Movie Critique - Rope

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Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: A fascinating film with an equally twisted mind of the characters, that delves into darker shades of human minds owned by innocently looking people. Vastly underrated Hitchcock film that deserves a second watch.

Rope is a 1948 American psychological crime thriller film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock with uncredited production support from Sidney Bernstein. The film stars James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger and Joan Chandler among others. 

Two brilliant students - Brandon Shaw (portrayed by John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (portrayed by Farley Granger) - murder their former classmate in the spirit of intellectual exercise. Their former prep-school's housemaster Rupert Cadell (portrayed by James Stewart) had discussed several theories on the concept of committing a perfect murder to prove superiority. The rest of the movie follows these three characters along with a select few invited to the dinner party by Brandon and Phillip, where the psychological experiment continues. 

The film was based on the 1929 play of the same name by Patrick Hamilton. Screenplay was provided by Arthur Laurents with adaptation by Hume Cronyn. The original play was inspired by the real life murder of Bobby Franks in 1924 by two University of Chicago students, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.

There are several other aspects that make this film unique. This was the first production of Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein under their banner Transatlantic Pictures productions. And also first of Hitchcock's Technicolor films. It is said to have been made in real time with minimal editing to look like it was all done in one lengthy shot. This is Hitchcock's second film using minimal settings. His first was 1944 American survival film Lifeboat. 

It was a unique experiment that Hitchcock tried the way the film was being made. Wasn’t a successful one, but no other director would have tried it at that time. So kudos to Hitchcock. There is a subtle homosexual subtext or perhaps a deeper bromance between the characters Brandon and Phillip. Not sure if Hitchcock intended for it or the later period critics see it that way. 

This is the first of the four films that James Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock collaborated together. The other three were - 1954 American mystery thriller film Rear Window; 1956 American suspense thriller film The Man Who Knew Too Much; and 1958 American psychological film noir thriller Vertigo. Interestingly enough James Stewart doesn’t appear in the film until at least 25 minutes of the movie has passed.

The film's trailer shows a romantic scene between Joan Chandler's Janet Walker and Dick Hogan's David Kentley on a park bench. But it was not shown in the film. 

Hitchcock used a similar plot in which two of his main character concoct a plan to murder someone in two other films - 1951 American psychological film noir thriller Strangers on a Train; and 1954 American crime mystery thriller Dial M for Murder.

After Universal acquired rights to the picture decades later, now the film is aired on TCM with the logo of Universal shown first before the Warner Bros. logo of the original release appears. The opening credits then continue to appear on a street scene. 

Despite Dick Hogan having a very brief role with no spoken lines, his character David Kentley is listed first in the end credits. And the remaining cast are listed with a descriptive phrase showing their relationship to David Kentley, or relationship among each other, listing the character name and actor, except for James Stewart's Rupert Cadell who is shown as his own with both first and last names. 

Both Farley and John made a perfect pair of psychotic young men with slight shade of homosexuality between them. Farley Granger also starred in the 1951 Hitchcock film noir Strangers on a Train. John Dall was frequently seen in the original Perry Mason, TVs American legal drama

Dick Hogan, who had but a brief role as David Kentley in the film, but the main one around whom the story revolves; and his character's rival Kenneth Lawrence portrayed by Douglas Dick have very similar features and face cuts. This made the setting of the plot for these two characters very interesting for Hitchcock.

Considered very gimmicky, but it isnt at all. A fascinating film with an equally twisted mind of the characters, that delves into darker shades of human minds owned by innocently looking people. Vastly underrated Hitchcock film that deserves a second watch.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Hitchcock used the similar technique of lengthy shots to look real-time to some extent in two of his films - 1949 British historical thriller Under Capricorn; and 1950 American - British film noir Stage Fright.

b. The apartment set used in this film can be seen again re-used with a few modifications in the 1949 Technicolor musical romantic comedy My Dream Is Yours starring Doris Day and Jack Carson.

c. When the film was released, it was preceded by 1948 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies animated short Hare Splitter.

d. Hitchcock makes two cameo appearances in this film. First as a pedestrian walking with a lady by his side in the opening scene; second Hitchcock's profile is shown in the commercial for Reduco, a fictitious weight loss product, which was used in this 1944 film Lifeboat. See the flashing neon sign from the window between the two actors?

e. Two of the books that Phillip moves around in the beginning of the film are real books - the 1937 Audubon by Constance Rourke; and the 1943 The Complete Life by John Erskine.

f. Mrs. Atwater talks to Phillip about Zodiac signs and mentions that he is a Cancer. In real life Farley Granger who plays Philip in the film is a Cancer. In a further discussion, Mrs. Atwater mentions that James Mason was a Taurus, Cary Grant a Capricorn and Ingrid Bergman a Virgo - all of which are true.

g. Mrs. Anita Atwater (portrayed by Constance Collier) and Janet Walker (portrayed by Joan Chandler) talk about James Mason being an excellent villain and attractively sinister. However, Hitchcock doesn’t cast him until eleven years later in the 1959 American spy thriller North by Northwest.

h. Mrs. Atwater and Janet also struggle to remember a recent movie of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Although Mrs. Atwater says it was just plain "Something", she is actually alluding to the 1946 American spy film noir Notorious which was again produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

i. This was the final film of Dick Hogan. He retired from acting after this film and his disastrous theatre play 1948 Broadway play Time for Elizabeth; went back to his home town of Little Rock and became an insurance agent.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. Phillip and Brandon put David in the chest with the rope clearly around his neck. However, in a few minutes Phillip finds the rope hanging by the side of the box.

b. Shouldn’t the newly dead body create some kind of odor in the room that would have been noticed?

c. Phillip cuts his hand on the glass, but a few seconds later in the next scene there is no blood, no wound or a bandage on his hand. 


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