Movie review: Dial M for Murder (1954)

No such thing as the perfect murder. So said Margot’s lover in Dial M for Murder. He happens to be an author of detective novels.

Mark was responding to a question by Margot’s husband Tony. Tony was pondering the perfect murder. This wasn’t academic. Tony was planning on murdering his wife Margot.

Or rather have her murdered.

But, as Mark said, there are only perfect murders on paper. Things never go as planned. And they certainly didn’t for Tony.

Tony had found out about Mark and Margot’s affair. But that wasn’t the motivation for murder. The real motivation was money. Margot came from money. Tony was accustomed to living off of it. If Margot were to leave, so goes any money Tony lives on. But if Margot dies, as beneficiary to her will, he would be left with plenty to live on for the rest of his days.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder is masterfully done. At first I wondered at a bit of the acting. But either it became polished as the movie went on or I became enchanted with the plot. The audience is in the know the entire time.

We watch as Tony explains his plan to the guy he hires to kill Margot. Then we watch as the plot goes terribly awry and Tony improvises and alters the story, landing Margot on death row for killing the would-be murderer.

Mark would do anything for Margot, including trying to convince Tony to tell the police a story that would save her life—that Tony plotted her murder (after all, he would go to prison for only a few years for hiring someone to murder his wife—a small price to pay to save his wife from death).

Eerily, the story that Mark concocts is almost the exact plot that Tony had hatched. In the end, Tony is done in by a simple detail—the key that the killer was supposed to leave under the carpeting on the front stairs.

It was the perfect murder—on paper.