Alfred Hitchcock made a lot of movies, and many of them have since been hailed as classics: The Birds, Rear Window,Vertigo, Psycho, Dial M For Murder, and North by Northwest, to name only half a dozen…
But back in 1948 – long before any of these were filmed – Hitchcock made Rope, an often overlooked masterpiece. Ever since I first watched it when I was a teenager, I thought it was fantastic, and today I landed on it while channel-hopping, just as the credits were starting. Awesome.
The premise is simple: two college students (John Dall and Farley Granger) strangle someone to see if they can get away with the crime, and then have a dinner party while the body lies in the chest upon which they have arranged the food… and to say anything else would spoil the treat for those who haven’t seen it.
It’s only short – eighty minutes – but it’s extremely tight, and there’s no flab in the script at all. It’s an early example of ‘real-time’ film-making, and it also makes use of some (for the time) clever editing techniques to make it seem as if it has been filmed in one continuous take, giving it an intimate, claustrophobic feel.
James Stewart was always effortless, and like all great actors, you never saw him acting – whether it was talking to a seven-foot rabbit in Harvey or defending his family as a grizzled farm-owner in Shenandoah. He lived every part he played, and his role here as the curious professor who tries to figure out what is going on, is no exception.
These elements make Rope an absolute gem of a movie, and if I can write something this precise – this lean – I’ll be very proud of myself.