Hitchcock was no stranger to controversy. Most every film he made was infused with Freudian psychology and offensive to some group or another. Take "Rope" for instance, a movie that opens with two men killing another man and stuffing his body in a trunk—and that's just the opening shot.
"Rope" is based on the stage play by Patrick Hamilton which paralleled the crimes of the infamous duo Leopold and Loeb. The pop culture rumors of the two criminals—they kidnapped a young boy and murdered him and disposed of the body before making a ransom demand to the mother who would be paying for nothing since her child was already dead—obviously are infused in the script.
The two villains are Brandon and Phillip who kill a certain David Kentley within a minute of the opening credits. After they stuff the body in a chest they sit for a while and breathe deeply, obviously trying to evoke a feeling of sexuality for the crime itself.
In the minds of the killers, the murder was done because it could have been done. It's the thought that they are superior and David was lesser—a character makes remarks of Nietzsche later in the film and his observations are quite apropos.
But the audience can tell that the murder wasn't logical, the murder was driven by some sexual desire. I take my hat off to John Dall and Farley Granger for playing Brandon and Phillip, because in the time that "Rope" was released, it was a very fearless decision. Brandon and Phillip (much like the rumors of Leopold and Loeb) are played in a very homo-erotic fashion. Neither of them are gay and Brandon has dated women before but in this area, they seem very sexual.
After strangling the body, Brandon smokes a cigarette in a post-coitus fashion and Phillip asks to be left to let the feeling linger for a little while.
They go into the other room and then they ask each other how it was for them. If this didn't make audiences squirm in their seats in the 1940s, I don't know what would.
However the cliches of Hollywood are seen clearly and would remain for long time after, the characters that may not be gay but are more feminine and sexual than a mainstream viewing would like, are the villains—murders at that.
Whether the characters are gay, which is what many surmise, or if they just shared in this one time semi-sexual experience, it doesn't matter. Either way, Freud can be seen. The logic was pushed aside for a moment of pleasure of the flesh. There are other moments in which Hitchcock has his actors 'subconsciously' revealing clues—another nod to Freud.
The acting itself starts off a little melodramatic. I've found that many Hitchcock movies take thirty minutes to really get into. Once the plot has started twisting, the sun sets and drunkenness and madness sets in. The movie gets better as it plays along.
For the time and really still today, "Rope" does not hold back. It's radical in the message that it conveys and stylistically groundbreaking.
To bring a staged sense to the movie and to add to the pressure that builds on the characters, Hitchcock used all eight minutes that a roll of film could record and only has a few cuts in the whole movie. A camera on wheels rolls around in other rooms to capture the dialogue and action. The way the cuts are made, it plays like one long take...it's very effective.
"Rope" isn't my favorite Hitchcock, nor do I think that it's his best. It's it good? It's Hitchcock, why do you need to ask?
James Stewart gets top billing for the movie, though I feel it should have gone to Dall and Granger, because it really is their movie.
It's one of the first psychosexual thrillers and it remains somewhat hypnotic, even to this day.
Score: 3 stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones