Tag Archives: Suspense

#1 Alfred Hitchcock – Dial M For Murder

I just wrote about Secret Window where the leading character completely breaks down when he finds out that his wife is cheating on him. On the contrary, Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) is a calculated man. Wendice decides to take it slow. He takes his time, gathering evidence against his wife Margot (Grace Kelly) and her lover, an American writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Very carefully he chooses the person best fit for the job and everything is absolutely well planned. But there is no such thing as a perfect murder. When things go wrong, he improvises an excellent plan B.


The film was shot in 3D. Yes. It was shot in 3D and it had a limited release in 3D. However Hitchcock wasn’t impressed with the look and ultimately it was released in flat. (2D)

It appears as if this was the most obvious Hitchcock cameo. Or at least one of it.


To be very frank, what separates the film from any other film by the master of suspense is that the film is more talky than any other. There is no mystery in terms of what is happening. We know who the murderer is. And yet there is more to discover. Yet there is a mystery. That may be the reason why it is ranked 9th on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest Mystery films in June 2008.

This fact brings me to the point of view character in the film. A point of view character may not be the protagonist of the film. Remember Citizen Kane? The reporter is the main point of view character discovering the story of Charles Foster Kane through many other sources. But he is not the protagonist. In Dial M For Murder, we stick with the protagonist right from the second scene in the film. And stay with him right till the end. There is just one scene where we know more than the character and that is the time when the mystery is revealed.

The film is adapted from a play. And there is not much that changed in terms of the treatment. Most of the film takes place at one place. That too in one room. It was pretty evident that even the outdoor shots were shot using a chroma. Maybe that is why the film could be finished in 36 days.

I feel the fact that the film takes place at just one location is the best part of the film. At no point, I felt bored of looking at the same frames again and again. And of course the performance by Ray Milland is exceptional. It is one of those films where you genuinely feel the bad guy should get away with all the money with an evil grin on his face. All thanks to this wonderful actor!

#1 Master of Mystery – Secret Window

Just as the titles start rolling, we enter the life of writer Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) quite secretly through a window in his secluded house across a lake. Going through a rough divorce after he caught his wife cheating on him, Rainey’s daily life is nothing but moments of ennui. Apart from the view of a lake and what used to be a nice garden, there is nothing more left in the rusty life of the bestselling author.

But of course, life becomes much more interesting when John Shooter (John Turturro) knocks on his door accusing Rainey of “stealing his story”. Rainey takes a firm stand on his story being his original work and was published two years before Shooter wrote the story. Shooter accepts the possibility and asks for a copy of the magazine. He even agrees never to bother Rainey again if this is ture. But if Rainey fails to present any such proof, he has to publish the story with a different end the Shooter suggests and give him his due credit for it.

Things look fair and square in the start. But they never are. There are perks in this deal and all of them are paid in blood. By the time Rainey learns the truth behind Shooter and his story, his life is flipped inside out. And also the lives of the ones who got involved.

Trailer here.


Spoilers Ahead

There are very few films adapted from the work of Stephen King that I am not fond of. You sink deeper and deeper in the mystery as the story unfolds and by the time you reach the end you are a character in the film. You are not a third person but you are in the film. The climax in particular of such films is of utmost important. As Rainey says correctly, “The only thing that matters, is the ending. The most important part of the story is the ending. And THIS one, is perfect.”

At times I thought some things were too obvious. The mystery behind the story of John Shooter has its hints everywhere in the film. Some prefer to uncover things as the movie proceeds. Some believe it is better if it strikes you right in the end and makes you wonder, where did it come from? I belong to the second category. In such cases I like to watch the movie again and find out the subtle hidden details that signaled that something weird is coming. In this one, I could unravel the mystery in the second scene with Shooter itself with the mention of Cigarettes. Which brings me to an interesting note on editing. Show something for too long and people know what you are aiming at, keep something too short and people forget that it ever happened. A way to get away with this one is to emphasize your important lines, some shots from some other perspective right in the end as your point of view character uncovers the truth.

There has to be a special mention to the DoP of the film, Fred Murphy. The film never goes into a low key look. Yet it manages to scare you shitless in broad daylight. There are simple shots which convey the depths of the story very eloquently visually.

Johnny Depp is so freakishly convincing that I was pretty much on his side from start to end. I think that is the absolute purpose of a movie of such gravity. Overall, the movie has not received a warm response from everyone. Knowing that it is a Stephen King novel based film, there is a big shadow of expectations that follows. I haven’t read the book. But the adaptation, as a separate entity has given me a lot to learn and a lot to enjoy.