That’s the trouble with these latchkeys. They’re all alike…
First, a little background… As Dial M for Murder was the catalyst for this entire project it seemed only fitting that it should be the first viewing. Being that I'd already seen it only a month ago and it is so fresh in my memory I wasn't sure about just simply re-watching it again, but I was in luck. No sooner had I decided to take on this task when I received my weekly email from the local arts centre, Poole Lighthouse; and amongst the blur of films, concerts, plays and ballets (that I ignore far more than I should!) there it was… leaping off the screen. Serendipity at it's finest. So I booked front row seats (always highly recommended for a murder!) with the intention of comparing the stage-play to Hitchcock's film rendition, interested to see how they might differ.
They didn't actually differ as much as I thought they may have, if I'm honest, Hitchcock's version seems to stick quite rigidly to the script, with perhaps a little bit of omission regarding the alleged affair, perhaps he didn't feel it necessary to over-elaborate, in a bid to keep the film down to a more sociable length for the era or to ensure he was bringing his top billed actor on screen as early as possible?
It was good to get a little more back story on that front in the stage production as it helped to give Margot's character a little more depth; something I felt was missing from Grace Kelly in the film. It seemed she was portrayed as very naive weak, teary and, in many ways, completely oblivious and powerless to what was going on around her. The slightly surreal courtroom scene in Hitchcock's film really sums her up perfectly. With the stage production, however, keeping in more of the back-story and changing the delivery of the dialogue to someone who sounds more like they are still in shock, I felt it gave her a more well rounded and believable persona. Perhaps it's a generation thing. It was very normal for women to be portrayed that way for the time the film was made and it's a good thing that that now feels wrong! Having watched Psycho last year, I know that Hitchcock has portrayed women far better and hope to see more of that in his latter films.
That was my main, and probably only, bug-bear with the film itself. The rest of it was fantastic of course!
Among the things I did particularly like was that the film was mostly set in one room, as per the play, with only a couple of very short scenes set outside of that setting. This is important for the story as it's very much a case of, who was stood where, when, what was where and why! Tampering with a crime scene is a suspenseful undertaking, when an officer could walk in at any moment or your wife return to the room, and if you cut-scenes you loose that sense of urgency and therefore the thrill, so he definitely got it right on that front.
The one and only murder (which we as the audience know isn't actually a murder!) obviously comes across better in the film too. It's quite hard to fall on a pair of scissors (I mean, seriously… spoilers!) on stage without really hurting yourself!
Tony (played by Ray Milland), himself, comes across very cold and calculated in the film also. He was quite a sleuth on stage and seemed instantly un-trustable to the audience; a proper villain, easy to hate. On camera he was very calm and composed and that definitely added something, the idea that your spouse could be plotting something like that and keep a complete poker face… it's something we can't really relate to, but it get's you thinking… would I ever do that to them or would they ever do that to me? And that, ladies and gentlemen, is scary!
Addendum: Since writing this it transpires that Grace Kelly did win quite a few awards for her performance in this film… so what do I know, eh?!