Elsa S. Customer suggests Dial M for Murder (in Mystery/Thriller). I never thought much of Grace Kelly’s much-heralded performance as the ever-so-poised Margot Wendice. She’s so stiff, so passionless, so passive and reactive. She’s also surprisingly unsympathetic, with her persistent infidelity and her fluent lies. Far more interesting is Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), the affable, genial husband who sets his wife up for a most unpleasant murder. I can’t imagine what Margot sees in her bland Romeo (Robert Cummings), but it’s easy to see how appealing Tony could make himself: so genial, so urbane, and underneath it all so very, very calculating. He’s an adroitly camouflaged sociopath, and the interview with his selected murderer is one of perfectly balanced tension barely submerged in pleasantries. Despite Hitchcock’s claim that he simply transferred a successful play to the screen, Dial M shows Hitch’s gift for using subtle elements of the set design to mirror the interpersonal dynamics: the lovers sit amid flowers (in vases, on the upholstery, in a splashy still-life), while Tony’s scenes draw the eye to the shelves of trophies from his tennis career. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it, and the set speaks
volumes about the characters. At its heart, Dial M is less a thriller and more a character study… where the characters’ true natures emerge in the face of murder.