Rope (1948) Film Review A-


Filmed in 8 x 10-minute takes.

DIRECTOR: Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock
Arthur Laurents’s screenplay is based on a story by Hume Cronyn based on Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play, which, in turn, was based on the infamous Leopold and Loeb case from 1924.
Cinematography: Joseph Valentine and William Skall
Edited by: William H. Ziegler
Original Score: David Buttolph
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Starring: Farley Granger, John Dall, James Stewart, Cedric Hardwicke, Constance Collier, Joan Chandler


BOTTOM LINE: Two brilliant young aesthetes, Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger), strangle to death their former classmate from prep school David Kentley (Dick Hogan) in their Manhattan penthouse apartment. They commit the crime as an intellectual exercise: they want to prove their superiority by committing the “perfect murder.” After hiding the body in a large antique wooden chest, Brandon and Phillip host a dinner party at the apartment, which has a panoramic view of Manhattan’s skyline. The guests, who are unaware of what has happened, include the victim’s father, Mr. Kentley (Cedric Hardwicke), and aunt, Mrs. Atwater (Constance Collier); his mother cannot attend because of a cold. Also present are David’s fiancée, Janet Walker (Joan Chandler), and her former lover, Kenneth Lawrence (Douglas Dick), who was once David’s close friend. Brandon uses the chest containing the body as a buffet table for the food just before their housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson (Edith Evanson), arrives to help with the party.
Hitchcock’s famous experiment could have evolved over coffee with Eisenstein. The two great directors, having mastered the language of cinema many times over, now know that it is a marriage of two separate yet complementary entities:

1) Mise-en-scene: the production design, costume design, camera position and movement, actors’ positions, and movement within a scene.
2) editing, or what you fashion from your mise-en-scene to make your movie.

But Hitchcock wants to know what a movie would be like if you eliminated editing and only had mise-en-scene. Would it be like a filmed play, taken by someone in the audience with a camera? There was a problem, however, in that each film’s roll only lasted 10 minutes. Hitchcock overcame this by backing the camera up to an inanimate object, such as a piece of furniture, and quickly changing the film. The story is irresistible and is based on the Leopold and Loeb case, adapted from Patrick Hamilton’s play. Granger and Dall are perfect, and Jimmy Stewart is also excellent, even if you think he may not have been in on the ruse! Yet, despite the film’s overall excellence, you are always aware that Hitch is disabled by having half of the silver screen’s vernacular off limits. It’s like he’s working with only the right (spatial) side of his brain.
Hitchcock’s cameos: “Rope” is one of FIVE Hitchcock films in which he makes not one but TWO cameo appearances. The others are “The Lodger” (1927), “Suspicion” (1941), “Under Capricorn” (1949), and “Strangers on a Train” (1951). Cameo one: 0:01:51: Just after Hitchcock’s credit towards the end of the opening sequence, walking alongside a woman. Cameo two: 0:55:00 In the background as a red flashing neon sign of his trademark profile.

STREAMING: The Criterion Collection, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, and YouTube


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