Rope (Alfred Hitchcock, 1948, USA)

Rope was largely seen as a curio at the time of its release. The first film to be shot in a single take (in reality, the film was stitched together with a number of “hidden” cuts), the film received a lukewarm reception at the time of its release in 1948. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times described the film as “monotonous”. Hitchcock even believed the film was an unsuccessful experiment, and was happy to see the film kept out of release for decades. Thankfully, in recent decades Rope has seen a critical re-appraisal, and now is widely regarded as one of Hitchcock’s most interesting films. While the film has its flaws, it is a unique and entertaining viewing experience.
Rope is based on a stage play from England, which in turn was based on the real life Leopold and Loeb murders, which took place in Chicago in 1924. The homosexual relationship between the two perpetrators - Brandon and Philip - is made explicit in the stage play. Due to censorship, screenwriter Arthur Laurents had to downplay this aspect of the story. Laurents was apparently disappointed with this, but in retrospect the subtlety actually works to the film’s advantage. Farley Granger plays the submissive Philip pitch-perfectly, while John Dall is equally excellent as the cunning and sociopathic Brandon. 
While some have questioned the casting choice of Jimmy Stewart as Brandon and Philip’s former prep-school housemaster, Rupert Cadell, I find him convincing in the role. While a more intellectual-type actor might have been better suited for the role than the folksy Stewart, it does not hinder the film in any significant way. Rope can largely be viewed as a precursor to the troubled and pathological relationships Hitchcock would explore in later films, from Strangers on a Train to Psycho. Beyond this, Rope is a highly entertaining effort.



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