Rope ★★★½

Part of the Alfred Hitchcock Sound Era Films In Chronological Order project.

Rope is the cinematic equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock doing a happy dance at no longer having to work with David O. Selznick. With his contract having expired after The Paradine Case he was more or less free, now in partnership with producer Sidney Bernstein, to make whatever films he wanted.

Really, Rope just feels like Hitchcock warming up for what would be the greatest decade of his career. Freed of his Selznick commitments, it does also feel as though Hitchcock is taking some baby steps here - but some pretty confident ones at that. The level of experimentation here, not just in terms of the now famous long takes, is the real sign of a director who is revelling in his freedom.

The thing is that I've never quite embraced Rope to the extent that many have. Its technical side and its real-time setting are still impressive and interesting to this day, but the actual story itself has flaws. For a pair of such seemingly extremely intelligent young men, they make at least one really stupid error as well as dropping several other clues as to what they have done.

Of course, there is the possibility that Brandon especially, played with delightfully sneering smarm by John Dall, almost wants to be caught only to lose his nerve when it looks as though that is about to happen. But I wasn't convinced enough myself that this was the case for the clues that are left and the hints that are dropped to have been left there purposely.

As such, it does mean that James Stewart's role becomes slightly problematic. As excellent as he is here, especially during the first few minutes he is in the film, it's hard not to see him as little more than a Columbo progenitor until the last 5 minutes or so. Farley Granger's constantly nervous and twitchy performance perhaps rings more true, though - he acts like a man who has just participated in a murder.

I thought it had its problems but I still think it is a very fine piece of filmmaking and a pleasingly tight story that is enjoyable despite any holes that I am seeing, whether they are there or not. It's a shame that Joan Chandler did not do many more films after this as she is quite lovely here and Constance Collier, as the mother of the mysteriously absent David, is charming as well. It's a very good cast performing extremely well - something that is missed in much of the literature that has been written about it.

Not my favourite Hitchcock but it's a hugely important film and its place in his history is undoubted.

Steve G liked these reviews

All