IMDB #203 Rope

Today Alfred Hitchcock makes the first of approximately eight thousand appearances on the countdown with 1948's Rope. Based on Patrick Hamilton's 1928 play, Rope was inspired the real-life case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two brilliant University of Chicago students that sought to commit the "perfect crime."

It starts with a muffled shriek, and ends with a gun fired into the air. In between...cold cuts and champagne! Let's do this.

The Key Players:

It would take a while to list all of theHitchcock films that we'll get to- though oddly the classic The Birds is not among them. Clearly a profound influence on film, Hitch went 0 for 6 in the Best Director Oscar category, though they gave him a Thalberg eventually.

Pretty sure we've seen Jimmy Stewart before.

John Dall we've already met many years (and pounds) later in his life as Glabrus in Spartacus, and Farley Granger will appear with Hitchcock in the future with Strangers On A Train

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The Story:

After the credits (remember when the credits used to all be in front of the film instead of the end? How did people stay awake you guys?), we hear a shriek and then see Dall and Granger finish strangling a man and then stuff the body in a large book chest.

After a breathless few moments that are a clear analogy to a post-coital state, they begin to plan for their upcoming dinner party. The man they killed was David Kentley, whom they considered an inferior being- they decided to commit the perfect murder by strangling him and then hiding his body during a party that includes his parents, his fiancee, and his former best friend.

The nerve! They've also invited their former schoolmaster (Stewart), an intellectual who had taught them Nietzsche's concept of the superman- a superior being unbound by the concepts of right and wrong.

Dall, clearly the more dominant of the muderers, is thrilled and bemused to have pulled it off- he makes several ironic remarks about the victim's abscence, although it worries the rest of the guests. Granger slowly unravels as the night continues, wrought with worry and guilt.

After a few obvious clues, it's clear that Stewart is going to figure it out. But will he approve of the supposed intellectual exercise?

The Artistry:

Rope is shot in an interesting way- in only ten long shots, the camera dancing around the actors and removable scenery like a guest itself. Half of the cuts are disguised by closeups into someone's back, making the film look like five uninterrupted takes. It's fun to watch, and the premise holds up reasonably well for the brisk 77 minute run-time.

Dall's performance sells the film for me- he moves from threatening to charming at will, and his chemistry with Stewart is fascinating. Stewart doesn't show up until 27 minutes into the story, but he takes over once he does, with wry humor and obvious glances at the book chest and Granger's nervous pallour.

It's surprising that the relationship at the film's center made it past the Hayes Code: not a lot of men shared apartments onscreen in 1948. Apparently there are even more undertones between them and the schoolmaster in the play.


After the guests become frantic over their son/fiancee/friend's failure to appear or call, they all decide to leave. The housekeeper accidentally hands Stewart a hat with the dead man's initial monnogrammed on the inside on his way out- he returns a brief time later, pretending to have forgotten his cigarette case.

After some meaningful questions, he finally opens the chest and is horrified. He's also deeply ashamed that his own idle rhetoric led Dall and Granger to the murder. He takes Dall's gun and fires shots out the window- we hear startled neighbors shout in alarm, and sirens approach as the three men stand grimly by.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

I think it's fine enough where it is- the way it's staged is memorable for such a director and star. These days it's all Tony Scott cutting every thirty seconds until we get epileptic tremors.

The Legacy:

No awards, no AFI inclusion- it's arugably the least-lauded classic film we've seen so far.

But it stands as one of the gutsiest experiments in Hollywood history.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

A scene near the end, when Dall and Granger realize Stewart is coming back. It was either this or an entire ten-minute chunk, as several people have put the whole thing on there in pieces.

Leftover Thoughts:

-There's apparently a Hitchcock cameo in caricature in the background, but I didn't notice.

-The background itself is a full on miniature replica of the Manhattan skyline, complete with working chimneys.

-Maybe it's for tension, or just to fit into the shot, but a lot of people stand awkwardly close to one another while talking in Rope.

-Make sure to check out the trailer up there, it's a trip- there's a prequel scene not in the film, and then Stewart talks to us as his character.

Coming Up...

202. Duck Soup

201. The African Queen

200. Brief Encounter

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