Friday, October 28, 2005

Dial M For A Perfect Murder Mystery

Hitchcock's best??

A disclaimer (and confession) before I start: Until recently, I haven't watched that many Hitchcock movies! Actually, I'm not sure, I may have watched some when I was really young, too young to realize that I was watching the master of suspense at work (Very cliched, I know!)

Anyhoo, in the past couple of years I've been here in the US, I have made up for that, a little bit at least. Let's see: I have watched The Birds, North by Northwest, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window and of course, recently, Dial M for Murder (I told you I hadn't seen that many! That's just 6 out of 67) And for some reason, I haven't felt the inclnation to catch Psycho, especially since the shower-scene-bit has been taken down and beaten to death.

Out of these, one movie I never 'got' was Vertigo, which paradoxically seems to be the favorite Hitchcock for a lot of people. Among his movies, this one usually ends up being ranked quite high in a lot of "Top 100 movies of all time"-themed lists. That never ceases to baffle me: maybe I watched this one 20 years too late, but it never held much suspense for me and the plot seemed a trifle too far-fetched. Good movie, but not great!

Similarly Birds wasn't that awesome either. I imagine it would have been great to watch in a theater but I had it on surround-sound when I watched it at home and wasn't too thrilled or scared. Once again, not bad, just not great!

The remaining movies in the list were all outstanding, right up-until the climactic sequences! The dragged out ending in North by Northwest on the top of Mt. Rushmore almost destroyed all the suspense generated in the earlier scenes, while Doris Day singing 'Que Sera, Sera' in Too much was absolute Bollywood! In fact, other than Dial M, Rear Window is the only one that sustains its momentum right till the end and even there, the fact that the bad guy pretty much gives himself up is a bit of a downer; but that's just a minor complaint!

It is hard not too be dazzled by the sheer brilliance of DIal M. Much credit here must go the playwright for coming up with a plot of pure genious; having a man try to murder his wife whose boyfriend is a mystery writer! Astounding! The best scene in the movie is the one where the husband reveals to the 'killer' how the murder is to take place. Much like us, the would-be-murderer himself is astounded by the level to which the plan has been thought through as he listens to the husband character confidently describe what he expects to precisely happen, timestamped even! The plan DOES seem perfect and when the mystery writer later mentions that there is no such thing as "a perfect murder" you are bound to disagree with him!

Of course, things do go wrong, spectacularly so, making the fast thinking of the husband character even more ingenious. The movie is brilliantly paced by Hitchcock which adds to the tension in crucial scenes, especially right before and after the murder. The good thing about his movies is that the characters never behave as though they are in a thriller-movie, unlike in movies these days. His actors and actresses have a sense of vulnerablity about them: their reaction to being put in a situation of peril is usually an overhwhelming sense of disbelief, as if to ask, who would do such a thing to them?

Perhaps, it's a reflection of the growing cynicism of the times that in current cinema when a character is told that the villain is a near or dear one, their initial response is to cuss them soundly and then grab a gun to exact sweet revenge. In Dial M, when the killer is revealed, they all share a drink with him!

2 Comments:

Blogger Minkey Chief said...

I remember watching Psycho and being quite disappointed... I wondered how it would have been if I hadn't known the plot. It was supposed to have been absolutely terrifying at the time, but I think it's a bit dated now - whether you know the plot or not. I still rate The Ring as the scariest movie I've ever seen. What's your all-time scary movie?

10:27 AM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

Showgirls :)

But seriously, I can't think of any recent movie that has truly scared me because I haven't watched too many of them in a theater. Going back in time, I'd have to say I found 'The Omen' to be the scariest (that kid freaked me out)! And just last week, I saw "Saw" and that's pretty friggin' gruesome!

I do have a favorite scary book, though! Stephen King's "Pet Sematary"!!

10:56 AM  

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