Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Rope (1948)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Editor: William H. Ziegler
Writers: Patrick Hamilton (play), Hume Cronyn (Screenplay)
Stars: James Stewart, John Dall and Farley Granger

Rope (1948, Alfred Hitchcock) tells the delightfully twisted and morbid tale of two young men who collaborate in the murder of an “inferior” classmate. In order to prove the perfection of there crime, they invite the victim’s friends and family around for a dinner party whilst the body is still hidden in the apartment. But all is not well, as one of the guests begins to suspect the two young men and the true horror of their crime gradually becomes clear.

The movie makes wonderful use of editing by not having any, or at least being made to look like is doesn’t. There is only one obvious cut in the movie (it cuts from an exterior shot of the apartment to the interior) the rest of the cuts are made to look seamless, they are almost unnoticeable unless you’re intentionally looking for them. Hitchcock originally intended the film to be one continuous shot but due to technical reasons this could not be done. Instead he decided to compromise and have the movie made up of several 8-minute continuous shot’s seamlessly edited together. This proved to be an excellent method for building suspense the audience feels the tension growing and growing until it becomes unbearable. The movies unconventional editing technique is justified by one Internet reviewer who says, This is a movie filled with suspense from the first frame, without any extraneous footage.” [Suze-4, 2000,]

Rope (1948) is comparable with a few scenes in Inglourious Basterds (2009, Quentin Tarantino), particularly the opening scene when Colonel Hans Landa is interrogating a farmer about hiding Jewish refugees; Quentin Tarantino described this scene as being like “watching an elastic band being stretched and waiting for it to snap” [Quentin Tarantino Inglourious Basterds Interview,]. This analogy could certainly be applied to Rope (1948) the whole movie feels like watching an elastic band stretch tighter and tighter and waiting for the inevitable snap. It could be said that the moment the metaphoric elastic band snaps is when Jimmy Stewart confronts the two leads with the rope.

Fig 1, Final Confrontation

The actors in the movie are great especially considering how grueling the long takes must have been. John Dall plays the subtly psychotic Brandon Shaw; his sick little games (like giving books as a gift to the father of his murder victim, tied together with the rope he used to kill his son) make him, in a more subtle way, just as creepy as the greatest screen psychos like Jack Nicolson in The Shining (1980, Stanly Kubrick). Farley Granger plays Brandon’s far less confident partner in crime Phillip Morgan, its great watching Phillip become more and more nervous as the film progresses. There is a great scene between Granger as Phillip and Jimmy Stewart as Rupert Cadell(the suspicious guest) he idly sets a metronome in motion as Phillip plays the piano, making him play faster and faster while he questions him. Its very suspenseful, the audience feels the tension and feels almost as nervous as Phillip dose.

Fig 2, Piano Interrogation Scene 

Rope (1948) is one of Hitchcock’s many minor masterpieces in suspense cinema. The movie is a technical marvel because of its lack of editing and cuts, or at least the way it is made to look like there are no cuts. But far from being just a technical marvel, the movie is massively entertaining with a great cast of characters, and a simple but brilliant story.  

Image list

Fig 2, Rope (1948), Piano Interrogation Scene, Movie Still,

Fig 1, Rope(1948), Final Confrontation, Movie Still,


Rope Movie Review, 2000, Internet Movie Database, Available at:

Absolute Radio, 2009, Tarantino Inglourious Basterds Interview, Available at:

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