Dial M For Murder – Alfred Hitchcock
The bewildered Margot is amazed to find that all the evidence is suddenly distorted against her. Tony, as her loyal husband, staunchly defends her on the surface, while subtly providing all the evidence needed to convict her of first-degree murder. He informs the Inspector that he is sure that Margot does not know Lesgate (that is, Swann), but that he had known him briefly in college; he had only seen Swann once since, and that was at Victoria Station six months before. This, together with the love letter found in Les-gate’s pocket, makes the blackmail motive for murder very plausible. When the silk stocking is found in the wastebasket, it appears likely that Margot’s neck bruises were self-inflicted. The most damning piece of evidence, however, is the fact that the carpet and the condition of Lesgate’s shoes prove that he must have come in through the front door, and that she must have let him in.
For the trial, Hitchcock maintains a claustrophobic intensity by using an effective series of close-ups of Margot’s face illuminated with colored lights against a neutral backdrop. She is convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Wiley Inspector Hubbard, however, is bothered’by the fact that Lesgate carried no latchkey, so the day before the sentence is to be carried out, he devises a scheme to unearth new evidence. Hubbard goes to the apartment purportedly to question lbny about the large sums of money he has been spending lately, but during the course of the interview the Inspector manages to switch raincoats with Tony. He suggests Tony drop by the station to pick up some of Margot’s possessions. After Tony goes out, Hubbard uses the key inside Tony’s raincoat to enter the apartment. Upon returning, he finds that Mark has broken in hoping to find evidence to save Margot.
Inspector Hubbard then initiates step one. Margot is driven to the front door and told to go inside the apartment. The Inspector and Mark wait quietly inside the darkened flat and listen as she enters the building, walks down the hallway, and tries to open the door with the key from her purse. When she is unable to open the door, she walks back outside. Hitchcock heightens the effectiveness of this scene with the use of real tiles in the hallway which emphasize the drama as the footsteps echo and recede.
The police then rush Margot’s purse back to the station where Tony soon picks it up. Inspector Hubbard explains to Mark and Margot that the key in her purse was Lesgate’s own latchkey and that he has Tony’s key. The In¬spector has located Margot’s key under the carpet on the fifth step of the stairway; she has proven that she did not know it was there; her fate now rests on proving that Tony does know. The tension mounts as Tony’s footsteps are heard in the hallway. He tries the key from Margot’s purse; it does not work; he starts out, then stops. Suddenly, he realizes that Lesgate must have returned the key to the step before entering the apartment. He retrieves it, unlocks the door, and turns on the light, illuminating the scene.