Rope is often revered for its interesting approach with camerawork that involved full-reel takes cut together in a way that makes it look as though the movie was filmed in one continual take. Although fans today enjoy this aspect, Hitchcock called it a “gimmick” and the movie did poorly at the box office.
Also Hitchcock’s first color picture, Rope starts with two men strangling another man with a bit of rope before stashing him in a trunk. The two men are sophisticated, New York socialites who have killed their friend without any motive –just for the thrill of it. They have already arranged for a dinner party at their flat and construct a food spread on top of the trunk that holds the body. The dead man is also expected at the party –son of two guests and boyfriend to another. Jimmy Stewart joins the lot as a former professor of the two men and the only one who absorbs the various clues the men are leaking about their crime.
The source material lied in a Patrick Hamilton play of the same name, but the story also drew inspiration from the 1924 crime of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, a pair of intellectually brilliant lovers who killed an acquaintance without motive as a stunt to prove their superior genius. A series of stupid mistakes led to their arrest and conviction, however. The homosexual undertone remains in Hitchcock’s interpretation but is probably only there if one looks for it.
The long takes were blended together by ending each reel of film focused in on a character’s back, allowing for a black screen where a cut can be inserted without being obvious. Hitchcock used the long-take approach in his next film, Under Capricorn but I did not even notice it.
This was the first movie to be filmed under Transatlantic Pictures, founded by Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein in anticipation of the end of the director’s contract with David O. Selznick. Ultimately, only three pictures were made under the company: Rope, Under Capricorn and I Confess. The box office lows for the former two did not help the company’s prospects.
The MacGuffin: No MacGuffin here.
Where’s Hitch? Walking on the street holding a newspaper following the opening credits and about an hour in his silhouette is on a red neon sign for “Reduco” outside the apartment window.
Source: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan
I will be posting reviews of Hitchcock movies every hour ending at 8 p.m. today, but other members of the Classic Movie Blog Association, which is hosting the blogathon, have plenty to offer also. Links to their articles is up at the CMBA site. Check them out!