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Rope - An Overlooked Hitchcock Gem

Oct 22, 2007 (Updated Aug 4, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Interesting plot. Jimmy Stewart.

Cons:Could be too slow for some viewers. Could have been more suspenseful.

The Bottom Line: Rope was a very entertaining movie that hinted at future Hitchcock movies.

Alfred Hitchcock became known for creating several wonderful, suspenseful movies. I have seen and enjoyed several of them and even own a few. There are still some of his movies that I haven’t seen. I recently watched Rope for the first time.

Two friends, Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan, strangled another friend, David, who they felt was inferior. The body was placed inside a chest since they were going to wait until that night to get the body out of the apartment. They killed David to prove the theory of their former teacher, Rupert Cadell, that they had also embraced. They believed that murder was a privilege of the superior and a crime for everyone else. Brandon and Phillip believed that they had committed the perfect murder.

Phillip seemed to have remorse about his part in the murder and he was very bothered while Brandon didn’t seem effected at all. Phillip really started to freak out when he found out that Brandon had planned a dinner party for that night, inviting David’s parents, his girlfriend Janet, Kenneth, David’s friend and Janet’s ex-boyfriend, and Rupert. To make matters worse, Brandon decided to serve the food from the chest hiding the body, befuddling Mrs. Wilson the maid. As the night progressed, Phillip got more antsy and Rupert started to become suspicious that something was going on.

Rope was based on the play Rope’s End by Patrick Hamilton. The play had been very successful before Hitchcock made the movie version. The play was supposed to have been based on a real crime committed by Leopold and Loeb in Chicago in 1924. After watching the movie, I did some research online and discovered that Hamilton denied any connection to the real crime even though there are similarities. The big one was the reason for why Leopold and Loeb decided to commit murder.

Rope started off showing Brandon and Phillip committing the murder, which was a little unusual. In most movies dealing with murder, there is some kind of mystery connected to who the killer was or why the victim was killed. It was clear right away who the killers were and it was quickly shared why killed David. I did think that worked for the movie.

I did think that there was suspense in Rope. The movie wasn’t as suspenseful as most other Hitchcock movies that I’ve seen, so some viewers may be disappointed by that. I was satisfied with what suspense was included and felt it worked with what was going on. The suspense was connected to if anyone would figure out that something had happened to David or if the body would be discovered by someone during the dinner party. There were a few very suspenseful moments connected to those things. I thought the suspense worked and helped to keep the movie interesting.

Except for a short shot showing the sidewalk outside the apartment building, all of Rope took place in the apartment. Hitchcock filmed the movie with very few cuts, having the cameras follow the actors through the set. There were times when the camera zoomed in on someone’s back before moving on to show what else was going on. That was done when the film reels had to be changed. There was a huge window taking up the back wall in the main room of the apartment. The curtains remained opened for almost all of the movie, showing off a city skyline that looked rather elaborate. The clouds moved, there was smoke coming out of chimneys and as the movie progressed, it got darker outside. That really helped to show how much time was passing. I thought it worked very well having the movie set in one setting. That helped to add tension to what was going on. Hitchcock would make another movie, Rear Window, that took place mostly inside an apartment.

Brandon and Phillip were friends who believed they were superior to most other people. They decided to kill David, someone they felt was inferior, just to prove that they could commit the perfect murder and not be caught. Phillip was quickly having second thoughts and regrets about what they did. He didn’t like several things that Brandon did, like having the dinner party and serving the food from the chest. Phillip seemed to be slowing cracking up as the movie progressed. Farley Granger handled the part well. Brandon was extremely smug and arrogant, believing that he and Phillip were better than most others and entitled to murder. Brandon loved to manipulate other people and took great joy in setting up the dinner party and inviting David’s parents, Kenneth, Janet and Rupert. John Dall handled the part well.

Rupert had been one of Brandon and Phillip’s teachers at boarding school. Rupert also knew David and Kenneth. Rupert firmly believed in the idea that superior people had the right to commit murder. He’d shared that idea with his students over the years, which was how Brandon and Phillip got their idea to begin with. Rupert was very observant and started to notice several odd things during the dinner party. James Stewart handled the part very well. This was the first Hitchcock movie he made, but it wouldn’t be the last.

Mrs. Wilson was the maid who didn’t understand why Brandon decided to change some things around at the last minute. She seemed familiar with both Phillip and Rupert. I’ve read that much of the cast actually treated Edith Evanson like she was a maid on set when no filming was going on. It seemed like Janet had known Brandon and Phillip for a while. She knew that Brandon liked to manipulate people and she wasn’t happy when she felt like he was trying to push her back to her ex-boyfriend Kenneth who was also David’s friend. Their friendship had suffered after Janet started dating David. None of them were very developed characters, though that seemed to work fine with the movie. David wasn’t shown alive, so the audience only got to know him through things the other characters said about him. Mr. Kentley and Mrs. Atwater, David’s father and aunt, also weren’t developed much. Mrs. Atwater tended to be very vague when she talked about things like movies and plays.

Main Cast

John Dall - Brandon Shaw
Joan Chandler - Janet
Constance Collier - Mrs. Atwater
Douglas Dick - Kenneth
Edith Evanson - Mrs. Wilson
Farley Granger - Phillip Morgan
Sir Cedric Hardwicke - Mr. Kentley
Dick Hogan - David Kentley
James Stewart - Rupert Cadell

Alfred Hitchcock - Director

DVD Information

Rope is available on DVD.  The copy I watched only has the full frame version of the movie. I don’t know if there is a widescreen version available. There are a few extras on the disc including production notes and photographs, the trailer, and something called Rope Unleashed. That was filmed in 2000 and featured some of the people involved in the making the movie, including Farley Granger, talking about making the movie. Several pictures from the set were shown. Several of them mentioned how it was known but never said at the time how the movie was about homosexuals. While watching the movie I had wondered if Brandon and Phillip were living together, but I honestly hadn’t wondered if they were gay. It was also discussed how difficult the filming of the movie was, especially with how huge the color cameras were. I did think the information shared was interesting.

Rope was another entertaining Hitchcock movie that has been overlooked by many people over the years. That might be because the movie wasn’t that popular when it was released. People that like Hitchcock’s movies should give this one a chance.

This review is part of CaptainD’s Good Movies Write Off.

Alfred Hitchcock Movie Reviews
The Birds ~ Dial M for Murder ~ Family Plot ~ Lifeboat ~ The Lodger ~ The Man Who Knew Too Much ~ North by Northwest ~ Notorious ~ The Paradine Case ~ Psycho ~ Rear Window ~ Rebecca ~ Sabotage ~ Strangers on a Train ~ Suspicion ~ To Catch a Thief ~ Vertigo ~

Recommend this product? Yes

Viewing Format: DVD

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