Dial M For Murder – Alfred Hitchcock
The next night the camera is returned to the human, fallible level to watch the drama unfold. Much of Hitchcock’s brilliance is revealed in the way he manipulates the audience’s involvement. When Margot suddenly announces her intention to go to a movie, thereby ruining all of Tony’s masterful plan ning, the audience roots for him as he persuades her to stay home. Ironically, his vain suggestion that she clip articles for his scrapbook results in the ultimate failure of his plan, by providing her with the weapon she needs for her own defense. Tony unobtrusively removes her latchkey from her purse and places it under the carpet in the stairway before he and Mark leave for dinner.
When Lesgate enters the apartment that night, Hitchcock uses the tech nique of “film time” to stretch out action which normally would take only a few seconds. The result is an increase in the level of tension as the importance of the events is emphasized. In one of the few cuts outside the apartment, the audience sees that Tony’s watch is slow and that Lesgate is about to leave. To the audience’s relief, the call comes through just in time, and as Margot answers the phone, Lesgate slips a knotted stocking around her neck and begins violently choking her. The dim lighting creates an ominous atmosphere which emphasizes her agony as she struggles against his superior strength. Suddenly, however, she is able to grasp the scissors on the desk and plunge them into her assailant. In the one truly gruesome shot, Lesgate falls on his back, driving the scissors in deeper.
Tony, realizing that the plan has gone awry, now comes on the line to tell Margot not to call the police until he gets home. Panic-stricken and grateful to hear his voice, Margot follows his instructions. Clever as well as diabolical, Tony quickly alters the plan to make it appear that Lesgate had been blackmailing Margot, who in turn killed him. Tony plants Mark’s love letter on Lesgate, removes the latchkey from the victim’s pocket and places it in Mar got’s purse, and hides a knotted silk stocking in the wastebasket before calling the police.
From here on the tension is derived from a cat-and-mouse game between Tony and Inspector Hubbard (John Williams), an investigator who is the epitome of the British detective. The audience now begins to identify with the inquisitive, perceptive Inspector.