Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Rope (1948)

Two college friends, Brandon and Philip, kill a third because they feel he is inferior. It seems they had an old prep school headmaster (James Stewart) that put it into their heads that the rich elite have the right to do this. Then they invite said headmaster, dead David’s fiance and family, and others to an awkward dinner party to prove how clever they are. Turns out, not so clever.

Rope was an experiment for Hitchcock. Could he make the movie appear as if it was done in one 80 minute take? Turns out, he could. The cameras could hold just over ten minutes of film, so the movie is made up of ten takes between four and a half and ten minutes and carefully spliced together, the joints cleverly camouflaged. See Birdman. As the source material was a stage play and the dialog and acting style reflects this. After getting used to it, the movie flows rather well. But seriously, see Birdman.

Stewart was cast against type, being a sardonic academic with a suspicious mind. This bothered him, this being the era when actors complained about NOT being typecast. Joan Chandler was adorable as the dead boy’s best girl. Philip’s Farley Granger would later play a tennis pro in Strangers on a Train. Criss cross.

Hitch later dismissed his film as a stunt. He would cement his reputation for building tension using editing (see Psycho), and here he essentially didn’t edit at all. As each take was several minutes in length, any mistake or problem meant the whole piece had to be reshot. This makes for an exhausting and tense shoot. But seriously, see Psycho.

The movie was met with some controversy, not because of the murder, but because Philip and Brandon were totally gay! Not overtly, of course, but they totally were! Hitchcock always put together a complete, entertaining film. Not a masterpiece, but Rope is a very interesting watch. The ending was rather abrupt, and the side stories didn’t go anywhere, but definitely an entertaining watch. AMRU 3.5.

“You're quite a good chicken strangler as I recall.”

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