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Alfred Hitchcock was a true master of cinema. The list of his great movies far surpasses the filmography of many directors. However, what made him great was his ability to create movies that were popular as well as technically brilliant. The audience could enjoy his work on many levels. From the common viewer who wanted a good plot and acting to the film buff who marveled at his technical proficiency, Hitchcock packed the house time and time again. Just released on DVD, Rope is a prime example.
Check this out. The movie is not a whodunit. It starts with the murder! As the movie opens, Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) have murdered their buddy, David (Dick Hogan), for thrills. Brandon is obsessed with suspense and danger, so he has murdered David and stuffed him in the trunk just to see if they will get caught. To raise the level of danger, he has decided to throw a party at the site of the murder and he's using the trunk as a buffet table.
Will Brandon and Phillip get caught? Will David be found?
While Jimmy Stewart is the star, Dall and Granger are the main focus of the movie. Dall is riveting as the demonic, arrogant punk who loves to pit people against each other for pure entertainment purposes. On the other hand, Granger is just as good as the nervous nelly whose conscience starts to get the best of him. Add in a staid, authoritative Stewart as their former teacher who sees through the innuendoes and double entendres and you've got a movie.
The film benefits from a great script by Arthur Laurentis. He uses a dark, morbid sense of humor to add to the increasing tension as we approach the climax. Every line is chosen for its impact on the audience and we are drawn in as it appears the murder is about to be uncovered. Laurentis even sneaks in a great joke about Hitchcock's previous film, Notorious. As the guests discuss their favorite movies, they all like "that recent film with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman", but they cannot remember its name. Hitchcock shows he is a bigger man by laughing along with us.
Movie lovers will be blown away by Hitchcock's approach to making the film. Since it is based on a stage production, Hitchcock stays true to the story by seemly filming the movie as one, long, amazing scene set in one New York City apartment. While those familiar with how movies are made will be able to spot the cuts and edits, it is still a bold and daring choice. It is more of a challenge considering the background - the New York City skyline.
Hitchcock used a cyclorama with spun glass, 2000 lightbulbs, 200 neon signs and some well placed smoke stacks to make it appear as if the sun is setting on New York and the city is coming to life as the movie's action proceeds from afternoon to evening to night. While this would be accomplished with computer graphics today, in 1948, Hitchcock had to rely on a great technical staff and his own imagination to make it work. Also, he had to be mindful of the film's continuity to make sure that the effect matched the chronological order of the action.
For great thrill this weekend, check out Rope.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Arthur Laurentis
Based on the play by Patrick Hamilton
James Stewart .. Rupert Kadell
John Dall . . Brandon
Farley Granger . Phillip
Sir Cedric Hardwicke .. Mr. Kentley
Constance Collier Mrs. Atwater
Joan Chandler .. Janet
Edith Evanson .. Mrs. Wilson
Douglas Pick . Kenneth
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