Rope (1948)

Rope (1948), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Two young men murder a friend just for the thrill of it and serve a banquet on his coffin. They've invited his parents and fiancée, but should have omitted their former professor, who has an eye for weakness and a talent for picking up clues.

Hitchcock puts us with the murderers, much to our discomfort. They know about the body and we know about the body. Will it be discovered by the others? By a physical clue, or by some slip, or by a guilty desire to confess? Do we want it found?

We're not used to seeing James Stewart as a sarcastic, amoral intellectual, and the role works best for him when he begins to suspect the horrible truth. He speaks freely of murder and the superior killing the inferior, but when faced with the reality he starts to crack and struggles to do what needs to be done.

Smug, witty John Dall is great as the one you want to slap. Farley Granger plays the weaker of the pair; just as well.

Even during the Code years it is obvious the two are lovers. The murder is a sex scene: the way they gasp and struggle, keep the curtains drawn and smoke a cigarette after:


Don't... not just yet... let's stay this way for a minute... pity we couldn't have done it with the curtains open in the bright sunlight... we did do it in daytime...

Although the camera moves around, it is filmed like a stage play and the actors project as if they were on stage. The dialogue suffers from some playwright-speak. This is not the most interesting form of motion picture, but maybe it makes sense in this case. The killers have staged their murder as an art piece and invited an audience. The editing gimmick that makes the film seem like one long cut makes us feel like we are there.

We get to see extra bits of the apartment, but the camera never turns in the audience direction. There is supposed to be a wall right behind the chest-coffin but it is usually invisible.

The evening cityscape and sunset through the window is an odd touch. We know it is a stage effect, but as is often the case with Hitchcock, he expects us not to mind.

Did you get the reference to Notorious (1946)? That movie called "just something" with Grant and Bergman.

Inspired by the case of Leopold and Loeb. Clarence Darrow defended them to save them from the death penalty, and succeeded in that. He argued they had been taught the amoral philosophy of Nietzsche at school and were not responsible for their acts. One was murdered in prison, the other paroled years later.

Available on Blu-ray. The technicolor registration looks off to me, more in some reels than others.