My Review of ‘Rope’ (1948)

This film is a taught 80-minute study of two twisted minds at work. Well, three—counting the director. 🙂

Two young men lure a friend to their Manhattan apartment, where they proceed to strangle him to death. Then, dump him in a chest. Which they drape with a tablecloth and use to serve food for a nice, cozy get-together they have afterward.

And everyone at this a gay fete (no pun intended) (and, yes, film critics have made much of the homosexual subtext between the two killers) knew the victim by virtue of blood relation, friendship or marriage engagement. So, naturally, there is building discussion about why he hasn’t made an appearance, etc.

While one of the young men, Brandon (played by John Dall) seems to get a slightly nervous charge out of this game he and Phillip (played by Farley Granger) have devised, Phillip becomes increasingly unhinged and starts drinking like a fish too much.

Jimmy Stewart plays their old prep school housemaster and publisher Rupert Cadell, who’s not only the odd man out at this weird party, but apparently sparked the idea for committing “the perfect murder” when he discussed his theories about Nietzsche and the “art of murder” with the deadly duo back in the day. Brandon imagines that, of all the invitees, Cadell should most appreciate what he calls their “work of art”.

Hitchcock’s use of a confined space adds a claustrophobic touch to the film, despite the panoramic view through a long line of windows. The movie unfolds in real time and the background vista changes colors as the sun sets. Even as one watches the players interact, one’s eye is drawn to the ever-changing skyline which looks artificial and painted, as if to wink at the audience and say, “Don’t worry. It’s just a movie.”

The film is also structured through a series of long shots made to appear as if the movie were done in one take. Hitchcock managed this by focusing on someone’s back, cutting the shots together there, and moving on. It’s not only a tension-filled device, but an inspired (if ever-so-slightly clunky) feet of technical wizardry.

However, for all its artifice, this movie was inspired by real-life events: none other than the Leopold and Loeb murders. Now, that’s scary!

The combination of the Hitchcock touch (complete with his characteristic dark humour) and the sheer technical mastery in making this film makes it a winner in my book!

Respectfully submitted today, as part of The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon, hosted at Maddylovesherclassicfilms! 🙂

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This entry was posted in Blogathan, Crime Movies, Film Noir, Hitchcock, Movie Reviews, Psychological Thrillers and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to My Review of ‘Rope’ (1948)

  1. Such a brilliant film from the Master of Suspense – thanks for your classic review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Day 1 – Maddylovesherclassicfilms

  3. Thanks Debbi. This is a classic and no mistake. It really keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s so macabre and suspenseful. I like the camera trickery that makes it appear as though it’s all one shot throughout. Great stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. dbmoviesblog says:

    Nice review. I am also doing this film for this blogathon. You are so right about this claustrophobic feel and even though the film is in one room, it never feels boring. My only concern is that I hoped the ending sequence will not be so lecturing, and there will be some more drama at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      That is a good point about the ending. It is a bit long-winded and preachy. But somehow I can forgive Hitch on that, because of the rest of the film! I’ll have to read your review.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jay says:

    “Phillip (played by Stewart Granger)”

    Farley Granger? ;

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Michael Eddy says:

    Not one of Hitchcock’s best. Basically a thin story (2 killers with God-complex deciding to do a random murder just to get away with it because they think they’re smarter than the room – in this case – literally as they hide the body in the midst of a social gathering at one of the killer’s apartments – based – as you said – on the notorious Leopold and Loeb murder of Bobby Franks in Chicago in the 20s). Even Hitchcock – in his interviews with Francois Trauffaut admitted that he was distracted by the attempt at doing the long takes (and trying to make them appear to all be done in a single take with some clever editing/camera work) to the detriment of the story. It probably would’ve worked better as a stage play rather than a movie – and even then – it would take a decided back seat to such plays turned films as DEATHTRAP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      It definitely comes across as a recorded stage play, but some reason, I found that an interesting stretch from the usual Hitchcock movie. But that’s just me. I guess. 🙂

      Like

  7. Michael Eddy says:

    Hey – every opinion is valid. Hitchcock is one of my 5 favorite directors of all time, but not every one of his films is a gem. For me, ROPE falls into the bottom third. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it before here, but I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Hitchcock on 2 occasions while I was in film school when he brought two of his movies to class and did a Q&A after each one. I not only got to ask him a question after seeing FRENZY (during his answer there was a moment when I thought I was going to get dizzy from the excitement of being in a room with him and having him looking at me while he told me why he placed his camera in a certain position to get a particular shot), but I got to shake his hand and he signed my copy of the Trauffaut book for me. One of my most treasured keepsakes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      Now, that is TOTALLY awesome!! 🙂

      Like

      • Michael Eddy says:

        It was. The first time, I was actually headed to class on campus – euphemistically called “Thursday Night At The Movies” and taught by film critic Arthur Knight. He bring a guest from a film which had not yet been released who would talk to the class about their career, then screen the film, and then follow up with a Q&A about the film. I was just about to enter the building when I recognized a voice behind me and turned to see Mr. Hitchcock with Mr. Knight. I held the door for them – ran like hell all the way back to my dorm room to retrieve my Truffaut book – ran all the way back – and winded – ran up to Mr. Hitchcock – who was seated on the aisle before the film began (he was going to talk on,y AFTERwards) and asked if he would sign my book. He did.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      Was Hitchcock the guest of honor or was he making a cameo appearance? 🙂 You know, I had to ask that!

      Like

      • Michael Eddy says:

        Of course you did (my favorite of all his movie cameos BTW was in LIFEBOAT). He was the one and only guest of honor each time – first with Frenzy and again with his final film – Family Plot.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      I love, love, love FRENZY! Especially the trailer, in which Hitchcock’s morbid sense of humor prevails. 🙂

      Like

      • Michael Eddy says:

        It’s been a while since I saw the trailer on this one – but I remember the movie quite well – and it was one of the best (IMO) of his latter films. It was also, I believe, his only film to feature nudity. He said back when he made PSYCHO in 1960 – he wanted Janet Leigh to be topless following her lunch liaison with her boyfriend (the scene that opens the film as the camera moves in through the slats of the window blinds) – but due to the restrictions of the day – the best he could do was to have Ms. Leigh in her bra. Even that, for the time, was considered risque.

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  8. Le says:

    I agree that Rope is a very good movie, and Hitchcock shows all his technical ability here.
    I’d like to dive further into the way the critics pointed the homosexual subtext so much that it basically became canon in Rope – although I believe there was no homosexual link between Leopold and Loeb.
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! 🙂
    Cheers!
    Le
    http://www.criticaretro.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael Eddy says:

      There was indeed a rumored homosexual link between Leopold and Loeb. Nothing that may have played out in real life – but the murder they committed was very much a matter of their having a superiority complex (even between the two of them), there was a sexual connotation to the crime – although nothing overt was done to the victim. There were many layers to the crime and subsequent trial – most of which Clarence Darrow tried to downplay – because his job was not to get them acquitted – it was evident they were guilty – one of the “geniuses” lost his eyeglasses at the burial spot and they were found and quickly traced back to them – but his job was to avoid the death penalty as he was a staunch anti-death penalty advocate. He was successful in that regard – as they were both given life sentences. One of them actually died in prison I believe – maybe at the hands of another inmate.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Debbi says:

      I will definitely check your review out! Thank you! 🙂

      Like

  9. This one is a winner in my books, too. There is a bit of clunkiness, as you pointed out, but the tension and the fascinating characters make it easy to overlook all that. Perfect casting here, especially John Dall’s smarmy charisma. I’ve got to see this again!

    Liked by 1 person

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