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Film Bulletin (16/Aug/1948) - Rope





Rates ★★★ — for class houses; less elsewhere

80 minutes
James Stewart, Joan Chandler, John Dall, Farley Granger, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Constance Collier, Douglas Dick, Edith Evanson, Dick Hogan.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

That ace innovator, Alfred Hitchcock, has fashioned another highly ingenious and radically different motion picture. As an example of pioneering in film technique, it's terrific; as general screen entertainment, it's limited by the morbid quality of its story material. Hume Cronyn is responsible for the splendid adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's play. As a matter of fact, "Rope" is a picture of brilliant virtuosity, but one which exhibitors may have reason to regret was not on a subject more to the taste of Mr. and Mrs. Ticket Buyer. "Rope" is obviously patterned after the famous Loeb-Leopold "thrill" murder" case. It's a concentrated potion of tense melodrama, perhaps too strong for the average movie-goer, and automatically cancels out a considerable segment that will shy away from such a gruesome theme. On the other hand, it presages a fairly strong draw with James Stewart applying impetus and Hitchcock being one of the few directorial names that carry any weight at the boxoffice. And if your patrons are interested in seeing a stimulating departure from the routine, and movie fare on an intelligent level—a picture in which the characters talk about Nietzschean philosophy—then "Rope" more than fills the bill. It is a question-mark for the general run of theatres.

Only Hitchcock could get away with this kind of tricky hocus-pocus. It's all concentrated with a small cast and only one set and is continuous action—that is, the 80 minutes of running time encompass exactly that span of events. These deliberate restrictions involve a lot of clever camera manipulation, an imaginative use of sound as various conversations blend imperceptibly, and Technicolor is sparingly used to heighten the dramatic tension. The net effect is a pretty fascinating tour-de-force, although it does seem like making a movie the hard way. Top calibre performances conform to Mr. Hitchcock's exacting demands. James Stewart breaks the bonds of typecasting in an unusual role as a shuffling, grey-haired intellectual and the two young egomaniacs are portrayed with appalling realism by John Dall and Farley Granger. Newcomer Joan Chandler also makes a vivid impression and the other members in this tableau are Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Constance Collier, Douglas Dick and Edith Evanson.

EXPLOITATION: Bill this as "Hitchcock's masterpiece of sheer terror" and bear down with James Stewart's "different" role. Street bally-vendors minus slogans, just carrying a piece of rope, will attract attention to your theatre. It opens abruptly on this "perfect crime." Dall and Granger strangle their innocent victim with a piece of rope and conceal the body in a large chest. They have no motive, it's just an exciting experiment. Then they prepare for the party; their guests are the dead boy's fiancée, his father, his aunt, a college chum and James Stewart, once their prep school instructor. They serve the buffet dinner on the chest. Dall, in a psychopathic bravado, steers the conversation around to topics of murder and its justification, while Granger's nerve is close to the cracking point. All this causes Stewart to suspect something horribly wrong. The party mood is strained and uncomfortable ; the guests are worried about the lad's unaccountable absence and suddenly they all decide to leave. The killers are preparing to remove the body, when Stewart returns on the pretext of having forgotten his cigarette case. After an increasingly tense cat-and-mouse questioning, there is a struggle and he finds the body. He is horrified at their perverted philosophy and summons the police.