Movie #322 2020: Rope (1948)

Now we’re out of our delayed Halloween phase, let’s look at a couple of run-of-the-mill movies before the debut of the festive season, shall we?

Back to Hitchcock we go, with his first colour film, 1948’s Rope. Based on a play of the same name, Rope is a psychological thriller edited to appear to be one single shot for the duration. No, Sam Mendes did not invent that. The story revolves around two men who wish to commit the perfect crime: they murder a man and attempt to get away with it as they host a dinner party. Of course, James Stewart is having none of that, and quickly begins to suspect something sinister has taken place in the room.

Despite an immediate murder, this one takes a little longer to get going than Hitchcock’s other features. However, the opening sequence sets up the entire movie that comes thereafter, and tells us a lot about the characters instantly, which is brilliant in itself.

The thing about Hitchcock is that he was the creator of the first ‘Easter Egg’. For instance, one of the female characters mentioning Cary Grant is very meta considering he’d appeared in 2 Hitchcock films already. Another achievement that can be attributed to AH: Creator of the original Easter egg. What can’t he do?

Sadly, this is a cast that are nothing to write home about. However, every time I see James Stewart in a movie I’m completely captivated by him. Watching him turn into a detective on screen is a joy, and his booming yet gentle voice is in full force here.

Unfortunately, it’s too evident that this is adapted from a play. It’s a hell of a lot of men in suits talking and just doesn’t have as much intrigue and excitement as other Hitchcock movies. Sadly, the original playscript seems as though it influenced the writers too much, and something about it simply doesn’t work as well as a feature film. The suspense is certainly there however, and it’s a slow burn that gets better as the time ticks on. 

Set all in one place, the whole thing feels like a more sinister version of ClueWhat’s special about this is that no one but the audience knows that there’s even been a murder until it all unravels. A murder mystery with a twist, that’s for sure, and the second movie in a trend for Hitchcock, who experimented with single-location films repeatedly throughout his career.

Despite it not being his greatest achievement, it’s easy to appreciate the experimental nature of Rope, it’s use of long takes and one location, etc. Not Hitchcock’s best for me, but still a masterclass in discovery and technicality that today’s filmmakers are constantly attempting to replicate.

Rope is available to rent for £2.49 on the Google Play Store, or £3.49 on Amazon in the UK.

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