Even more rich is IRT showcasing a suspense turned upside down. Within ten minutes, the prime suspect is staring out you with callous eyes. He coolly explains how he plans to murder his wife. As we all know, no plan is foolproof in the theater. When one night takes a sharp turn (very sharp, indeed), audiences witness what lengths a character will go through to cover up his tracks.
Sometimes films leave behind the raw appeal or tenseness that a thriller creates onstage. The small cast in Dial ‘M’ allows us to get a glimpse into the psyche of some powerful players. We see the polished façade of a man begin to tarnish as his lies intensify, rapidly unraveling in the second act. The majority of this is done with language, creating a psychological whirlwind/blame game where we tally each candid bit of honesty against the cunning secrecy others keep to themselves.
And this is all done without any abrupt, Hitchcockian cuts.
Perhaps a reason why Fredrick Knott’s play and James Still’s direction in Dial ‘M’ makes us start the incessant nail biting is the fact that we aren’t trying to solve a mystery by the end. We are invested in one character’s perilous fate. The dramatic irony makes us want to jump out of our seats and shout, “You have the wrong number!”