An enjoyable early murder mystery by Hitchcock that explores how theatre and life can intertwine in what is a precursor to the likes of ‘Stage Fright’ and ‘The Wrong Man’.
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
1930 | UK | Crime/Mystery/Thriller | 102 mins | 1.20:1 | English
Not rated – likely to be PG
Cast: Herbert Marshall, Norah Baring, Phyllis Konstam
Plot: A juror in a murder trial, after voting to convict, has second thoughts and begins to investigate on his own before the execution.
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Still well within his prolific British phase, Alfred Hitchcock’s Murder! is one of his more enjoyable early murder mysteries that benefits from taking its time to develop the array of characters and their contributions to the main narrative.
It begins with the murder, though in true Hitchcock fashion, we don’t quite see the heinous act itself, but experience it vicariously through other characters who are awoken by screams in the dead of night.
What would have been an investigation concludes rather prematurely when a beautiful woman appears to have been caught red-handed at the scene of the crime, with the murder weapon in hand.
Of course, there’s more to that… and this is where Hitchcock brings in Sir John, a juror who voted to convict the accused to face the death penalty (way before 12 Angry Men made jury drama riveting, Hitchcock was already doing it here), but has second thoughts after the trial concludes and decides to run his own investigation.
“Time is money, you know.”
“Time, in this case, may I remind you, is life.”
Murder! explores how theatre and life can intertwine as most of the characters, including Sir John and the accused, are to varying degrees involved in the performing arts.
In a way, the picture is a precursor to the likes of Stage Fright which also involves the stage, plus a dash of The Wrong Man (or in this case, the wrong woman).
Murder! may not be particularly tense, but the sense of drama is obvious; as it unravels, you’ll realise that it is more about understanding characters’ convictions and where that takes them to, rather than the intricacies of plotting. There’s also a wonderful if brief use of Wagner’s ‘Prelude’ from ‘Tristan and Isolde’ for effect.