on 12 July 2008
Rope is a superb piece of cinema and a classic Hitchhock Thriller in the same vain as Rear Window. It's one of my favourite Hitchcock films, and one that I feel is sadly missed and often underrated. Based on a stage play of the same name, Rope is inspired by the infamous Loeb & Leopold murder case in 1920s Chicago.
In Rope two rich-kid roommates living in a large apartment in New York murder one of their friends (don't worry this is not a spoiler; it is the opening scene of the film). They then invite the boys parents, girlfriend and one of their teachers for dinner party with the dead body hidden in the room. What follows is a taut thriller and a deadly game of cat and mouse as the kids try to get away with the "perfect crime".
Rope is a triumph; the whole film is set in one space and Hitchcock uses clever camera techniques to give the impression that it is almost one long camera shot from start to finish. The superb acting by James Stewart (Rear Window), Farley Granger (Strangers on a Train) and John Dall bring the story to life and make this an unmissable thriller. Despite rave reviews (it scores 8/10 on IMDB), this is an often overlooked Hitchcock gem.
The DVD version is fairly light on extras and features. The version I have includes the film, with English and foreign language subtitles, plus a short "Making of" programme, a small art gallery and a compilation of original trailers.
Rope is an essential watch and should be in any film buff's collection; regardless of whether you're a big fan of Hitchcock. For £6 you can't go wrong with this DVD.
on 8 December 2008
I have a feeling that this Hitchcock is an underated movie. Harly anyone seems to know of it when I mention it but I haven't stopped talking about its brilliance all week! It is an amazing film, filmed in one room, based on a play (which is very obvious because the actors perform in a specific way that would only be linked to a play i.e. standing so that they are all facing the front with no backs facing the audience) which is of course based on the Leopold-Loeb case of 1920's America. James Stewart is as usual comical and quick- thinking, with John Dall and Farley Granger as the two murderous men, who decide to commit the perfect crime by murdering their friend and putting him inside a chest in their front room, then inviting all his friends and family round for tea. Things are going fine but then James Stewart begins to get suspicious... One word - Classic!
on 13 June 2013
If there is anything notable that makes "Rope" stand out from any other Hitchcock film, it's the fact that most of the movie is in one single shot, I say mostly because there are two direct cuts very early on in the movie, the first being directly after the opening credits to jump into the set, and there's just one at the 15-20 minute mark. But after that, no more direct cuts in the whole film, just a long shot which due to camera film storage capacity zooms in on people's shirts and zooms out again every once in a while. "Rope" was originally a stage play which means that the single shot approach makes sense, but the cinematography and photography of the film is still exceptional and creative to capture the best of the performances and heighten the tension.
The premise of "Rope" is deceivingly simple, two young men commit murder and hold a gathering to effectively pull off the ultimate crime. Dick Hogan and John Dall play the murderers with Hogan being the confident, oppressive figure relishing in the art of killing and John becoming more and more unsettled as the film goes on, always conscience a body is always on the brink of being discovered. But of course the star of the film is James Stewart's Rupert Cadell who gives a wonderful performance. The rest of the cast is well acted and consistent, barely a weak performance in sight. But "Rope" needs captivating story and a script to convey it more than anything in its limited set - and it delivers. Can anyone justify murder? Does anyone have the right to take another's life for any reason? These questions are the core of the story with Hogan's confidence in the right to kill being slowly etched away by Rupert Cadell who was partial to the concept, but would never do such a thing in reality. The script, particularly in the final act is incredible.
So overall this is another great Hitchcock but highly underrated. The single shot makes you sink into the film but the tension is so high as it progresses that you can't ever be bored. A few details, the back of the room with the changing light as the day progresses is a nice touch but the solid performances and great scripting and direction are the highlights in this (almost) one shot film about murder and where to draw the line. Just one note - the blu-ray makes the film crystal clear and there's no visual or audio problems, everything is crystalline here.
"Rope" explores a theme that runs through many of Hitchcock's film: is it possible to commit a perfect crime and get away with it? The urbane protagonists here murder a colleague and dump his body in a chest, just before throwing a party in their apartment. And all - apparently - to see if they can simply get away with it.
Through the dialogue and staging, it's easy to spot that this film was based on a play - the long-takes, the density of the dialogue, the assembly of various characters - but that doesn't detract from the atmosphere that builds up as the film unfolds.
Even though this was made in 1948, it still holds up as a piece of urban drama, and James Stewart turns in his usual polished, professional performance, along with the rest of a strong cast.
People may not talk and behave like the characters in Rope in real life - but the film explores the blacker side of humanity in a way that retains its relevance for a modern audience.
Rope is an excellent experimental film from the master of suspense. Hitchcock decided for this film to try and make it look like one continuous take. This is quite cleverly done, but once you've seen it you will always spot where the cuts are. For a film made in 1949 the colour print is very good.
Loosely based on the Leopold and Loeb murder case from 20 or so years earlier, it centres around one room where 2 students murder a fellow student. Nothing given away here this is the opening scene. James Stewart plays the professor who begins to suspect there might be something going on. As always Hitchcock produces a couple of classic scenes, perhaps the best of which is where it looks as the housemaid might might find the body. This is brilliantly filmed and a typical piece of Hitchcock magic.
The lack of justification for the murder also raises moral issues that James Stewart's character ultimately firmly rebuts. So as always there is more going on in a Hitchcock film than first meets the eye. This is well worth buying.
on 22 January 2008
The film is a moderate example of Alfred Hitchcock's thrillers. Two educated men murder their inferior friend just for killing's sake. They experiment the thrill of the murder and justify their behaviour by classifying human beings as superior and inferiors. According to them superiors can do away with inferiors any way they like. They excell themselves when they throw a party after the killing took place hiding the body in the furniture in front of the room! A very intelligent former teacher joins the party and realises that something is wrong. Very wrong!
I think this film would be better left as a play as it was originally. The adaptation is not excellent. The acting by John Dall and James Stewart are extraordinary.So is Farley Granger whom we will see again in Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train".
The film is shot totaly in studio in the big saloon of the house with a wonderful artificial view of the city behind. The city lights glow as time passes by. Hitchcock shoots all the scenes in one take but due to technical problems of the era he cannot move from one scene to another after a given duration. He solves this problem by moving the camera to one actor's back thus momentarily dimming the view and then moving to next shooting scene.
The philosophical aspect of the film needs to be mentioned also. The importance of a human life is emphasised on and some arguments have been made leading up to Hitler's or Nietzsche's views. The inferior/superior human classification has been made through out history for political purposes mostly. The killers' claim to be superior beings is thwarted by their unaware philosophical mentor.
To summarise, not the best from the best. I would not watch it again especially.
on 24 October 2004
Two over-privileged young men commit the perfect murder. Their victim's body is hidden in a large trunk. They invite friends round for a small dinner party, amongst them their old tutor, Jimmy Stewart, the man who once claimed that some people have the right to commit murder ... the man who is most likely to expose their crime. They aim to subject themselves to his inquisitorial intrusion ... just to add a bit of spice to the murder. All this we learn, all this we are given. The tension in the film, the drama, lies in whether or not they will be caught ... and, if so, how?
"Rope" is wonderfully transparent in the way the drama is structured ... you can see the clues being put neatly into place, like a master builder placing brick upon brick. There is a famous Chekhov adage that if, in a play, the audience can see a rifle on the wall in Act One, it will have to be used in Act Two. In "Rope", a whole arsenal of weapons is hanging on the wall. You know why they're there, you don't know when they'll make their entrance into the plot.
Hitchcock films this story in what almost appears to be one long, long take ... as if he's just recorded a live stage production. The lack of cinematic sophistication only adds to the tension. It creates a sense of claustrophobia. The actors seem to be left to speak for themselves without the aid of rapid cutting or dramatic close ups. Words and action have to sustain the plot.
The camera work is simple - it follows the action. There is a magnificent scene where the surly maid clears away the dinner dishes. The camera follows her movements, almost intrusively, as she walks on and off the set, slowly removing the dishes. Tension mounts. Surely, she must discover the body next time?
Watch the background. The action takes place in a studio flat with a huge picture window at the back. As the drama unfolds, night slowly falls over the New York cityscape. Ominous clouds take on a Daliesque prominence, hugging the skyscraper silhouettes. It gives a real sense of time passing ... and impending doom.
And James Stewart plays a wonderfully understated role. He uncovers not a murder, but his own sense of guilt at suggesting that someone might have the right to kill. The melodrama is swept away. Suddenly we have a fragile human being caught up in his own intellectual trap. Thrown centre stage, Stewart's portrayal is superb.
A magnificent, and highly unusual movie.
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.
When you list off the names of Alfred Hitchcock movies, 'Rope' might possibly not be on that list. Indeed, I hadn't seen it myself until a few weeks ago, and Hitchcock himself was apparently not the biggest fan of this 1948 Crime/Drama/Thriller. However, I decided to give it a go, and enjoyed it immensely. Not his best, but far from his worst. It's a landmark movie, as I believe that it was his first film to be made in colour.
With philosophy, sociology and psychology present in equal measures, 'Rope' is the simple story of two young men (well played by John Dall and Farley Granger) who strangle their "inferior" classmate to death, simply for the thrill of it. If you are familiar the notorious 1920s real life murder case of Leopold and Loeb, the movie is along those lines.
The men then hide their victim's body in a trunk, and then take the risk of hosting a late night cocktail party which includes their victim's family and friends as guests. Serving food on the same trunk, they also invite their old, cynical headmaster (brilliantly played by James Stewart of Hitchcock's 'Rear Window', if you are a fan of him, his performance in 'Rope' is a must-see) who almost immediately senses something sinister has or is taking place.
I thought that 'Rope' was really a fascinating film, which contains all of the elements that make up a good thriller. There is suspense, tension, intrigue and plot twists, as well as first rate acting from all the players, with Stewart's performance standing out the most. Just because it isn't as well known as some of Hitchock's other films, does not mean that it deserves to be forgotten, I enjoyed it a lot, and perhaps might even rate it above some of his higher reputation movies.
Buy it, you won't regret it.
on 21 April 2009
As with all of Hitchcock work this lives up to his excellent standards, a look at how the human mind can be perverted & warped in this macabre tale of murder for murders sake alone, no motive no reason just insanity at its most intense. The coluor is just brilliant, vibrant & clear. We are given an insight to the sheer brilliance that would follow Hitchcock into later years & his many classics which will never be forgotten.