As many know I am a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan, having watched his movies countless times, and perhaps read over 40 books on the man, his craft and style of filmmaking, who is known to have influenced others, including recently Jordan Peele (Us [2019]), but he remains the holder of the always impressive title Master of Suspense, since he did direct over 40 feature films, not to mention two successful television series. Hence on the caveat of being the editor of The Horror Times, was the permission to have this section called Other Worldly Cinema, namely for those films that definitely are not horror, but contain elements of psychological terrors, mysteries or dark dramas.

Rope is certainly an intriguing movie, if not an altogether successful one and is created from a 1929 play by Patrick Hamilton, which actually based on a real crime Leopold-Loeb case, which occurred in May 1924. Hitchcock wanted the story to be experienced in the same way it would if the audience were seeing it on stage, a completely experimental film it holds a few firsts for Alfred.  Namely, the director’s first color picture and his first to produce his most daring work, the entire production unfolds before the audience in real life, noting just how progressive that concept was for someone to attempt. The takes for the movie, lasted for 10-minutes in uninterrupted manner, a seeming cinematic trick performance to minimize the cutting and transitional of scenes. Lastly it marks the first  collaboration with James Stewart, that would lead to three other movies Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and Vertigo (1958). While this movie often overlooks through the countless critics, has started receiving some deserved love and respect, perhaps, because experimental films have found a new position in cinema, back when Hitchcock led this production, cinema-goers came to expect straight-forward simplistic telling of stories and film.

I’m going to reign myself sin, and not give as much as the possible, but when it comes Hitchcock’s movies it somewhat of difficult balancing act. The film stars John Dall and Farley Granger (Strangers on a Train [1951]) as a pair of friends, Brandon and Phillip, respectively, who plan, then carry out, what they believe to be the perfect murder, perpetrated simply to experience the thrill of killing someone. the two stuff their victim, into a trunk right before having an already planned dinner party at their fancy New York apartment, invite several guests including the dead man’s father (Sir Cedric Hardwicke (The Ghost of Frankenstein [1942]) and his fiancé (Joan Chandler), incorporating a bit of black humor and the libations set out on the same trunk with a lifeless corpse. Also, attending the party is Rupert Cadell (James Stewart), a University professor whose philosophy that murder could, and should, be used as a tool to weed out society’s undesirables inspired their deed. The three key actors obviously Dall’s cocky attitude, while Granger portrays a twitchy anxiety, and Stewart continues to poke and prod at the hosts in quest win the gamesmanship. Their reasoning for the killing, twisted logic, while most of the guests and the housekeeper unaware of the devilish act, the monsters the friendly engage with over the dinner.

The movie had some of most focus actors, and that perhaps affects the performances in minor way, the reason, if an actor flubs a line, instead yelling cut and marking take 2, the whole scene needing a retake, one can imagine the mental countdown for each 10-muinute segment, that’s suspense. The usage of one location, many marvel at this possibility, however, not a great feat, recall Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944) focused on that vessel in the vastness of an empty ocean. So then what hinders Rope from achieving the greatness of his other thrilling movies, the experimental production, sleight of hand in trying to pull the wool over the audience’s eyes, and some nagging hinderance from the studio heads, over cost productions. All this would later serve Hitchcock very well when it came time for him to make Psycho (1960).  In the cinematic world, close-ups and other techniques are always used to set a transition shot, and with Alfred Hitchcock  placement the camera very close to any object suggest from the angle some importance (a misdirection), then darkening the image while inserting a cut. This actually occurs quite frequently in many movies of today, with the object used as the transitioning tool, such a close-up of a watch and the scene a wall clock, even done with sound. Hitchcock’s style comes across as relaxed and unfussy he left his actors alone to do their thing, mainly due to the cost overruns with constant reshooting. He focused on every motion beautifully choreographed to fit in with the movements of the camera. It actually became one of the last times, he left his actors alone to their own devices, unless they had hordes of theater training.

I’ve seen Rope more than a dozen times over the years and yet it never fails to command my complete attention, the third act is one of the director’s most exciting, even if it involves a little more than two intellectual and philosophical adversaries it has more of cat curiously toying with his prey. It ceases to amaze me, that only a few directors truly possess the ability to direct a multitude to genres, Robert Wise did Oscar winning musicals, sci-fi greatness and exquisite horror, such as The Haunting (1963) or Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982) and the Gladiator (2000),  and others such as James Cameron or Steven Spielberg. It is equally the same for Alfred Hitchcock from dark dramas to comedies, and onto psychological thrillers, spy action movies and of course horror, always delivering the right amount of suspense, holding the scene and the attention of audience just enough, the constant artist and always the true Master of Suspense.

TAGLINES:

  • The guest who’s dead on time
  • Nothing ever held you like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope
  • It’s his most nerve-stretching thriller!
  • It Begins With a Shriek… It Ends With a Shot!

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040746/

IMDb Rating: 8.0/10

Baron’s Rating: 8.0/10