3D Blu-ray Review Dial M for Murder 3D Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Neil Middlemiss, Oct 8, 2012.

  1. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    Ranked among the American Film Institute’s Top Ten in the mystery genre, Dial M for Murder is a fine film from the master, Alfred Hitchcock. Based on a play broadcast on the BBC, it is the story of a man scorned, who bided his time evolving the perfect plan to murder his cheating wife and sets it into motion when his wife’s lover comes to visit. The carefully designed plan falters but perhaps not enough to expose the architect. Presented in both 2D and 3D, Warner Brothers bows this Golden Age title for film and 3D enthusiasts alike and the results are favorable.



    Dial M for Murder 3D


    Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
    Year: 1955
    US Rating: PG
    Film Length: 105 Minutes
    Video: MPEG-4 AVC 1080P High Definition

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

    Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese Dolby Digital 1.0

    Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish


    Release Date: October 9, 2012

    Review Date: October 8, 2012


    “I should simply say that you came here tonight, half-drunk, and tried to borrow money on the strength that we were at college together. When I refused, you mentioned something about a letter belonging to my wife. As far as I could make out, you were trying to sell it to me. I gave you what money I had, and you gave me the letter. It has your fingerprints on it, remember? Then you said if I went to the police you'd tell some crazy story about my wanting you to murder my wife. Before you go any further, old boy, do consider the inconvenience. You see, I'm quite well known, and there'd be pictures of you as well. And sooner or later there'd be a deputation of landladies and lodgers who would step forward and testify as to your character. And someone is almost certain to have seen you with Miss Wallace. You were careful not to be seen around with her, I noticed. You usually met in out-of-the-way places where you wouldn't be recognized.”


    The Film

    4 / 5


    Tony Wendice, an ex-tennis pro aware of his wife Margot’s adulterous relationship, unveils his meticulously planned plot to kill his wife to Charles Swann, a shady character whom Tony knew from his college days. Every detail thought through and expressed with surprising detachment, Tony essentially entices and blackmails his former acquaintance to pull off the ‘perfect crime’. Margot is a sympathetic character. A lady seemingly torn between her love of Mark Halliday, an American crime author, and the man she married. When Halliday visits the Wendice’s for the weekend, the plot is put into motion.


    At one point in the film, after saying that his career as a crime writer would give him the greater chance of pulling of the perfect crime, he concedes that the perfect murder is an impossible pursuit. Regardless of best laid plans, he says, something will always go askew. It is a foreshadowing of what we will witness; what will drive the suspense during the murder attempt and the aftermath. It’s a terrific moment.


    Performances are solid across the board with Ray Milland’s commanding performance as Tony Wendice standing out. A curious duplicity is in abundance for these characters, and besides his steely detachment, Milland pulls some sympathy from the audience for his hurt. Grace Kelly is lovely as the unaware wife whose life hangs in the balance at multiple turns throughout the film. She is graceful and vulnerable, never suspecting the maliciousness of her soft-spoken husband. Robert Cummings portrayal as the almost nondescript lover, Mark Halliday, is suitable. A likeable character despite being ‘the other man’, his wide-eyed blissful blindness to Milland’s calculating underhandedness serves the story well enough. The primary investigator, Chief Inspector Hubbard, is played by John Williams in a role which he recreated onscreen following his Tony award winning turn.


    Dial M for Murder is delightful Hitchcock, often unfairly dismissed as pedestrian, with a methodical unfolding (or unraveling) of events, mixed expertly with pithy dialogue and tense moments fitting a Hitchcock affair. What it lacks in immediacy and scope it makes up for in intimacy and skill, becoming more intense and interesting as it progresses. Filmed using 3D during the waning days of its popularity, theaters would mostly project the film flat (2D), a shame if for no other reason than the superb attempted murder sequence as Grace Kelly struggles for her life, stretching her hand out desperately for the means to strike back at her attacker. Powerful in 2D it is breathtaking in 3D.  



    The Video

    4/5

    3D Factor

    3.5/5


    Warner Bros’ presentation of Dial M for Murder in High Definition, framed at 1.85:1 and in 3D for the first time, is good. The colors on display are gorgeous and for a generous portion of the running time, detail is very good and grain intact. Not the most stellar HD presentation of a Hitchcock classic available on Blu-ray, but certainly a most-welcome entry. A few scenes are notably soft and rear projection effects in the film are revealing of the most issues (quite out of place with the projected images being quite poor). Additionally, there are some scenes that show off an odd ringing or halo effect around characters. Research indicates that this effect is inherent to the film stock and not the transfer. Fair enough. But it will raise some questions for viewers not as forgiving or as knowledgeable of such things, so it is good to be prepared.


    As Robert Harris points out in his incredibly and perpetually invaluable “A Few Words About…” thread discussing WB’s release, Dial M for Murder has been cleaned up and presented faithfully for us, though the 3D runs a hair dark. Mr. Harris notes that projected, the 3D doesn’t hold up well but on a panel display does better. I viewed Dial M for Murder on my Mitsubishi WD-73738 73-Inch 3D DLP HDTV, a rig that has given me no issues with 3D viewing. So how is the 3D?


    My exposure to 3D began in theaters with films like Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare Not the most noble of beginnings. But ever since Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf seriously impressed me back in 2007, I felt the advent of 3D had a genuine shot at a second coming. Dial M for Murder then presented me with an opportunity to explore golden age 3D of which I have heard a great deal from HTF’s resident 3D guru, Bob Furmanek and other enthusiasts on the site. Hitchcock employs a number of low angle shots and foreground objects to give a sense of depth in a scene. Given the majority of the film takes place in and around the upscale London apartment (save for a single scene and the odd outside  rear-projection shot as I recall), Hitchcock makes good spacial decisions, generally, and aside from the obvious placement of lamps and such as the camera moves around dialogue heavy scenes, it is subtly achieved.


    Dial M for Murder is a patient film, carefully descending into the murderous plot, shocking with the attack itself and descending further into the tense aftermath of whether Mr. Wendice will get away with his plot and improvisations. Aside from the title sequence where the credits protrude from the screen considerably, the attempt of Margot Wendice’s life is the most striking example of 3D in the film. Fingers stretching out toward theaudience in frantic desperation produce a chilling effect, accentuated more by the dimensional film technique. The 3D here is good. The setting doesn’t provide for a varied expression of 3D, but it is effective nonetheless and holds the promise for us fans of 3D that the Golden Age has more great releases to offer. Take note, studios; we’re thirsty for the good stuff regardless of its decade.



    The Sound

    4/5


    Warner provides Dial M for Murder with a DTS HD Master Audio English 1.0 soundtrack. The audio is clean, problem free and consistent. The score, composed and conducted by the great Dimitri Tiomkin, is surprisingly melodic and warm given the story’s darker undertones, but it is nicely produced here. Overall the audio works well.



    The Extras

    2/5


    Documentary: Hitchcock and Dial M (22:00): Fans in the business (M. Night Shyamalan, Peter Bogdanovich) talk about Hitchcock and the film favorably.


    Theatrical Trailer



    Final Thoughts


    Though Dial M is at its core a slice of the darkness of a man’s soul and the duplicity of exchanges between a slighted man and his torn but cheating wife, it is entirely too polite to reflect the true darkness of murderous intent. But that’s okay. Born from a popular stage play, it retains a somewhat claustrophobic feel even within the apartment made evermore spacious by the use of 3D and shows strokes of brilliance in both performance and Hitchcock’s appreciation for the material. Remade most recently as 1998’s A Perfect Murder starring Michael Douglas, Viggo Mortensen and Gwyneth Paltrow, that updated version only serves to show just how good Hitchcock’s film really is. The 3D in Dial M for Murder won’t knock your socks off but it will provide a good story with visual depth in a relatively confined space. 2D or 3D though, the film is certainly worth your time.  



    Overall (Not an average)

    4/5


    Neil Middlemiss

    Kernersville, NC

     
  2. Bob Furmanek

    Bob Furmanek Insider
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    Excellent review, Neil. It's good that your first exposure to Golden Age 3-D is also one of the best!
     
  3. Adam Gregorich

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    Thanks Neil. With all the great titles coming out I had to push this down my list for the next few weeks. Its encouraging to see some classic 3D titles finally come to market and I will be picking it up. Hopefully this will encourage other studios to release classic 3D content.
     
  4. Ronald Epstein

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    Amazing how the classic films produce a more satisfying
    3D experience over what Hollywood is doing today.

    I am snatching up as many of these 3D golden classics as
    I possibly can.
     
  5. Robert Harris

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    Dial "M" is a superbly crafted 3D film, with very, very subtle use of the dimensionality, especially at a time when the format was at downward popularity. Hitchcock, and cinematographer Robert Burks make the 3D seem very natural for the era. Nothing poking you in the eye. Until there is a dramatic need.

    Modern 3D almost seemed to fall into the same path as that in the early '50s, with accentuated dimensionality, with need.

    Until what I consider to be 3D masterpieces -- Avatar and Hugo, neither of which could have been created without digital technology.

    RAH
     
  6. JamesNelson

    JamesNelson Second Unit

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    My copy of Dial M for Murder arrived today. My initial thoughts:
    I agree with Mr. Harris in that there is something unnaturally dark about this title. I viewed it on a Panasonic AE-7000 front projector. I played around a bit with trying to boost the levels, but like Mr. Harris was unable to find a satisfying setting and ended up back at my default 3-D calibration.
    Oddly, the three scenes immediately following the Intermission seem correctly level-balanced, and (to my eyes) stand out in direct contrast to all scenes before and after. At first I thought my eyes had simply adjusted by that point, but I jumped around spot checking and I'm fairly certain I'm not imagining things.
    The Intermission title card is included, btw. A nice touch.
    On the positive side, I noticed absolutely no instances of panel mismatches (no vertical misalignment, no rotation or scaling differences between the two sides, no reverse 3-D, etc.). Spot-on stereoscopic registration throughout.
    Update:
    I've now given it a quick spin on my DLP RPTV where it fares much better. Also, I didn't notice as dramatic a difference in levels between the 3 post intermission scenes on the DLP as I did on my LCD projector.
    I believe Mr. Harris is correct in his assessment that this particular title is not well suited to the current crop of LCD 3-D projectors. Or perhaps more accurately: it reveals some of the sort-comings of current LCD 3-D projector technology.
     
  7. JohnS

    JohnS Producer

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    Is anyone else having a problem with Amazon not getting this title today, and having them deliever it by Ontrac.
    My package says Ontrac is out for delivery, but when I call them they said I can't have my package until the 11th.
    I really hate Ontrac service.
     
  8. JamesNelson

    JamesNelson Second Unit

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    One more observation: the "music" that plays behind the main menu is probably the oddest, most anachronistic choice imaginable for this film.
     
  9. Todd J Moore

    Todd J Moore Supporting Actor

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    I'm sincerely not getting why they didn't just use the main title music for the menu. The music on the menu is absolutely the worst thing I've ever played on my blu ray player. As for the image, it looks fine on my TV. So nice to have this in 3D without Japanese subtitles!
     
  10. Johnny Angell

    Johnny Angell Played With Dinosaurs Member

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    Oh, man, do I agree with the both of you. Does anyone ever sit down with a disc and just play it and make sure there's nothing wrong with the movie before its released? Was QC using some medical marijuana at the time? It's not even music they're using, just sound effects that belong in front of a very bad sci-fi movie.
    I've just watched the film and found it to be slightly dark on my Samsung ES7100 LED. However I soon forgot about it as I was enjoying the film. Yes, the 3D is not in-your-face, but it's there to enjoy.
     
  11. Steve Tannehill

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    Actually, Grace Kelly's backwards reaching hand was in-your-face, as was the fate of her attacker...
     
  12. Brandon Conway

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    Don't blame QC. QC can't change the minds of whoever it was that made the conscious choice to use the main menu "music". It's not as though the audio fidelity of the menu is in error. It's just *bad* music/sound effects. In general, complaints about such things do get made but they will often be disregarded as "by design", i.e., someone signed off on it.
     
  13. Robert Crawford

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    It's my belief that these studios don't prepare their products as well as they should for those that have front projectors. Most negative comments about BR releases seem to come from those with front projectors with large screens while those with smaller displays observe a few problems, but not nearly as much as the projector HT enthusiasts. I sometimes wonder if that's due to the screen size the people who prepare these BR titles work on???? From what I've seen in the past, most of their screens are not large screens.
     
  14. OliverK

    OliverK Cinematographer

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    Very correct, it is my opinion for a long time now that preparation should be on a front projection system of at least 2m width and possibly bigger and with seating 1 screen width away or less. If it looks good from there everybody will be happy.
    3D projection is a special case though as 3D makes pictures very very dim, in projection system it is in most cases less than 50% of what is deemed standard for 2D viewing. To compensate for that it is necessary to have different gamma curves somewhere in the sytem, usually either on the Blu-Ray itself or in the display.
     
  15. JamesNelson

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    I believe that the BDA's philosophy in this regard is correct in that 3-D storage implementations and 3-D display implementations should be completely divorced from each other. 3-D content producers should never tweak or target content to one specific display implementation. There are too many different display technologies in the mix and the technology is evolving too rapidly for that. The successor to my 3-D projector that was just released last week is reported to be 20% brighter than my model (which is less than a year old). What looks too dim on my display might look perfectly acceptable on the replacement model. (I only wish I could afford to upgrade every year.)
    All of that notwithstanding, I still think there is something odd about this particular release. I have a separate set of calibration settings on my projector specifically for 3-D that give me perfectly acceptable results on every other 3-D disc I have viewed.
    I can't quite put my finger on exactly what the issue is (why so much of the disc seems unnaturally dark). It's far from unwatchable. It's just slightly "wanting".
     
  16. Robert Harris

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    In many cases, correct. From what I was told, Dial was QC'd on a mid-size flat panel.

    Projection for QC -- for all Blu-rays -- should be SOP.

    RAH
     
  17. Johnny Angell

    Johnny Angell Played With Dinosaurs Member

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    The point I tried to make (poorly) was that someone should be reviewing the disc to prevent such incredibly poor choices. If they had shown that menu to 10 randomly chosen people, 9 out of 10 would have said WTF?
     
  18. Robert Harris

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    Which is precisely how I felt.

    Annoying, and painful to the ear.

    All dozen or so times, that I had to go back and re-vist this disc, going from 2 to 3D.

    Without a doubt, the worst conceivable audio over a menu screen in the short history of mankind.

    RAH
     
  19. Charles Smith

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    Will have my copy in a day or so.

    In the meantime, reading the comments about the menu's environmental damage, I keep forgetting this is Warner. Of course it's Warner. But I keep thinking it must be Universal, playing "Funeral March of a Marionette" on a kazoo accompanied by synth. Is it even worse than that?
     
  20. JamesNelson

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    It's some weird techno-crap with a ringing phone as it principle motif, played over a very bland and uninspired menu. The DVD menu was witty and elegant.
     

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