on May 18, 2004
"Rope" debuted in theaters in August of 1948, and represented the first movie shot in COLOR by Director Alfred Hitchcock.
James Stewart, Farley Granger, and John Dall are the stars here, with Stewart (as always) giving a flawless, effortless-looking performance. I really liked all the character portrayals in this film. Murderers Granger and Dall exhibit just the right mix of "Will we get caught?" angst and the cockiness and sheer gall of those that murder simply for the sport of it.
Although not one of the "higher profile" Alfred Hitchcock entries, I think "Rope" is, in fact, one of his better films. It's certainly unique, style-wise, being filmed in ten-minute, continuous takes, giving it a "seamless" uninterrupted look.
There has been much talk about the supposed "homosexual overtones" between the two murderers in "Rope". Now while I know this to be the director's intention, if I hadn't read about it after seeing the movie, I would never have thought those two male characters were supposed to be homosexual. In my view, *nothing* that is said or done in the film particularly points to this conclusion. I suppose it's designed to be there, but "just beneath the surface". But, I looked at the two killers as merely being close friends. I don't really know why the sexual orientation subject even has to enter into it. And, really, it *doesn't*.
"Rope" is unique in another fashion as well -- Hitchcock's "cameo". Unique because we get not one, but TWO, "Hitch" cameos in this picture. Right after the opening credits, we see Alfred walking on the sidewalk below. With cameo appearance #2 (which was originally intended to be his lone cameo) coming 55 minutes into the fairly-short 80-minute film. This second cameo is not of Hitchcock "in the flesh". Instead, the director inserted the image of a flashing neon sign outside one of the windows of the apartment. This sign depicts the famous Hitchcock "profile". A very inventive cameo indeed (rivaling his "newspaper" appearance in "Lifeboat" for the most creative, IMO).
As with a much-later Hitchcock picture, "The Birds", "Rope" has no music score to aid the story and move it along (save the opening theme music and the piano-playing of Farley Granger's character). An entire movie void of music is something that I don't imagine too many directors could pull off. But Hitchcock, in "Rope" and "The Birds" (which was fifteen years later), did it quite successfully.
This Universal single-disc DVD offers up a fine-looking and very clear Full Frame picture (1.33:1 aspect ratio). Colors do look a tad dated, though. But, overall, "Rope" looks excellent here! The soundtrack on the disc is in Mono (Dolby Digital 2.0).
The disc's Menu system is simplistic and easy to use (which is OK by me). When the Main Menu is on screen, the theme from Hitch's TV series, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", plays. This is nice, but I wonder why they didn't use the "Rope" opening theme music for the Menu?
Although not officially labelled as one of Universal's "Collector's Editions", this "Rope" DVD could very well have been so designated. This disc has very nearly as many Special Features as the other Hitchcock "Collector's" packages. Here's a gander at the "Rope" bonus supplements .................
>> A 32-minute documentary, "Rope Unleashed", covering the making of this motion picture. Included here is an interview with actor/writer Hume Cronyn, who collaborated on the "Rope" screenplay. Sadly, not too very long after filming the interview for this DVD, Mr. Cronyn passed away, in June 2003. Many backstage pictures are mixed in with the interview segments, including some eye-opening pics of the color camera equipment of the era. Color cameras during those days were more than "bulky" -- those babies were humongous! And via some still photos we can see just how cumbersome those cameras were, circa 1948.
>> The Original Theatrical Trailer for "Rope". -- I absolutely love this unique trailer. It really (in a way) serves as a "deleted scene" from the movie. And shows us the film's murder victim ("David Kentley") before he falls prey to his killers' rope. The trailer has David (played by Dick Hogan) and his fiancee, Janet (Joan Chandler), sitting on a park bench, talking about their upcoming engagement. It's just a short scene, but sets up some of the plot points very nicely in just a few seconds. After David kisses his betrothed and leaves the park, this becomes more of a "conventional" trailer, with star Jimmy Stewart appearing on camera to narrate. Video quality for this color trailer is a bit splotchy and blurry in places, but still certainly in watchable condition. I think the introduction of the murder victim in this "added" scene was a very clever idea by the filmmakers. Trailer length = 2:25.
>> A very nice Photo Gallery (which has many behind-the-camera images).
>> Some text screens with film notes and cast bios. (There's a kind of funny little mistake in the DVD's bio of John Dall. Dall's character is referred to as "Shaw Brandon" on the text screen, instead of the correct name, "Brandon Shaw".)
Alfred Hitchcock directed more than 50 films -- with "Rope", his first venture into the world of "Technicolor", resting among my personal "Top 10 Hitch Flicks". This Universal Home Video DVD comes recommended by this Hitchcock enthusiast.
The scariest kind of murder is not the murder of passion, or even cold-blooded greed -- it's the murder that is committed for its own sake.
And such a murder is the center of "Rope," one of Alfred Hitchcock's more experimental movies. Based on the real-life murder committed by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, nearly the entire movie takes place in real time in a single room. Most impressively, there are only a few cuts, allowing the camera to wander through the story as if an invisible man was observing everything.
The story begins with murder -- a young man named David is strangled by his former classmates, law students Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger). Then they stuff his corpse in a big wooden chest. Brandon wants to commit the "perfect" murder that proves their intellectual superiority, and as superior beings they are exempt from the morals that govern society -- an idea he got from his former teacher, Rupert (James Stewart).
They plan to dump the body in a lake later that evening, but first Brandon wants to put the final perverse "artistic" flourish -- he's going to host a dinner party, with the corpse-containing chest used as a buffet. Even worse, the guests include David's father and aunt, Rupert, David's fiancee, Janet Walker (Joan Chandler) and her ex-boyfriend Kenneth (Douglas Dick).
But as the evening goes on, the guests begin to worry when David doesn't show up, and Rupert begins to suspect that something weird is going on. An increasingly hysterical Phillip begins to unravel out of fear that their "artistic" murder will be found out, and a confrontation between the three men becomes inevitable.
Reportedly Alfred Hitchcock was not entirely satisfied with "Rope," considering it an experiment that didn't quite succeed. Frankly, I find it a fascinating piece of work, both artistically and thematically -- how often do you see a movie where the camera simply pans quietly through the room, focusing on different people and conversations as it goes? And yes, it's in real time.
In fact, at some points it stops feeling like a MOVIE, and more like you're an invisible person standing in the room observing everything silently. Or perhaps, since it takes place mostly in one room, it's more like watching a play where you can wander onstage among the actors.
It's also rather experimental in its chilling theme. Most people have expressed some sort of radical, cruel views in the past, but here Hitchcock asks what would happen if someone actually took those views to heart? And the scariest part is this is based in reality -- Leopold and Loeb truly believed themselves to be Übermenschen.
So Hitchcock amps up the suspense and horror as the unwitting people circle around the corpse, eating food from atop his unofficial coffin and worrying about his absence. One of the most intense scenes is Rupert casually discussing how he supports murder of "inferior" people... and the whole time, you're acutely aware that his students have actually put this into practice. It leads to a beautifully harrowing scene when Rupert realizes the monsters he has helped create through his own careless insensitivity.
It also has main characters that you can't really feel any sympathy for. Brandon is one of the most repulsive characters you could ever find -- a cheery, casual psychopath who toys with David's loved ones for his own sadistic amusement. Phillip, on the other hand, is a neurotic wimp who is too weak to say "no" to his boyfriend, even about murder. Grange and Dahl are absolutely amazing in their roles, and they really elicit your loathing for the characters they play.
However, there is one flaw: James Stewart. Stewart was one of the greatest actors in Hollywood, but here he's woefully miscast -- he seems uncomfortable with playing a casually cruel academic who doesn't seem to "get" the implications of his theories, so often Rupert sounds like he's joking when he isn't. Stewart is brilliant when he turns on the intensity, but he doesn't do it often enough.
It's a sharp deviation from Hitchcock's "typical" style, but "Rope is a horrifyingly effective experience anyway -- chilling, odd and strangely "real." The only problem is Stewart's casting.
on April 20, 2007
"Rope", a film based on a play and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is a well-made thriller that entertains the spectator, but that is far from being perfect.
I must say that the story is original, and that the beginning is quite shocking. The two main characters are Brandon and Philip (John Dall and Farley Granger), two young men that commit a crime just to see if they can get away with murder. As if killing another man weren't enough, they decide to tempt fate, hiding the body in a trunk, where it could easily be discovered, and inviting some people to dinner. Their guests include, among others, the victim's parents, his girlfriend and an old schoolteacher that gets increasingly suspicious regarding Brandon and Philip's actions. The schoolteacher (James Stewart) doesn't know exactly what they did, but is certain that something is wrong, very wrong. And of course, he cannot understand why Philip keeps looking at the trunk that is used as a buffet table...
On the whole, I can say that I liked "Rope", even though I wouldn't be overly eager to watch it again. From my point of view, you will also enjoy this whodunnit, specially if you are fond of Hitchcock movies, and don't mind the fact that albeit good, this is not one of his best films.
PS: I give "Rope" 3.5 stars...
on July 14, 2004
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Studio: Universal Studios
Video Release Date: May 23, 1995
James Stewart ... Rupert Cadell
John Dall ... Brandon Shaw
Farley Granger ... Phillip Morgan
Cedric Hardwicke ... Mr. Kentley
Constance Collier ... Mrs. Atwater
Douglas Dick ... Kenneth Lawrence
Edith Evanson ... Mrs. Wilson
Dick Hogan ... David Kentley
Joan Chandler ... Janet Walker
Alfred Hitchcock ... Man walking in street after opening credits
The Three Suns ... Group cast appearance (radio sequence)
Two young men decide to kill a friend for kicks. ala Leopold and Loeb, because one of them, Brandon Shaw (John Dall) thinks he is a superior human being, and above the rules, and the victim is inferior and therefore fair game. He quotes a former professor, Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) who has verbalized such a proposition in class.
They do, indeed, strangle the other young man, David Kentley (Dick Hogan), place his body in a trunk, and then throw a party to which they invite Bentley's parents, his girl friend, Prof. Cadell and others, and serve food and drinks from the trunk in which the body lies. Cadell, a bright man, realizes that something funny is going on and investigates.
This is an entertaining movie. Hitchcock. the director, admitted that he made the film on a lark, and that it was not a serious endeavor, but given his genius it came out very well anyway. It rates 4 stars with me, at least.
Joseph (Joe) Pierre
author of Handguns and Freedom...their care and maintenance
and other books
Two pompous young men (John Dall, Farley Granger) commit a murder just for the thrill and satisfaction of pulling off the perfect crime. They hide the body in their living room and then host a cocktail party as if nothing happened. But one guest, their old prep school house master (James Stewart), is suspicious right from the start.
Hitchcock wanted to experiment in filming longer takes, up to ten minutes long, rather than the typical take of just a few seconds. It makes the movie look like a staged play, with the story taking place in just one room, no action, and a lot of talking. James Stewart goes against his usual nice-guy persona to play a cynical and sarcastic man who thinks he knows more than everyone else. He's not likable and that detracts from the story. Dall is charismatic and frightening as the more confident of the killers but Granger's weakling character is too highly-strung, too obviously guilty right from the start. Some subtlety was called for and is missing. All of the supporting actors overact throughout with the exception of Cedric Hardwicke, who is wonderful as a concerned party guest.
The dialogue is too perfect and stagy with everyone taking turns speaking politely and with perfectly measured wit; no one interrupts or pauses. It's not at all realistic. There's never any doubt that the killers will be discovered which eliminates any possible tension or excitement; there is no hero to root for and the villains are too loony to care about. Not one of Hitchcock's better movies.
on April 16, 2004
Brandon (John Dall) and Philip (Farley Granger) are two rich, educated young men who think very highly of themselves indeed. At college, they were taught by Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) who, having read a little too much Nietzsche, explained to them there that, for truly superior people, murder need be no crime. They have taken this ugly lesson just a little too much to heart and so, just for fun, they kill their friend David. Then, his body hidden in a chest, they hold a dinner party for his parents, his girlfriend, the girlfriend's ex-boyfriend and Cadell himself. David is invited too, but of course, he doesn't show up. But Philip, especially, is decidedly nervous and, as the evening progresses, Cadell starts to smell a rat...
Technically, this is one of Hitchcock's most consciously experimental pieces of film. There is no music at all, except over the credits and in a couple of scenes where Philip plays the piano. And it is made to at least appear to have been shot in a single very long take. In fact it is not and there are a few cuts that maintain an appearance of seamlessness by taking place as the shot passes across some dark surface like the back of a jacket. This contributes nicely to the tension. It does has a certain awkward consequence however in that the action is thereby set in real time and it takes some suspension of disbelief to accept that a society dinner party might last about 45 minutes from start to finish. (It also means that, whether you think this is a movie worth buying or just one to rent, it would be particularly criminal to watch it on TV with commercial interruptions.) Another nice technical touch exploits the location of Brandon and Philip's apartment high in New York and close to some neon signage. For much of the film it is daytime outside but in the scenes towards the end as a climax approaches, a surreal, nightmarish atmosphere is created by the slow by constant modulations of colouring of the light that result.
This is Hitchcock's first movie collaboration with James Stewart who does an excellent job playing a smart intellectual type who gets a nasty shock when he finds two of his students putting into action the clever sounding but disgusting ideas he thought he was so smart in expounding. It's a rather nice study in the perils of a shallow predeliction for novel, supposedly "advanced", moral thinking. (Brandon and Philip, arrogant patricians killing for fun, will have recalled to an American audience of the time the famous '20s case of Leopold and Loeb.) The movie is a interesting moral fable and also a nice, if slightly stagy thriller. It's not one of Hitchcock's greats but it's certainly no dud. There are no high-drama moments of nailbiting suspense but instead a constant uncomfortable tension as social events unfold in an apartment where only two of the participants know there is a fresh corpse in the cupboard just under all those fancy dinner goodies and their nerves are starting to fray...
on February 17, 2004
The merits of Hitchcock's experimental film ROPE have been endlessly debated. (See below!)
What I find fascinating about this film is what it reveals about the skill of the actors, especially Jimmy Stewart. In an ordinary film, a performance is as much the creation of the director and editor as it is the actor. The choice of takes and angles, the pace of the cutting, etc. all work to enhance or subdue an actor's work. In ROPE, with its continuous 10 minute shots, the actors' work is plainly revealed. As in a live play, they are on their own to maintain the pace and the intensity of the drama.
Hitchcock's cast doesn't ever let the energy flag. Farley Grainger and John Dall tear right into the opening, visibly sweating their way through the early murder scene. The drama shifts tone with the introduction of each new actor, but it is not until Jimmy Stewart enters that the movie snaps into place. Where the others are intense and theatrical, Stewart is comfortable and deceptively easy-going. Watch how skillfully he alters the tension and shifts the mood with his control of movement and voice. Even when he is on the edge of the scene his reactions give the drama focus. This is one of Stewart's most underrated performances. He enters this stagy drama, takes a deep breath, and makes it fascinating and fun to watch.
This is still Hitchcock, of course. Note the pacing of the camera, the elegant set and moody lighting, and the cleverly suspenseful use of music. But ROPE I think is most interesting for this unique opportunity to study Jimmy Stewart's skill as an actor.
Watch it again and see what you think!
on January 10, 2004
I don't mind what Hitchcock himself thought later of the film, or how did it fare at the time it was released. The fact remains that it, seen in a big screen and in an appropiate environment it is admirable and a little scary.
The technique used (and the fact that technicolor was used) makes that you feel yourself in the apartment, what, considering that a crude murder is performed at the beginning, is somewhat disturbing. The most impressive performance is that of John Dall (as Brandon Shaw), and the girl, Joan Chandler, is also extraordinary. So is Sir Cedric Hardwicke, in a contemporary paternal role (no shakespearian trimmings). Of course, James Stewart is rather miscast. A more somber senior actor should be used, the kind of James Mason or Charles Boyer.
In the interview, Arthur Laurents seems bent on the idea that this is a homosexual picture, or that homosexuality is its underlying matter. It is true that Brandon and Phillip (John Dall and Farley Granger) work in fact as a couple, and a special relationship between them is sensed. But nothing is explicitly said, on the contrary, Brandon Shaw counts himself as one of the former "romances" of the girl (Joan Chandler).
The unfortunate fact is that from time to time, someone has tried murder as an experience, for the thrill of it, and the play from which the film comes (Patrick Hamilton's) was inspired by the Loeb and Leopold case, back in the twenties, who where exactly as the characters in the film, a homosexual couple, proud and arrogant of their imagined "superiority" and who killed a friend (?) in order to have a smashing experience.
on January 3, 2004
The first film that Hitchcock released through his Transatlantic Pictures company, Rope is an underappreciate minor classic. It's flawed to be sure but this unusual experiment was shot in long takes an unusual approach for Hitchcock. The story was inspired by the Leopold and Loeb murder case and their obsession with the superman theories of Nietzsche.
Philip (Farley Granger)and Brandon (John Dall)have committed the murder of an old classmate for the thrill of it. They invite over mutual friends, the father and mother of the victim and their old prep school master Rupert (Jimmy Stewart)who first introduced them to Nietzche's theories. They drape a table cloth over the trunk where the dead body rests.
Written by Arthur Laurents and Hume Cronyn from the play Rope's End by Patrick Hamilton, Rope allows Hitchcock to indulge in a number of unusual cinematic experiments. It was Hitchcock's first movie to be shot in color and the entire 80 minute film is shot on one set with the skyline gradually changing. If Hitchcock had gotten his ideal cast the film might have been quite different; originally Hitchcock wanted Carey Grant for the role Stewart player and Montgomery Clift as Brandon.
The transfer is good although there is some edge enhancement and some analog and compression artifacts (although they aren't a huge problem). The vivid 3 strip Technicolor process comes to life on this DVD. The colors are pretty close to the version I saw screened. I should note, though, that I originally saw Rope at the UCLA Theater Arts Archive in black and white (a color copy wasn't available) on a Movieola and it was a nitrate print so I'm comparing it to versions that were released much later than the original.
While Rope isn't a perfect Hitchcock excursion, it's an enjoyable and admirable one that features a number of interesting visuals, strong performances and an interesting thought provoking story. The extras on this edition are quite nice as well including a feaurette entitled Rope Unleased, production photos and notes. Sadly, no extensive outtakes exist for Rope and everything that was written was, for the most part, shot.
on October 29, 2003
Some may argue there is nothing witty about murder, which you see in this film in the first few minutes committed by two elegantly dressed and well groomed handsome men on another elegantly dressed and handsome man in a well appointed apartment with a magnificent view of the city. Moreover, these two dandies just have to SEE if they can commit the perfect murder. In some ways the film is not just a meditation on good and evil, and at heart, the ethics of killing another human being, but also considers the recreation activities of those who have "everything". When one has every material advantage, the biggest house, the most exprensive car, a lover, drugs (presumably) what now for fun? And what if you are among the most intelligent and well educated individual on earth, doesn't that make you better than others and give you the right to make decisions over others lives? Especially the stupid, the unattractive, the lazy, the disabled - from here isn't it a small step to those of a different race, different culture? ROPE may be an allegory too for all those suited Foreign Affairs experts in their suits making recommendations about which country to bomb next. Then again it may just be another elegant transformation of a theatre piece to titillate the jaded appetite of those satiated by too much drawing room comedy. Richly photographed in colour, with outstanding actors. Worth owning.