I have made it a mission to see more Hitchcock films than I have before. I started recently with Lifeboat, and today I watched a 1948 film called Rope, starring James Stewart. According to EYG Hall of Famer Roger Ebert’s review, Hitchcock called Rope “an experiment that didn’t work,” but I would have to disagree with the master. I found Rope thrilling and completely engaging.
Based on a play inspired by the Leopold-Loeb murder case, Rope began with the strangulation murder of a college student David (Dick Hogan) by two of his classmates, Phillip (Farley Granger) and Brandon (John Dall), who considered themselves “superior” to most people, giving them a right to commit murder.
After the crime is committed, Brandon and Phillip hid the body inside a wooden box in their apartment and prepare for a party they were having, a party with guests including David’s father (Cedric Hardwicke), his girlfriend (Joan Chandler) and their college professor Rupert Cadell (James Stewart).
Brandon and Phillip take different paths. Brandon becoming cocky and confident and Phillip slowly unwinding because of the combination of guilt and alcohol. All the while, Rupert was beginning to suspect.
I loved this film. It was short, but concise and filled with tension. The fact that the body was right there in the room as the conversations were going on continued to hype the tension of each scene, especially as Phillip continually slipped downhill.
The film depended on the dialogue very much and it was tremendously written. The dialogue truly informed on the characters as we saw Brandon becoming more brazen and Rupert becoming more curious. Brandon even laid out his motive during a dinner discussion about how the superior people can do what they want to the intellectually inferior people, an idea they mistakenly picked up from Rupert.
This also felt very much like a staged theater play, and the few cuts that were used by Hitchcock truly increased that feel. Hitchcock would film continuously until the reel (which would be about 10 minutes) ran out. He would then use a camera trick to make it seem as if they were filming with one continuous take. The filming technique was very effective and creates a tone of the production much like that of a stage play.
Hitchcock may not have been a fan of this film, but I certainly enjoyed it. This was again mentioned by John Rocha, this time on a Collider Mailbag show. Rocha was also the reason why I tried out Lifeboat when he mentioned it on the Top 10 Show.