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 August 29, 2003
Dinner for eight (the guest of honor won't be joining the party). A gathering of former Ivy League chums, a girl they rivaled over, a highly admired former Professor all were acquainted with, a chatty maid, the father and aunt of a strangly absent guest of honor all gather for clever conversation and intriguing food and drink.
The setting is typical Hitchcock, as is the twisted murder plot. The scene opens with the evil deed, then resumes with the emminent dinner. Hitchcocks first ever color production, "Rope" was shot in very long scenes (some lasting more than 10 minutes in a single frame), the film appears like a theatre play. Similarities to the infamous 1920s high profile Leopold-Loeb murder case are obvious but denied by a disclaimer at the end of the film.
This is an undeniably "different" and very interesting Hitchcock Classic. James Stewart (pretty much playing himself, as usual), is effective as the "master detective", determined to get to the bottom of what's going on. A very young Farley Granger is great as the "frightened kid" under the thumb of his dominearing older brother. For fans of the Master, this is an enjoyable trip into the exploration of some very disturbed minds.****
on May 27, 2002
What is the toughest challenge a director can undertake? Making an epic in the sea or desert? Imagine making a film where all the conflict and resolution happen inside one apartment and nowhere else. Who could do it succesfully? None other than the master himself, Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock goes even further by making all of 'Rope' in eight shots!!
'Rope' is about two brilliant college students who decide to carry out a morbid facination. They murder a man and then serve dinner from the chest where he is buried. They even have candles on top of the chest. In many ways, 'Rope' provides a dry and intellectual stimulation. All the characters, expect the two boys, don't know there is a dead man right under their nose. But since the audience knows, it provides a strange tension. Jimmany Stewart is the heart of it all. There is a terrific and nailbiting scene where he almost figures out what the boys have done.
Alongside being a thriler, 'Rope' raises some questions about who is 'superior' and who is not. Are there people who are really above the mass of humanity? The two boys think so and there is a fantastic debate in the middle of the story. Sadly though, I think this movie is only for Hitchcock fans.
on May 4, 2002
By now much has been made of how Hitchcook tried to disguise the film changes in the camera, and how it often did not work out well.
What they overlook is that by using one camera and no cuts the viewer becomes more and more paranoid as if they themselves are in the room and are about to be discovered hiding the secret.
It becomes quite unsettling after awhile even it was not done as well as we would wish, it was a bold idea to even attempt.
The other thing I notice is the heavy homosexual overtones here. These guys are very obviously "lovers" even though there is some dialogue about one of them having "dated" one of the female guests earlier. The fact that the subject is avoided by all makes it even more obvious. I'm not sure if Hitchcock did this on purpose, or the time in which the film was made deemed it impossible, but it's interesting. Even more so is how one character rules over the other svengali-like, to the point of helping him murder someone just for fun. It's obvious that the one guy does not want to go along with this, but he is helpless in the face of his stronger partner who obviously calls all the shots, and enjoys doing so.
This movie is just as much about dominant/submissive relationships as it is anything else.
It may not be perfect, and it might drive you crazy at times, but that is the whole point of this movie, and I applaud the attmept, even if the final result was not as good as it might have been
on January 2, 2002
Based on a stage play which was in turn based upon the infamous Leopold-Loeb case, ROPE is famous for two technical reasons. First, it is a very rare instance of a film that occurs in "real time;" the entire action of the film occurs in the span of about two hours, which is the duration of the film's run time. Secondly, in order to heighten the effect of "real time," Hitchcock attempts to make the film seem as if it is presented in one long, uninterrupted take. Instead of cutting, he moves the camera itself instead and attempts to disguise points at which the film had to be changed in the camera by briefly focusing the camera on a dark or neutral object.
It doesn't work. There are several reasons. Although the story has some interesting aspects, it seems extremely contrived: two friends thrill-kill a young man and then as a test of their coolness conceal the body in their apartment while they host a cocktail party. Guest Jimmy Stewart becomes suspicious and, predictably, ferrets out the truth. Stewart's performance is merely adequate, while Farley Granger and John Dall's performances are about as subtle as a turd in the punch bowl. This aside, all the actors seem to have considerable difficulty sustaining energy through the very long takes, and Hitchcock's self-enforced "no edits" concept gives the film a static, stagey, and decidedly awkward feel--and, I might add, the "invisible cuts" aren't. Certainly Hitchcock deserves considerable applause for attempting something completely different in his work, but in this case the gamble doesn't pay off. Diehard Hitchcock fans will no doubt find much to praise, but more casual viewers should stay away.
on December 19, 2001
This was Hitchock's first color film. The photography and editing are crude compared to Notorious, released just two years earlier. Notorious is such a polished gem that I wonder whether Hitchcock needed to make things harder for himself by working within the self-imposed constraints of filming in real time and of having no visible edits. At about 10-minute intervals, Hitchcock would run the camera into an actor's back or an object in order to make the cut during the blackout. These edits are obvious and clumsy, so I would have to say that that aspect of Hitchcock's experimentation was unsuccessful. I also don't know that much was gained by not using more than one camera per take, but Hitchcock makes the most of the camera, brilliantly choosing what to show and what not to show. For instance, the suspense builds as the camera stays fixed on the maid as she clears the table, because we know that she soon will try to open the trunk, thereby exposing the corpse. Also, I like how Hitchcock trains the camera on Stewart while the two college chums fight. We can see Stewart practically peering into their souls during the argument.
Jimmy Stewart is superb and very funny in the dinner-party scenes, cocking his head sideways and giving a peculiar, knowing look as he takes in the strange happenings. The main problem with the film is that I cannot see Jimmy Stewart truly believing the awful, Nietzsche-like things that he says about favoring the murdering of inferior people. He seems as if he is praising murder more to shock other people than to report his actual beliefs, but we are supposed to think that he is completely sincere. The conversation about murder among the dinner guests seems forced more by the dramatic needs of the film than by a realistic progression of events.
John Dall is very good in his role, but Farley Granger's performance seems rather eccentric and stagey.
My favorite scene is when Stewart grills Granger at the piano to find out why he has been acting so strangely. The fast, loud, insistently ticking metronome in Stewart's hands adds to the tension in the situation. I also like how Stewart reconstructs the murder out-loud as the camera follows the victim's footsteps during his last few minutes of life, the lack of human life in the camera frame emphasizing the man's removal from this world.
Despite some flaws, this is a fascinating film that is well worth seeing.