A Little Monkey Business: Chinese New Year

So the New Year started on February 8th, but I was in the middle of Romance is in the Air: Part IV, my countdown to Valentine’s Day so I had to postpone it until today, the last day of the New Year celebration. This year is a special year because it is my zodiac animal, the year of the Monkey.

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Monkeys are intelligent, wise, clever, inquisitive, flexible, quick-witted, innovative, and honest. They are also known to have a temper; along with being cunning, mischievous, and suspicious.

Monkeys can do well in any job they try due to all their positive traits. They work best with Oxen, Rabbits, and Dragons. Their enemies are Tigers or Pigs.

Some famous people born in the year of the monkey are: Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Dickens, Tom Hanks, Michael Douglas, Bette Davis, Annie Oakley, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Betsy Ross.

So to celebrate the year of the Monkey I am going to do my nine favorite monkey moments from film and TV. And I decided to do only Monkeys; no gorillas, orangoutangs, chimpanzees, or baboons. This year is all about the Monkey.

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9) The Jungle Book (1994)

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The Jungle Book is pretty much what Disney used as their basis for the Tarzan film (both being Disney films). The Jungle Book 1994 version is not the cartoon version, this one is a live action film and the animals don’t talk (hopefully they keep that the same in the new version coming out this year). The film starts out with Mowgli’s father being a guide for some Englishmen who are patrolling India. One night Shere Khan attacks the camp as someone has broken the jungle rules, that is killed for sport instead of food. Mowgli is lost in the confusion and thought to be dead, later raised by animals. He is eventually found by his old compatriots, who attempt to be bring him back into society. He still has feelings for Kitty, a girl he played with as a child, but she is engaged to the hunter/poacher William Boone who wants to use Mowgli as a guide to Monkey City and the rumored King Louie treasure. Adventure ensues

Best Monkey Scene:Monkey Spectators

Instead of lions or dueling ex-soldiers or slaves; this gladiator match pitches treasure hunters searching for the lost Monkey City and the billions of gold, against Kaa the python. For who’s pleasure? None other than King Louie, the Orangoutang, and his subjects ,the Monkeys.

For more on The Jungle Book (1994), go to Redone Done Right

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8) Toy Story 3

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In Toy Story 3 many years have passed since Toy Story 2. Andy is 18 and heading off to college and doesn’t need his old toys anymore. Destined to reside in the attic until Andy has his own kids or decides to get rid of them; the toys take matters into their own hands. They escape in a donation box for a Children’s Daycare, hoping this would bring fun times and games. Woody however, is not ready to give up on Andy and gets lost trying to find his way home. Back at the daycare center, the toys discover that a stuffed bear is the “Don” of the center and relegates them to being played with toddlers instead of the older kids who care for the toys. When they try to escape, they are punished. Will the toys esacape? Will they be able to get back to Andy?

Best Monkey Scene:Death by Monkeys

This scene is in the opening dream/flashback sequence. The toys are playing a massive game of cowboys and robbers. Woody, Buzz, and Jessie have just defeated the potato pair; when Ham, as evil Dr. Porkchop, comes in: releasing a bomb of a barrel of monkeys. It’s funny, cute, and brings back a whole lot of nostalgia.

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7) Dragon Ball

This is actually a anime series based on the classic novel Journey to the West,  also known as Monkey, written in the 16th century by Wu Cheng’en.

Goku is a little monkey boy, (as in he only has a monkey tail). He befiends a teenage woman, Bulma, and the two set off to find the seven wishing dragon balls. He becomes a student of the turtle hermit, Kame-Sennin, later entering a huge tournament with some of the most powerful fighters in the world.

He also destroys the Red Ribbon Army single-handedly. When Goku’s best friend, Kuririn, is murdered by Piccolo, then Goku sets out to destroy him as revenge.

Best Monkey Scene: Great Ape Transformation

So as Goku is a monkey boy, when the full moon is out instead of turning into a werewolf, he becomes a giant monkey. A monkey on par with Mighty Joe Young or King Kong. He may be scary and frightening, but also pretty awesome in his menacing nature.

For more on Dragon Ball, go to Fun & Full of FANcy

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6) Aladdin

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Aladdin is a retelling of a chinese tale in Arabian Nights or A Thousand and One Nights, tales that Scheherazade told her husband to keep herself alive each night, (for more on that go here). Disney disneyfied it into being much happier and brighter, like they do with everything.

In the Disney story, Aladdin is an orphaned boy living with his monkey friend, Abu. The two are street rats, scrounging about for food and hiding from the castle guards. Every night Aladdin goes home and dreams of being rich and living in the palace, never worrying about anything. Meanwhile, Princess Jasmine is in the palace and has to marry by her sixteenth birthday. She hates every prince that has called on her and she feels they all are after her fortune. Also in the palace lurks Jafar, the evil vizier, who wants to take the throne for himself. He also is trying to get inside the fabled Cave of Wonders to get a lamp, but only a pure-hearted, diamond in the rough can enter. These three stories intersect when Jasmine sneaks out of the palace, only to be helped by Aladdin when she gets into trouble. The two run from guards and are caught, Jasmine revealing herself and going home, while Aladdin is sent to the dungeon. Jafar disguises himself and frees Aladdin convinced he is the perfect person to enter the cave. Aladdin is and does, but Abu brings the whiole place toppling down when he tries to take something he is not supposed to touch. Aladdin gets stuck inside the Cave, but there he finds the genie of the lamp and the adventure to capture the heart of the princess is on.

Best Monkey Scene: Anything Abu

Abu is the cutest little monkey. He does have some issues as he doesn’t like to share, is greedy that he almost kills him and Aladdin, and gets jealous easily. But besides that he is kind, loyal, and all around a great little buddy to Aladdin.

For more on Aladdin, go to Waiter, There’s Some Disney in My Jane Austen

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5) George of the Jungle

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This was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and the film that created my crush and longtime love of Brendan Fraser. He is super hunky in this film.

Ursula Stanhope from San Francisco, CA is traveling throughout Africa. Her fiancé, Lyle Van De Groot (Thomas Haden Church) is a total pompous jerk and has gone looking for her to drag her back to be immediately married, guided by two poachers. The next day when Ursula and Lyle are out, they run into a lion. Lyle takes off; tripping, falling, and knocking himself out. But Ursula doesn’t need to worry, George; a man who was lost in Africa and raised by an ape named Ape, saves her. He cares for her until they are come upon by her fiancé. When he and the poachers attack trying to “save” Ursula and capture the famed “White Ape”; George gets injured and finds himself traveling to San Francisco with Ursula. Is San Fran ready for this Ape-Man? Will his home be okay without the King of the Jungle?

Best Monkey Scene: Monkey Vs. Lion

So George is King of the Jungle, and one of his duties as King is to help his subjects in trouble. One of the baby monkeys, the runt of the litter, keeps getting picked on by all the other monkeys. He goes to George for help, and the two come up with a plan. When a lion comes to “fight” and the monkey pretends to be George”scaring” the lion away.

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4) Jumanji (1995)

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In 1969, Alan Parish is constantly getting picked on. One day he hears drums and discovers an old game buried in a new construction site. He takes it home and after he gets in a fight with his dad and a surprise visit from a friend, the two accidentally play the game. One of the roles causes Alan to be sucked into the game while bats come streaming out.

26 years later, the Parish house has been bought by a women who has recently become guardian of her niece and nephew: Judy and Peter. The two kids discover the old game and play. What they thought would be a fun game turns out to be a death defying adventure as monkeys, mosquitoes, a lion, crocodiles, and Alan all come out of the game. They have to finish the game, survive whatever comes out, in order to fix everything and send all these creatures and storms back.

Best Monkey Scene: Monkeys Slow the Expedition

The second thing to come out of the game board are a group of monkeys. Not only do they terrorize the the two kids, but they end up running amuck throughout town. Stealing cop cars, ransacking stores, and taking off and causing havoc.

For more on Jumanji, go to Every Month at the Quarter Moon There’ll Be a Monsoon

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3) Jumanji (1995)

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So the summary is the same as before. You might be wondering why I’m doing this film twice, but there was another monkey scene I just love.

Best Monkey Scene: Peter the Monkey Boy

So Alan, Peter, Judy, and Alan’s old friend Susan; have been through the thick of game having faced down monkeys, a lion, giant mosquitoes, human eating pods, poisonous violets, a big game hunter named Van Pelt, and a stampede.

Peter is only a few spaces away and decides to drop the dice, hoping to reach the end of the game and save everyone. Unfortunately, the game does not like cheaters and Peter is turned into a monkey. Sorry Goku, Peter is the cutest Monkey Boy. He’s just TOOOOO adorable.

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2) The Wizard of Oz

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Dorothy Gale is a young girl in grey Kansas. She lives with her aunt and uncle on their farm, along with the farmhands. When their mean neighbor takes Dorothy’s dog away for snapping at her; Dorothy decides to grab her dog and run away. She gets caught up in a twister and ends up in the land of Oz. She ends up on a journey to find the Wizard to get home; pairing up with a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, a Cowardly Lion; and chased by the Wicked Witch of the West.

Best Monkey Scene: Fly My Pretties, Fly

So the Wicked Witch’s evil minions are the winged monkeys. She sends them out to find Dorothy and destroy her companions in one of the best, and scariest scenes, of the film.

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1) The Jungle Book (1967)

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This is the original Disney version and based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling. In the story Mowgli is a man cub raised by wolves. Ten years pass by and when news of Shere Khan, the great tiger, has returned to the jungle they decide to send Mowgli back to the Man village. Bagheera, the panther, tries to take him back but they get interuppted by Kaa, the snake who tries to eat him, and Baloo a slothy bear who discourages Mowgli from returning to the world of men. Mowgli meets other crazy charcters such as King Louie the Orangutan, Colonel Hathi the Elephant, and a group of Vultures who act like The Beatles.

Best Monkey Scene: I Wanna Be Like You

So I know you might be questioning why I choose this moment as my number one. Well when I think of Monkeys this is the first thing that always pop in my head. It is one of the best songs in the film, and a whole lot of fun.

So the scene, for those who don’t know, comes in the middle of the film. Mowgli has been captured by King Louie the Orangutan who wants Mowgli to teach him to be like humans, how to create fire. Baloo comes in and sings along to the bopping song, saving Mowgli as well.

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So that ends this year’s countdown. I hope you all have a great 2016.

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For the 2013 list, go to Snakes on a Post

For the 2014 post, go to A Horse’s Tale

For the 2015 post, go to Well I Feel Sheepish

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For more holiday posts, go to To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

For more Disney posts, go to I’d Lay Down My Life for You: Pocahontas (1995)

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The Perfect Murder: Dial “M” for Murder (1954)

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Do you really believe in the perfect murder? Mmm, yes, absolutely.

So after years of his absence from my Horrorfest countdowns, I have finally included Alfred Hitchcock in not one, not two, but three posts.

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Alfred Hitchcock is my favorite director. He was influential in creating new ways of filming psychological thrillers, he is often credited for creating the true horror genre/slasher film with Psycho (1960), and was just a pure cinematic genius. He is just amazing.

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Dial “M” For Murder is one of his highly known films (although not as known as Vertigo or Psycho). It has been referenced or parodied in countless films and TV shows. In the ’90s they even remade the film under the title A Perfect Murder. It starred Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Viggo Mortenson; but it wasn’t nearly as good.

MeanGirls I know right!

This film also started Hitchcock’s filming relationship with Grace Kelly. This film was crucial in her career as it made her stand out not only to Alfred Hitchcock but other directors as well, a huge step to becoming a permanent leading lady. After this film she starred in Hitchcock’s Rear Window and To Catch a Thief. Hitchcock was impressed with her ideas and thoughts on the script in how a woman would act (especially regarding clothing), that after this film he allowed her to make all her own wardrobe decisions. She, like Audrey Hepburn,  quickly became known for her style and class. But that wasn’t the only thing that Hitchcock found attractive, he really liked her and fell for her; but she wouldn’t give him the time of day, (romantically that is). (For more information on Hitchcock and his leading ladies, I strongly suggest the book Spellbound by Beauty by Donald Spoto. It’s an amazing read!) And sadly she had to retire from acting at an early age as she married the Prince of Monaco. However short a career, it was an amazing one.

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This film also reunited Hitchcock and Robert Cummings, who had starred in an earlier film, Saboteur (1942).  In this film Cummings plays an important role, but a smaller one than his earlier collaboration.

This film is also the only Hitchcock film to ever be shot in 3-D. In the 1950s, 3-D was super popular, so popular that some people came up with the idea of Smell-O-Vision to beat it (I’m serious!). Hitchcock didn’t want to shoot in 3-D, but until the late 1960s, studios had a lot more pull and Warner Bros. wanted it. Hitchcock obliged, although it did cause a few issues for him as he had to rework his known style to incorporate what 3-D was able to accomplish at the time.

So the film is based on the play of the same name Frederick Knott, and he also helped write the screenplay. It is set in England and as  you can guess from the poster, the phone plays a huge role in this film as well. That really seems to be a theme this month. I swear that wasn’t planned.

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Oops!

Well here we go!

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So before I start the film, let me give you the background on the characters. Now as you watch the film things are revealed to you, but it’s easier for me to give them at the start.

So we have a couple, Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) and his wife Margot (Grace Kelly). Tony was a huge tennis star and met Margot when he was competing. She comes from a very wealthy family. The two were married and Margot convinced him to give up competing as she didn’t like him being away. He complied and now sells sports equipment. However, as he no longer is the dashing tennis star, she lost interest in him and had an affair with Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings) an American Crime writer.

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As the film starts out we have Margot and Mark in a very cozy embrace.

BMW Kiss

“Margot Mary Wendice: Let me get you another drink. Mark, before Tony comes I ought to explain something.

Mark Halliday: Yes, I’ve been waiting for that.

Margot Mary Wendice: I haven’t told him anything about us.”

Margot tells Mark that she burned all his letters, except one. That one was stolen by a blackmailer who demanded payment, but he never picked up the money or returned the letter. She is worried that her husband will find out.

Mark has a completely different reaction to the news.

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He wants them to tell Tony all about the affair so that Margot can get a divorce and the two can marry. Margot doesn’t want to as “she feels bad” about hurting “Tony’s feelings”.

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Now I’m no expert, but if the person doesn’t want to break up the relationship, it seems to me that they want, to quote an old cliché, “have their cake and eat it too.” I think Margot likes the respectability of her marriage and doesn’t want the divorce scandel, but at the same time is heavily intrigued by Mark. And who can blame her? Robert Cummings is a looker.

Saboteur

Photo from Saboteur

That night Tony is introduced to Mark, him being Margot’s “friend”. The two discuss Mark’s profession.

Tony Wendice: How do you go about writing a detective story?

Mark Halliday: Well, you forget detection and concentrate on crime. Crime’s the thing. And then you imagine you’re going to steal something or murder somebody.

Tony Wendice: Oh, is that how you do it? It’s interesting.

Mark Halliday: Yes, I usually put myself in the criminal’s shoes and then I keep asking myself, uh, what do I do next?

Margot Mary Wendice: Do you really believe in the perfect murder?

Mark Halliday: Mmm, yes, absolutely. On paper, that is. And I think I could, uh, plan one better than most people; but I doubt if I could carry it out.

Tony Wendice: Oh? Why not?

Mark Halliday: Well, because in stories things usually turn out the way the author wants them to; and in real life they don’t… always.

Tony Wendice: Hmm.

Mark Halliday: No, I’m afraid my murders would be something like my bridge: I’d make some stupid mistake and never realize it until I found everybody was looking at me.”

Tony invites Mark to join him for a tennis party, and Mark agrees. Its all men, so Margot will be staying home. After a bit more pleasantries Margot and Mark leave to go out “as friends” to a theatre show that Tony didn’t want to see, while Tony stays home to “work” on some stuff.

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After they leave, he calls up an old friend. Swann (going by the name Captain Lesgate) from his old Cambridge days. He brings him there under false pretenses of wanting to purchase a vehicle from him. He then tells Swann that he wants him to murder his wife.

Say What

“Tony Wendice: One thousand pounds in cash.

C.A. Swann: For a murder?

Tony Wendice: For a few minutes work, that’s all it is. And no risk, I guarantee.”

Tony then goes on to tell Swann a story.

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Tony only married Margot for her money, and it really injures his pride to see her cheating on him and tossing him over like an old shoe. He followed her one day and discovered the affair.

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He wanted to kill Mark.

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He then moved to the idea of murdering his wife. But things changed…

“Tony Wendice: It’s funny to think that just a year ago, I sat in that Knightsbridge Pub actually planning to murder her. And I might have done it, if I hadn’t seen something that changed my mind.

C.A. Swann: Well? What did you see?

Tony Wendice: I saw you.”

Back in the day, Swann was always getting into trouble for all kinds of stuff, and it struck Tony that he could commit the perfect murder. He then began extensive planning. He has been collecting £1000 over the year, under the guise of racetrack betting, etc.; compiling the money for such a purpose.

He even went to great lengths to get one of the letters from Mark and pretended to blackmail her. With Mark back in town he has set up the whole scenario on how to murder her even planning to use Mark as an alibi, as being the husband he will be the first suspect. All he needs is someone to do it for him. He has a lot of information on Swann’s background (as he has been tracking him) and uses it to blackmail him into completing his murderous plot. And he has to do it tomorrow.

He reveals his perfect plan.

“Tony Wendice: At exactly three minutes to eleven, you’ll enter the house through the street door. You’ll find the key to this door under the stair carpet here.

C.A. Swann: The fifth step?

Tony Wendice: That’s the one. Go straight to the window, and hide behind the curtains. At exactly eleven o’clock, I shall go to the telephone in the hotel to call my boss. I shall dial the wrong number. This number. That’s all I shall do.”

His wife will answer the phone, and then Swann can strangle her and leave through the french windows.

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Swann agrees to the plot as he feels he has no other choice in the matter. Tony is estatic as everything seems to be going along perfectly.

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But then things start falling apart. Margot doesn’t want to stay home. She is thinking of going out to dinner and seeing a movie. Mark thinks it’s a great idea but Tony convinces her to stay home.

“Margot Mary Wendice: Don’t make me stay home. You know how I hate doing nothing.

Tony Wendice: Doing nothing? Why there are hundreds of things you can do. Have you written to Peggy, thanking her for the weekend? And what about those clippings? It’s an ideal opportunity.

Margot Mary Wendice: Well I like that. You two go gallivanting while I stay home and do those boring clippings.”

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Before Tony leaves, he stills Margot’s key from her bag and puts it in the marked hiding place. Keeping his key in his pocket, he and Mark leave for the party.

Back at the home, Margot has been working hard on her scrapbooking. She eventually goes to bed, putting everything away…at least almost everything. She actually forgets the scissors and leaves them by the phone.

That night everything starts being put into motion. Swann enters the place the same way that Tony planned it out. He leaves the key under the stair and hides behind the curtains waiting for the phone.

However, back at the party, things aren’t quite going as planned.

Stupid, stupid

Stupid, stupid

Tony’s watch stops and he has to ask for the time, finding out that it is actually past 11:00.

What!

He hurries to the pay phone and makes the call, hoping that everything else goes accordingly. Margot gets up to answer the phone. As she is talking, Swann reaches out to strangle her.

dial-m for murder strangle grace kelly

But instead of overpowering her like he’s supposed to, Margot ends up getting him. As the two are struggling, she reaches for something…anything to stop him. She ends up grabbing the scissors and stabbing him with them, completely killing him.

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Margot is a mess and is freakin’ out. I can’t blame her, someone is trying to murder you and you kill them.

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Tony tells her to touch nothing and wait for him. He’s on his way over.

As he heads over Tony freaks out. His plans have failed. But then something comes to him. A new plan, a way to fix things.

Its-so-crazy it just mightwork

He decides to make it look like Swann was blackmailing Margot and that she murdered him rather than self-defense. He calls the police and sends Margot to bed. He then plants Mark’s letter in Swann’s coat, takes the key and puts it back in Margot’s handbag, and burns the scarf that Swann was going to use, replacing it with Margot’s stocking. He then tells Margot to make sure she doesn’t tell the police that he told her not to call the police. He’s worried how it might make her look. However, Tony is plotting very well, and the police begin to strongly suspect her.

Everyone's a suspect!

Hmm…

The police figure out that Swann did not come through the French Windows. He must have come through the hall, as it rained the night before. If he had come through the garden there would be muddy footprints. Inspector Hubbard (John Williams) strongly suspects Margot and believes her to be the killer. We cut to a scene showing Margot on trial amd sentenced to be hanged.

perfect plan

Except thing are not quite perfect.  There are quite a few things Tony didn’t plan. One of which was getting rid of the money. As Tony mentioned, he’s been drawing a lot of money out of his bank every week, pretending to spend it on racehorses. He had planned to give it to Swann, but now is at a loss. He can’t put it back in the bank as there would be too many questions. He can’t keep it, if the police find it, it’s all over for him.

I don't know what to do

So he tries to spend it all. Unbeknowest to him, the police are watching him very carefully. And they notice this.

Months later, on the night before Margot’s execution,  Mark comes to speak to Tony. He tells him that instead of letting Margot die, he should say that he tried to murder her. That he hired Swann. This will give him some jail time but save Margot’s life. Tony does not want to do that.

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Inspector Hubbard comes back to the flat to question Tony some more about the money he’s been spending. Mark hears this and starts searching, finding the briefcase full of money.

What!

Tony thinks of a lie quickly and says that this was the money Margot had to give to Swann, but then changed her mind and killed him. The Inspector listens and takes his comment as fact…or does he?

Everyone's a suspect!

Hmm…

Now, if Tony was really smart he would have made up a different lie. I would have said that I realized there was nothing between me and Margot and was planning on leaving her. However, I knew that I wouldn’t get much money in the divorce (he signed a prenup), so I’ve been taking some money out, bit by bit. When the murder happened, I knew it would come to light and was afraid that it might put me in a bad light or under suspicion. I mean its not the perfect excuse, but at least it shows he wasn’t going to kill her as why remove money when he was planning on getting it all. But he doesn’t think that way.

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This makes the inspector highly suspicious of Tony and he steals the key from Margot’s purse, intent on sneaking in and investigating.

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Hold on, that is illegal. He doesn’t have a search warrant or permission to be searching the house. Anything he finds will be immaterial and thrown out of court. I looked it up and  this is what it said:

By the laws of England, every invasion of private property, be it ever so minute, is a trespass.No man can set his foot upon my ground without my license, but he is liable to an action, though the damage be nothing; which is proved by every declaration in trespass, where the defendant is called upon to answer for bruising the grass and even treading upon the soil. If he admits the fact, he is bound to show by way of justification, that some positive law has empowered or excused him. The justification is submitted to the judges, who are to look into the books; and if such a justification can be maintained by the text of the statute law, or by the principles of common law. If no excuse can be found or produced, the silence of the books is an authority against the defendant, and the plaintiff must have judgment.

So technically, anything he finds can not be used in a court of law. That’s it, Tony is allowed to go free.

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But of course this is a movie, and things go differently. Inspector Hubble discovers that the key in the purse does not work on the front door. He instead finds it under the stair carpet. This gives him the great idea of creating a little trick to discover if Tony is the true killer.

John Williams (Chief Inspector Hubbard) Dial M for Murder (1954)

The Inspector visits Tony and steals his raincoat, leaving his own, therefore taking Tony’s key. He calls the station and asks them to release Margot. She immediately returns home, but finds out that her key won’t work. Hubbard watches her and discovers that she does not know the key is under the stairs. The Inspector let’s her in and gets a policeman to take the bag back to the station. They then begin to wait for Tony.

perfect plan

Tony comes home from his errands and finds that he can’t get inside. His coat belongs to Inspector Hubble and he has the wrong key. When Tony discovers his key doesn’t fit, he goes down to the station to get Margot’s bag. When that key doesn’t fit, he looks under under the stairs and finds the key, giving himself away.

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Tony enters and figures out they caught him. Being the gentleman he is, he doesn’t fight them. He knows when he has been defeated.

Tony Wendice: [pouring a drink] As you said Mark, it might work out on paper, but congratulations, Inspector. Oh, by the way… How about you, Margot?

Margot Mary Wendice: Yes, I could do with something.

Tony Wendice: Mark?

Mark Halliday: So could I.

Tony Wendice: I suppose you’re still on duty, Inspector.

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It;s a great movie, despite the small legality issue, but otherwise an amazing film. I definitely recommend it.

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To start Horrorfest III from the beginning, go to Even a Man Pure of Heart

For the previous post, go to What Have We Done to Each Other?

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For more on Dial “M” for Murder, go to Part X: The Movie List That Would Not Die

For more on Alfred Hitchcock, go to The Past of a Man

For more on blackmail, go to Secrets are Great, Unless You Get Caught

For more films based on a play, go to Murder is My Favorite Crime