned plan goes terribly awry, leaving Margot looking like a murderer and Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams) trying to tie everything up into one neat little package. The performances in DIAL M FOR MURDER are spot on- Ray Milland is wonderfully charming and oily as the murderous mastermind responsible for trying to have his wife killed, then allowing the police to believe his wife a murderess. Grace Kelly makes the most of the role of the victimized Margot, while Robert Cummings breathes life into his paper thin character. Finally, John Williams just steals all of his scenes.

Warner Home Video has made DIAL M FOR MURDER available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec, while the 3D version is presented MVC codec. The 1080p presentation looks as good, if not better than one might expect from problematic WarnerColor film elements. I've always thought of WarnerColor as one of the lesser Eastman variants and Warner has managed to overcome some of those problems with their Blu-ray transfer. This is not to say that DIAL M FOR MURDER looks impressive on Blu-ray, just better than I thought it might. The problems with DIAL M FOR MURDER were less noticeable in standard definition, than they are now, with the higher resolution causing the shortcoming in the film's post-production work to be more readily apparent. WarnerColor just doesn't marry to the film's process work very well, resulting in some horrendous looking shots during the course of DIAL M FOR MURDER. Every optical looks soft at best in DIAL M FOR MURDER, but there are sequences with opticals inside opticals that are so many generations removed from the camera negative, that at times, the picture just looks like a mess in hi-def. I should also mention that there are shots with rear projection, which just don't pass muster. Unprocessed shots (without optical fades and dissolves) look best, and sometimes, these portions of DIAL M FOR MURDER really look wonderful. Most of the time, image sharpness and detail can really be quite nice. Colors have been magically massaged to fullest advantage, delivering lush hues and attractive flesh tones that exceed my WarnerColor expectations. Blacks look correct, as do the whites. Contrast can be off in sections featuring opticals. Shadow detail is underwhelming. The elements from which DIAL M FOR MURDER has been transferred don't display any significant signs of age. Film grain is noticeable throughout, but does not seem excessive for a film of this vintage. As for the 3D version of the movie, it has a more subtle 3D appearance than modern 3D films. The only truly standout sequence is the climatic murder attempt on Grace Kelly's character. Again, the issues with the film's process work are evident.

DIAL M FOR MURDER is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. As expected, there are modest limitations in fidelity, but the track holds up quite well. Dimitri Tiomkin's music comes across nicely, without sounding too thin or brittle. Most signs of background hiss and noise have been cleaned up in the mastering process, which leaves a generally smooth quality to the soundtrack. Dialogue is always clean and easy to understand. French and Spanish Dolby Digital monaural tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as Hitchcock And Dial M, a twenty two minute interview based program featuring filmmakers, film historians including Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Osborne, M. Night Shyamalan, Richard Franklin, Richard Schickel and Nat Benchley, plus the daughter of the Master of Suspense Pat Hitchcock O'Connell. A Theatrical Trailer is also included.

DIAL M FOR MURDER is highly enjoyable Hitchcock offering. The Blu-ray presentation is quite good, but there are issues with the original film elements that cannot be overcome. Despite the issues inherent in the original film elements, DIAL M FOR MURDER is recommended.

 
DIAL M FOR MURDER 


Dial M For Murder [Blu-ray 3D]

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DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2012 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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