ROPE

(1948)
With James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger, Cedric Hardwicke, Constance Collier, Joan Chandler
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Reviewed by JL and JB

Rope     Two college students (John Dall and Farley Granger) consider themselves morally superior to everyone else and decide to commit a murder just for the thrill of it.  Based loosely on the Leopold-Loeb murder case of the 1920s, ROPE is most noted for Alfred Hitchcock's experimental use of the camera.  The film is staged much as a one-set play, which allowed Hitchcock to create the illusion of one continuous film-length take, with no apparent edits or alternate camera angles.  It's a mostly effective gimmick, in that it allowed Hitchcock total control of audience focus, though he was to explore the technique's possibilities more effectively for certain scenes in UNDER CAPRICORN (1949).  ROPE was not a financial success upon its release, probably because Warner Bros. was reluctant to promote a film in which two leading characters were obviously homosexual.  Though he ignores any gay subtext in his own character, James Stewart delivers a strong performance as the professor who solves the murder, even as he realizes the young killers have twisted his own philosophy as justification for their crime.  Not one of Hitchcock's masterpieces, but one of the best among his second-tier work.   - JL


     ROPE leaves me cold.  Although long takes are an effective tool (see TOUCH OF EVIL, THE PLAYER or just about any Kurosawa film), I believe that the brain, trained by years of watching movies and television, eventually wants shots, cuts and edits in film.  If you know the gimmick of the film, you may find yourself distracted by the lack of edits, losing your place in the story and dialogue as you wait for the inevitable shot of somebody's back to fill the frame in order for Hitch to get a seamless edit and keep the illusion going.  I applaud the creativity, but I enjoy Hitch's other experiments like LIFEBOAT and REAR WINDOW much more. ½ - JB

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