The Films of Alfred Hitchcock – Part 7 – Dial M for Murder – A Classic Movie Review

The same year (1954) Grace Kelly starred in Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” she appeared in another Hitchcock film “Dial M for Murder.”  This one is also a claustrophobic apartment centered drama.  This one takes place in London and Kelly is Margot Wendice unhappily married to Tony played by Ray Milland.  She has an American boyfriend Mark Halliday played by Robert Cummings.  Tony is aware of the affair and has a plan to eliminate his wife but keep her money.  He plans her murder to occur at their apartment while he is at a party with Mark thus providing himself with a strong alibi.  He blackmails an old acquaintance of his from college, Charles Swann, who is a small time criminal, to commit the murder for him.  He gives Swann the key to the apartment and designates a time when he will call his wife to lure her into the darkened living room where Swann can strangle her.

The machinations around the crime and the details of its failure make for the complexity of the second act.  While being strangled Margot manages to grab a pair of scissors and plunge them in Swann’s back.  After Swann expires, Tony recovers from the failure and without missing a beat tells Margot over the phone to wait until he gets home to call the police.

Tony manages to tamper with evidence and clue in the police to blackmail evidence that paints Swann’s death as Margot killing her blackmailer.  She is subsequently charged with murder, tried, convicted and sentenced to death.  The third act involves Chief Inspector Hubbard’s investigation of the facts of the crime and his clever trap for the real killer.

So, this sounds like a pretty standard British murder mystery story.  It is.  But the thing that elevates it is Ray Milland’s work.  He is extremely entertaining as the clever, manipulative and thoroughly affable Tony Wendice.  In every scene, except those with John Williams’ Inspector Hubbard character, Tony dominates the screen and the atmosphere.  He manipulates the other characters easily and expertly.  They don’t even realize after the fact that he’s been working against them.  Grace Kelly and Robert Cummings do a competent job of performing their parts.  John Williams does a slightly over the top portrayal of a senior British police detective with his Oxbridge accent and proper mustache brush.  But it is Ray Milland that makes this movie so much fun for me.  He is delightfully evil, a suave friendly devil.  And Hitchcock did his best to make the staging enhance the choreography of the crime and also the crucial finale that completes this filmed play.  And finally, once again I think Hitchcock’s English roots allows him to stage American actors as Brits but to still capture the essence of the British drawing room murder mystery.  And all this without even a butler to be framed for the crime.

Well done Sir Alfred.  I give this my highest rating for excellent entertainment value.

Fungus Among Us

Camera Girl is a great naturalist.  She likes being called Hawkeye because of her sharp and discerning vision.  She uses this keen sense mostly to see what it says on the speedometer in order to tell me I’m driving too fast.  But she also is adept at spotting interesting flora and fauna in the great wide world of our back yard.  She spots monarch butterfly caterpillars and hungry foxes and great blue herons and all kinds of birds around her feeders.  She discovers muskrats and minks and turkeys and turkey vultures, hawks and deer and coyotes and all kinds of flowers wild and garden.  Last year at about this time she spotted some unusual white plants sprouting underneath a conifer on the edge of a heavily wooded area of the property.  I thanked her for her find and proceeded to acquire a nice collection of mosquito bites crawling around on my belly trying to get a shot.  Here is the plant.

 

I thought it a very interesting plant and assumed it was white only because it was in a darkly shaded area.  I thought no more about it until this year.  In the last few weeks we have had some extremely hot and also some extremely rainy weather.  So even though it is August my “lawn” is a verdant carpet of crab grass.  And at the same time a great variety of different species of mushrooms have appeared in the yard, especially close to some wooded areas of the property.  Camera Girl knows I like to use mushrooms as subjects for close-up and macro photography and so she provides me with info on the best new mushroom sightings.  This year was no exception so I have managed to photograph a goodly number of interesting fungi.  But what was different was her discovery of additional specimens of the sprouting white plants.  I was able to use the superb magnified focus of my new Sony A7 III to very good advantage on these plants.

Monotropa uniflora, Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens
Monotropa uniflora, Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens
Monotropa uniflora, Indian pipe, ghost plant, corpse plant, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens

And because the places I found the plants was not as dark as last year’s location I decided that their coloration was not a fluke of location.  They really were white.  Using all the resources of the interwebs I was able to identify these unusual plants.  It is known systematically as Monotropa uniflora but commonly it is called Indian pipe, ghost plant and corpse plant.  It has no chlorophyll to allow it to produce sugar from carbon dioxide and water.  Instead it steals its food from underground fungi of the family Russulaceae.

Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f4 Macro lens
mushroom, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens

 

mushroom, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens

 

mushroom, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens
mushroom, Sony A7 III with Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens

This condition of lacking chlorophyll and living parasitically off fungi makes the Indian pipe what is known in botany as an obligate myco-heterotroph.  And it gets even more complicated than that.  The fungus that Indian pipe is mooching off is simultaneously in a symbiotic existence with underground tree roots of beech and other woodland trees.  The tree roots allow the fungus access to sugar and the fungus breaks down decaying material in the soil so that the trees can absorb the nutrients it could not obtain on its own.  In fact, the tree roots and the fungi form an interface called a mycorrhizal network in which the cells of the roots and the fungus interpenetrate each other to allow nutrient materials to flow in both directions to the mutual benefit of both.  So it was no coincidence that Camera Girl discovered the Indian pipe while scouting out new mushrooms.  The torrential rain and torrid heat of the last few weeks is what triggered the sprouting mushrooms and the Indian pipe bloom.  And now I see the even closer relation between these two life forms.  The mushroom is the victim of the Indian pipe thief.

So, this is the kind of weird stuff that I am interested in.  This doesn’t really belong solely in photography or current events and definitely not in science fiction or reviews.  That is why photog’s Corner was made, for this kind of weird stuff.  Caveat lector, let the reader beware.

Chuck Dixon’s Avalon #1 – The Street Rules – A Science Fiction & Fantasy Review

I’ve never been a comic book guy.  My thing was always science fiction books.  My closest approach to comics was the Marvel and DC tv shows I saw as a kid.  So, I never really had a reason to buy any.  But my policy on right wing artistic and commercial endeavors is to always give them the benefit of the doubt when they compete on the Left’s turf.  I decided to pick up Avalon #1 to see if I could understand what it was all about.  A comic book is like a book chapter with pictures.  You tell a piece of a story and try to hook the reader in for the next installment.  The story and the art work are of equal importance.  Well, to me they are.  I guess if you’re really more of an art lover then the pictures might be the main attraction.  But I don’t think that would work for me.  There’s got to be a story I want to hear.

I’ll make this short because I don’t have the background to talk any nuance about comic books.  The story is introducing a world where people with superpowers are a fact of life and not all of them are good and not all of them are heroes.  We meet a small cross section as we are primarily introduced to King Ace and Fazer.  They are close to the classic vigilante super hero like Batman or Superman.  They fight crime outside of the prescribed legal framework that superheroes adhere to in this world.  They do it according to their code.  Well, for the most part.  Some hints of a less selfless motive do show up in the book.  The story is good.  It’s set up as Fazer telling his story to a reporter but the action bounces back and forth between narrated action and other events that give additional information on other characters and other plot lines.  I like the art work but I will not claim I know much or even anything about the state of the art in comic book aesthetics.

Long story, short I think it’s good.  I look forward to the next installment.  I won’t say I’m hooked but I’m interested enough to want to see where this all goes.  Bravo Chuck Dixon and good for Vox Day for venturing into enemy territory.