Classic Movie Review: Rope (1948)

Title: Rope
Release Date: August 26, 1948
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Production Company: Transatlantic Pictures

Rope is famous for being a story told in real-time, shot in long takes, and edited to appear as if it was filmed in one take.  The technical accomplishment serves the film well as the suspense build in this story of two young men who murder their Harvard classmate as an experiment of their intellectual superiority.  The victim, David Kentley (Dick Hogan), is choked to death in the opening scene of the film by Brandon (John Dall) and Philip (Farley Granger), who then place his body in an antique chest. Dall and Granger are suitably loathsome and arrogant in their performance (if this movie was made today they’d probably be MRA/Incel types).

While Brandon exults in the murder and the party he’s planned to hold with David’s body in the chest, Philip in anxious about getting caught and becomes increasingly erratic.  The guests for the party are David’s father Mr. Kentley (Cedric Hardwicke), hid aunt Mrs. Atwater (Constance Collier), and his fiancee Janet Walker (Joan Chandler).  Brandon also invites their friend and Janet’s ex-boyfriend Kenneth Lawrence (Douglas Dick) as part of plot to get Janet and Kenneth back together now that David is out of the picture. Also in attendance is the housekeeper Mrs. Wilson performed with a scene-stealing ebullience by Edith Evanson.

The final guest is Rupert Cadell (Jimmy Stewart), a publisher, who was the housemaster at the prep school Brandon, Philip, David, and Kenneth all attended.  It was Cadell who introduced the intellectual ideas of the “art of murder” in philosophical conversations. Brandon believes Cadell will be impressed by what they’ve done.  The conversations at the party about the right of “superiors” to murder “inferiors” is especially chilling since this film was made shortly after the Holocaust (although it is based on a play from the 1920s).

As the party proceeds, the guests are largely put off by Brandon and Philip’s boorish behavior and worried about David’s absence.  Cadell grows suspicious, leading to the climax of the film. This movie is deeply suspenseful and well-acted in addition to its technical accomplishments.  The dialogue seems a little stiff and perhaps to reliant on stage-play conventions.  This is a good movie, but with its thoroughly devastating depiction of evil, it is not a movie that will make one feel good.

Rating: ****