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In 1954 Alfred Hitchcock released his seminal murder-mystery, DIAL M FOR MURDER. The problem is that most people saw it in 2D, rather than in the 3D in which Hitch shot the film. The reason? 1953 was the real wave of early 3D, with movies like House of Wax being released. But by 1954 audiences had become tired of crappy looking cardboard glasses and incorrectly aligned projectors, not to mention the new fad that was Cinemascope. So the 3D neg stood unloved until Warner Brothers decided to faithfully restore it, cleaning up each frame and then rescanning in 4K for our new 3D viewing pleasure. And boy, what a treat it is! I can honestly say that watching this movie in 3D has added to my appreciation of Hitch's technique, as well as immersing me more deeply into the claustrophobic flat in which the murder takes place.
For the story is elegantly compact: a jealous, greedy husband (Ray Milland) blackmails a former university acquaintance (Anthony Dawson) into killing his unfaithful wife (Grace Kelly). No matter that her lover, a crime writer (Robert Cummings) warns the husband that murder plots never go to plan. For the husband, Tony Wendice, is that most remarkable of villains - the slippery, intelligent, charming, think-on-your-feet kind of murderer. The murder takes place at the half-way point of the film and thereafter the joy of this film is following each twist and turn of the intricate Agatha Christie type plot as we try to figure out, not so much whodunnit, as how or indeed if it will be detected. Even though I'd seen the movie before, I was still sitting on the edge of my seat.
This was in no small part to the 3D, which helps us feel tangibly part of the cramped apartment in which nearly all of the action takes place - peering round lampshades and learning the intricacies of latchkeys. The only negative thing I can say - which is hardly a fault of the film-makers - is that while the movie ages well in general, the language and some of the social mores are anachronistic, and this can and does take us out of the film at crucial moments - counter-acting the good work that the 3D is doing. Still, this is a small problem and doesn't take away from the great achievement in restoring this film and the visual treat it confers.
DIAL M FOR MURDER was originally released in 1954 but the 3D print has not been fully restored and the film will be re-released in the UK on July 26th, opening at the Barbican, BFI Southbank and Curzon Mayfair among other venues. The movie has a running time of 105 minutes and is rated PG for one scene of moderate violence.
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