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Harrison's Reports (1948) - Rope




"Rope" with James Stewart, John Dall and Farley Granger

(Warner Bros., September 25; time, 80 mm.)

An exceptionally fine psychological thriller, photographed in Technicolor. But whether or not it will prove to be a popular picture is questionable, for as entertainment it has a morbid quality that has seldom, if ever, been surpassed on the screen; it revolves around two intellectual but degenerate undergraduates who, seeking a thrill, murder a classmate, hide his body in a living room chest, then give a party during which they serve refreshments to the victim's father and his friends from the top of the chest—all designed to prolong the thrill of the murder. The picture will undoubtedly please those who are morbidly inclined, as well as the intelligentsia who will appreciate a thought-provoking discourse on the subject of murder and its Nietzschean justification outside the law. Technically, the picture is a masterpiece. Moviegoers who expect the unusual from Alfred Hitchcock will not be disappointed, for he has handled the story in a most unique way; the action has a time lapse of 80 minutes, the exact running time of the film, and from the opening to the closing scenes the camera follows the players within the limits of a three-room apartment in what may be described as a continuous take. It is an ingenious technique, and under Hitchcock's superb handling it serves to heighten the atmosphere of mounting suspense and suspicion. The acting is excellent :—

John Dall and Farley Granger strangle their friend, Dick Hogan, and conceal his body in a chest in the living room of Dall's apartment. In the opinion of his murderers, the dead man was an intellectual inferior and a weakling of no consequence in their distorted pattern of life. They had committed the crime, not for vengeance or profit, but for a thrill. To carry out what they believed was the perfect crime, and to enhance and prolong their thrill, the two killers prepare for a scheduled party in the apartment, to which they had invited Cedric Hardwicke, the boy's father; Joan Chandler, his fiancee; Constance Collier, his aunt; James Stewart, a publisher, who had been their housemaster in prep school; and several other friends of the dead man. During the party, Dall, drunk with morbid excitement, deliberately leads his guests to speculate about Hogan's absence from the party, while Granger, emotionally muddled, is on the verge of cracking up. Stewart, who had had many philosophical discussions with the two men on the subject of the realistic concepts of good and evil, believes that the two men had played a prank on the missing Hogan, but Granger's erratic behavior causes him to suspect that they had done away with their friend. Stewart leaves the party with the other guests, but returns on a pretense just as the killers prepare to dispose of the body. A cat and mouse game between Stewart and the two men ends in a struggle, during which Stewart locates the body. After denouncing them for their brutal act and for their smug assumption of superiority, Stewart, holding them at bay, summons the police.

Alfred Hitchcock directed it from a screen play by Arthur Laurents, based on the play by Patrick Hamilton.

Strictly adult fare.