If you’re a fan of both Chinese movies and Alfred Hitchcock, you’ll have fun with Murayama Mitsuo’s remake of Dial M for Murder, A Cause to Kill. The 1969 Shaw Brothers release was remastered by Celestial Pictures in 2004.
Although Dial M is definitely middle of the pack in Hitchcock’s oeuvre, it seems to hold a fascination for Chinese filmmakers. Using Brigitte Lin as a worthy stand-in for Grace Kelly , Tsui Hark recreated Dial M’s killing scene in Web of Deception (which nods at several famous Hitchcock pictures).
Mitsuo, working under his Chinese alias, Mu Shih Chieh, takes a page from Hitchcock’s playbook and casts one of Shaw’s most popular heroines, Ling Bo, in the villain role—with the extra twist of a gender switch from the original. As a result, her character, a fading actress hoping for a comeback, is more engaging than Ray Milland’s arrogant tennis pro. Guan Shan takes Grace Kelly’s role as the unfaithful spouse marked for elimination, while Chiao Chiao is a definite improvement over the charisma-challenged Robert Cummings as the alienator of affection who helps solve the mystery and save the paramour. Chiao Chiao’s real-life husband at the time, Wang Zongxun, steps into the detective’s shoes.
The Shaw version is quite faithful to the original, down to the details of the latchkey driving the cliffhanger ending. Alfred Hitchcock found a way to break new cinematic ground with virtually every film he made. A Cause to Kill doesn’t aim so high; like most Shaw productions, it’s happy simply to entertain with big stars, competent direction, and high production values. Those alone would make the film worth watching, but the bonus of seeing a well-known Hitchcock work reimagined through an Asian sensibility makes A Cause to Kill a treat for cinephiles.