The news that Martin Scorsese will, as previously hinted, be filming “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” in 3-D could be cynically interpreted as simply a case of an artistic but shrewd director jumping on a popular bandwagon. However, I’m not really a cynic and to me it brings to mind the last time that a truly great director made a film in 3-D. With all due respect to James Cameron and his undoubted huge technical achievement with “Avatar,” that was when Alfred Hitchcock took up the huge challenge of shooting in three dimensions with 1954’s “Dial M for Murder.”
The trailer below doesn’t mention the process because, despite the enormous trouble taken to film it in three dimensions, by the time the thriller, an adaptation of a wildly successful play, came out interest was already waning in the process — probably largely due to sub-standard films generated by the 3-D fad (modern day executives take note). Therefore, “Dial M for Murder” was, for the most part, released “flat.” Nevertheless, check out the way Hitchcock uses the (extremely huge) camera and the care he takes with the art direction.
If that phone seems a bit odd to you, it’s because Hitchcock actually had, as per this TCM synopsis by Jeff Stafford, a giant dial constructed to get the exaggerated look he wanted. Mr. Hitchcock was prone to exaggeration and a perfectionist, but one who always had a reason. For example, here’s his note about the portrayal of the film’s main weapon:
This is nicely done but there wasn’t enough gleam to the scissors, and a murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce – tasteless.
Someone has probably already said this, but Hitchcock wasn’t always tasteful, but he was never tasteless, if you follow me.