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Rope (1948)
Hitchcock's ROPE has always been a favorite of mine, so I was happy to try it out on Blu-ray after a long hiatus. Yep, it holds up.  A hugely re-watchable little single-location film. If you're not familiar with the movie, it concerns two university students who strangle their classmate in their apartment.  They do so with no motive other than the thrill of committing murder (a premise inspired by the Leopold and Loeb case).  The killers put the body in a chest, then host a dinner party with the victim's family and friends as guests who are unaware that they're eating off his grave.

The movie is remembered for its gimmick of being staged like a play, to the point where Hitchcock wanted to film it all in a continuous take. This was impossible because the cameras at the time could only hold ten minutes of film; still, the fact that it consists of ten-minute takes is pretty impressive, all the more so because the Technicolor cameras of the day (this was Hitch's first color picture) were roughly the size of the monolith from 2001.  From a technical standpoint, it's still kind of a marvel of timing and technique.  And as fake as those clouds may look, the facade of the New York skyline getting darker as the party progresses is a really nice effect.

Speaking retrospectively about the film, Hitchcock dismissed it as an experiment or gimmick. Sure, it was a gimmick - but a fucking great one. It's easy to see why it didn't do well at the box office, though. The casting of James Stewart as the radical teacher who imbued the two killers with Nietzschean philosophy was a strange choice. Even though the character makes a big moralistic speech at the end of the movie - the only emphatically dated aspect, I think - he's still a pretty unsavory character for a boy scout like Stewart to be portraying in a mainstream movie in 1948.   Although VERTIGO takes the cake when it comes to Hitch directing Stewart in an unflattering role, this was still pretty ballsy.

There's a nice little half hour doc about the film that was carried over from the DVD.  In it, the screenwriter says that the original idea was to not show the murder, leaving the audience to wonder whether or not there is really a body in the box.  The writer laments that Hitchock changed this, which he believes destroys the movie's suspense.  I completely disagree.  The suspense is waiting for one of the guests to stumble upon the terrible truth.  Letting the audience in is a much more macabre setup that I think works brilliantly.
I enjoy "Rope" a great deal, "gimmick" included. Wouldn't call it top-tier Hitchcock, but I sure have watched it a bunch. (It's one of those classic movies I was able to record without interruption from PBS when I was a kid, so that's one reason for that.)

Moralistic or no, I like the speech at the end. It's one of my go-tos when doing my Stewart impression: "Did you think you were God, Brandon?! Is that what you thought when you choked the life out of him and served food from his grave?!"

Tagentially, I recently saw for the first time "Compulsion", the only-slightly fictionalized movie about the Leopold/Loeb trial, with Orson Welles and Dean Stockwell. It's decent.
Our sanitariums are full of men who think they're Napoleon... Or God.
Seem to remember Hitchcock really went all out with the villainous gay subtext in this one. He loved his evil gays!

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