Unit 4 Film Review: Rope (1948) Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

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James Stewart Rupert Cadell

John Dall
Brandon Shaw

Farley Granger
Phillip Morgan

Unit 4 Film Review: Rope (1948) Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

Cedric Hardwicke
Mr. Kentley

Constance Collier
Mrs. Atwater Joan Chandler Janet Walker

This is an unusual film in many respects, and delightfully so. It has the ambience of an off Broadway play, and indeed Hitchcock’s use of the master shot, often shooting the large lounge area which is the main setting of the film leaves the audience feeling that they are say just below the footlights, looking up. This, as many of Hitchcock’s earlier films deals with darker sides of the human condition, to be specific murder, arrogance, deception and evasion. The plot is ghastly, but simple. Two friends, on a whim lure a third to a nice uptown New York apartment where they kill him by strangulation, place him in a chest and leave him there whilst hosting a party. The guests include the deceased’s girlfriend, father, prep school companion, School master, a socialite of uncertain connection, a maid and the murdering pair. Since the opening scene shows us the victim’s death throes and incarceration the remainder of the film deals with the emotional toil of having done murder, interlaced with the chatter and confusion regarding the deceased’s absence and emerging disappearance. Bosley Crowther writes, ‘Apart from the tedium of waiting or someone to open that chest and discover the hidden body which the hosts have tucked away for the sake of a thrill, the unpunctuated flow of image becomes quite monotonous’. in the New York Times, but is greatly unappreciative of Hitchcock’s prowess as storyteller.

Unit 4 Film Review: Rope (1948) Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

True the audience, in knowledge of the crime committed, waits for the killer’s deed to be unmasked, but it is the when? How? And indeed if?, in which they delight. ‘Hitchcock said it was a stunt, but Rope is a fascinating experiment trying to find the cinematic equivalent to a play, with the camera constantly searching’ Levy E., (2005) According to the film press ‘Rope’ was designed as an experiment by Hitchcock. Quite what the aim of the experiment might be eludes me. Perhaps the telling of a successful, suspenseful story in a small set with a small cast was the intention. In which case the director was most successful. Perhaps in maintaining his minimalist stance he hoped to bring the theatre experience to cinema goers, whether this was intended to try and break the considerable hold theatre had over paying audiences in the post-war, post-bust forties remains unclear, but there can be no doubt in this reviewers mind that it worked. ‘A minor masterpiece; Hitchcock could turn out brilliance even when he considered himself to be simply playing around’. Waldron-Mantgani I., (2003) His understanding of the requirements of his eight (living) characters is supreme. Of course the father and girlfriend (of the deceased) show and spread concern regarding his whereabouts. It is absolutely natural that the maid should feel astonishment and disquiet regarding the use of the chest in an informal dinner setting. The friend and past prep peer is understandably surprised and delighted to be at the party with the deceased’s girl (a former amore of his). And Jimmy Stewart’s ever watchful school master plays the misgivings of the throng, the frantic, panicked displays and innuendo’s of one killer and the arrogant self assured bluff of the other like such a perfectly tuned instrument. It is only right that Hitchcock’s most noted leading man has the pleasure of unravelling the mystery. Almost as one might untie a bundle of books.

Unit 4 Film Review: Rope (1948) Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

Critic Bibliography Crowther B., (January 1, 2000). ‘New York Times’, rottentomatoes.com Levy E., (October 7, 2005). ‘EmanuelLevy.com’, rottentomatoes.com Waldron-Mantgani I., (July 6, 2003). ‘UK Critic’, rottentomatoes.com

Image List Poster Image: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/rope/

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