Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M For Murder” Takes on a New Dimension in 3D

25 06 2011

This week, New York’s Film Forum is screening Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder” in its original 3D. Shot in a format called “Natural Vision,” the movie takes on new dimension when seen this way, and it was a distinct pleasure to watch it with an audience.

Hitchcock used 3D to great effect, but also sparingly. Mostly, it adds depth to the action, rendering scenes so that some objects seem to be very close to the viewer, creating an effect that’s almost like watching a movie in a lenticular. Hitchcock shot most of the movie in the single set of the Wendice’s tiny apartment, looking up at the action from a low angle to amplify the feeling of dread. Lamps and other objects sit in the extreme foreground, creating barriers between various characters.

Only a few times does Hitchcock deploy 3D for that “it’s coming right at you” effect, in scenes when Margot (Grace Kelly) reaches for her scissors to fend off her attacker or, later, when her husband puts a key in the lock to try and open the door. It also allows the credits to stand out during the opening sequence.

It was also a revelation to watch the movie with an audience. When I wrote about the movie here, I felt that its humor took a back seat to suspense. Seeing it this week, though, I laughed along with the crowd at Wendice’s insanely convoluted scheme and his pretense of innocence and at the too-convenient reunion photo on his wall. John Williams’ hammy acting broke up the crowd as well, particularly his moment of preening at the end, after he’s solved the case.

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