July 5th, 2009

ROPE (1948) ****

Two smarmy privileged asswipes (John Dall and Farley Granger) murder a schoolmate that they deem as “inferior” by strangling him with the Rope of the title.  They then stash the body in an old chest and invite the dead guy’s father and girlfriend over for a cocktail party.  The two murderers even serve finger sandwiches on top of the chest just to be showy.  No one suspects that the guy’s body is in there until the duo’s professor (Jimmy Stewart) gets wind of their scheme and tries to unravel the mystery.


Rope is one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s all time best flicks.  What I dug most about his direction in this film is that his attitude behind the camera was just as brash and cocksure as the two main characters.  First off, the flick is filmed in “real time”.  Hitch has a field day with this gimmick and builds up the suspense in manner that’s just as devilish as our anti-heroes.  Secondly, The Master filmed Rope in several unbroken continuous camera takes (some are noticeable if you look hard enough).  Since the film was based on a play, this technique helps to reinforce the stage dynamic of the material and seeps the flick in claustrophobic dread.  Finally, Rope is notable for being Hitchcock’s first film in color.  The rich hues really enhance the suspense and makes the proceedings that much more realistic.


Stewart is really awesome here in his first Hitchcock film.  Apparently he didn’t like his performance or the movie because he felt he was cast against type, but I thought he did a Hell of a job.  I particularly liked the way he tongue-in-cheekily encouraged the murder of “inferior” people, much to Dall’s approval.  Dall by the way is equally stellar and can play a smug prick like it’s nobody’s business.  Granger has the thankless job of playing the sweaty accomplice who always tenses up whenever he feels like he’s being interrogated and/or someone gets too close to the corpse.  That’s OK because he and Dall are great together, especially whenever they bicker about the body.


Everyone always mentions in their review of Rope about how it was based on the infamous Leopold and Loeb case.  (You know the one where the two gay guys killed someone and it was shocking because they were the first gay murderers or something.)  This is the part in my review where I mention that.


I don’t really care about that stuff though.  What I find more interesting is the fact that Hume Cronyn wrote the screenplay.  I guess he’s most famous for being one of the old dudes in Cocoon, but he also acted in Hitchock’s Shadow of a Doubt and Lifeboat too.  He also wrote Hitch’s next pic, Under Capricorn as well.


Rope is Number 2 on The Video Vacuum Top Ten List for the Year 1948; located below Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and above Red River.