"Dial M For Murder" returns to the Film Forum in NYC in 3-D for one week only, June 17-23rd. (Last year, all of the showings sold out, so if you're thinking about going I highly recommend buying your tickets through their website in advance.) I was fortunate enough to see it last summer, and with the occasion of it returning, it seemed a good moment to share some thoughts about the experience I had written down at the time: In the case of “Dial M For Murder”, getting to see the film in 3-D is an exceptionally rare treat. Alfred Hitchcock hated working in 3-D, had to be forced kicking and screaming into doing it, and (here’s the part where the gods of irony couldn’t script things better) by the time the movie was ready to be released, the 3-D craze had all but died out. It premiered in a handful of theaters, maybe three or four, in 3-D, but for all intents and purposes, it really was never screened as it was shot. Hitchcock may have hated the process, may have hated every moment of working on it, but despite that, he made one of the best 3-D films ever. I had always suspected it would play that well in 3-D, but until this afternoon, I didn’t know for sure. In a way, it’s a perfect film for both 3-D and for Hitchcock’s style. Based on a stage play that took place on a single set, it might not sound like the most likely of choices, but I think that’s what makes it work. Hitchcock restrains from the gimmicky uses; nothing is thrown at the screen or meant to assault us in our seats. Rather, the 3-D camera allows us to feel like voyeurs in this couple’s home. Often positioned behind tables, chairs, lamps, etc., the photography gives you the sense of being present for the action. In some scenes, particularly in the beginning, it’s positioned in a way that we feel like we’re in this couple’s home, sharing a drink with them. It’s only as the film progresses and becomes more menacing that the camera starts “hiding” us behind things, as if we’re creeping in someplace we shouldn’t be, much like the intruder that will be hired to take Grace Kelly’s life. In fact, the scene where the intruder makes his attempt on Grace Kelly’s life is the one time that Hitchcock uses 3-D in that “in your face” fashion — for only one shot, for only one moment. As Grace and the intruder struggle on top of the desk (in a scene that must’ve seemed horrifically violent in 1954), she reaches out her arm behind her head, into the air, and towards us — a victim in trouble, reaching out for help. We feel so close to her, and yet she stays just out of reach, enough for us to feel the terrible violence she’s being subjected to and the tension of not being able to do anything about it — she’s so close, reaching out for help, and we can’t save her. And then, almost out of nowhere, her hand finds a pair of scissors, and she stabs her assailant in the back, her hand returning into the depths of the screen. It’s a startling use of 3-D that’s so effective because it’s done only once in the film, and by the time that shot happens, we’ve been sitting watching a movie with enormous depth (like peering through a window), that we don’t expect anything to come out at us. A lessor director might not have been daring enough to use the exaggerated 3-D technique in only one shot; a lessor director might not have been able to keep the studio from interfering in the production and keeping the “in your face” stuff out. But Hitchcock’s usage was masterful, and there’s no arguing that he got it just right. (As a sidenote, the technical quality of the presentation was outstanding. There was little, if any, “ghosting” of the image, with the 3-D effect working seamlessly. The screen becomes a window, and it really does feel as if we’re watching a stage play, as opposed to a movie. The illusion of depth is completely convincing. The only detraction from the experience, and this is a minor one and not a real complaint, was that the prints were somewhat old and worn. That meant that the left and right eyes had uneven scratches and dirtmarks on occasions, that might for the briefest of moments seem a little weird. But a pristine print may no longer exist, and the Film Forum cannot be faulted for this. Furthermore, it definitely didn’t ruin the experience — I’m just saying, it wasn’t perfectly clean like “Avatar” — and that’s okay.) edit: one really cool thing about the Film Forum's presentation of 3-D films... they don't charge a single penny extra for the ticket.