Dial M for Murder [1954]

A suave tennis player (Ray Milland) plots the perfect murder, the dispatching of his wealthy wife (Grace Kelly), who is having an affair with a writer (Robert Cummings). Amazingly, the wife manages to stave off her attacker, a twist of fate that challenges the hubby's talent for improvisation. Alfred Hitchcock wisely stuck to the stage origins of Dial M for Murder, ignoring the temptation to "open up" the material from the home of the unhappy couple. The result may not be one of Hitchcock's deepest films, but it's a thoroughly engaging chamber movie. It also features Grace Kelly at her loveliest, the same year she made Rear Window with Hitchcock. Dial M for Murder was filmed in the briefly trendy 3-D process, and Hitchcock shot some scenes to bring out the depth of the 3-D field; it's especially good for the nail-biting attempted murder of Kelly, and her desperate reach for a pair of scissors that seems to be just outside her grasp. However, the film was rarely shown with the proper 3-D projection, going out "flat" instead (a 1980 reissue restored the process for a limited theatrical release). Dial M was remade in 1998 as A Perfect Murder, a film that changed and expanded the material, with no improvement on the clean, witty original. --Robert Horton

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