So I had some thoughts on remaking “Dial M for Murder.” Ten of them, in fact. Check them out!
10. The film’s origins on the stage are obvious, which limits the movie unnecessarily. The movie takes place almost entirely on a single set. This isn’t the only single set Hitchcock movie; Rope is similarly contained. But unlike Rope, which was made entirely in a series of long takes to give the film the illusion that an uninterrupted, real time story was unfolding, DMFM does not take advantage of the single set in any noticeable way. Key expository dialogue scenes occur, one in a row, on the same set. Split the scenes into two locations and you a far more dynamic approach to storytelling and the opportunity to create visual motifs and themes.
9. The hero sucks. Early in the movie, the audience is told Mark Hallaway is a mystery writer and is therefore potentially capable of brilliant detection. This critical character information is said to the audience, not shown. It’s inelegant storytelling and robs audiences of a potential entertaining scene where Hallaway somehow demonstrates his deduction skills. And he has no personality otherwise, so when he pops out of two thirds of the movie the audience doesn’t know him. So when he swoops in to solve the crime at the end, the audience doesn’t care about him. He needs to be less of a crime solving machine and more of a character (same goes for the detective. More on him later, too).
8. The movies heroes are cheaters. They are carrying on an extramarital affair, but the movie never questions it. It’s a weird moral stance for people of that time to adopt. But the plot never capitalizes on it. It’s an opportunity lost.
7. The Detective guy, who along with the mystery saves the day, also has no personality. And he’s introduced so late in the movie, he seems like an afterthought until he becomes the most important character. You can introduce him in the first reel and make people care about whether he outsmarts Ray Milland’s character.
6. Ray Milland’s character has an amazing turn from boring to sinister early in the movie. The turn could be just as effective, but more of a slow burn, in an elliptical flashback structure.
5. It would almost be a better ending if Ray Milland gets away with it. The story is simplier. First, the detective character can become non-character he always should have been. Secondly, all the delicate nonsense about keys and unlikely police procedure from the end could be jettisoned. And it could be a “Usual Suspects” knife twist feeling at the end.
4. You could make the whole movie a flashback thing about the murderer guy. We’re narrated his backstory. Would be interesting to show it. Also, you could turn the plot on its end by devoting the first two thirds of the movie to his character and the last third running through the entire plot of DMFM in about 10-15 minutes, his death included.
3. The crummy hero is supposed to be a mystery writer in the 1940s. It’s a great opportunity to base the character on a real life author or author type. He could be a Nick and Nora booze swiller. He could be a Micky Spillane type. A Phillip Marlow white night. Whatever.
2. There’s no reason to set the movie in Britain. Either present a reason or set it elsewhere.
1. Ray Milland’s master conniving character is a… former tennis pro? Should be at least be a former chess pro (based on like Bobby Fischer or something)? Or a former cop (with a relationship to investigator cop). Or a former forensic analyst. Or a criminal psychologist. Something that would give him a better grasp of strategizing murder.
Also: there will be a temptation to update the title in some cutesy way, like “Text L for Liquidation.” Or “Murder? There’s an App for That.” So we need to exercise discipline and caution as we go forward on this thing.