Rope (1948)


Plot: Two young men strangle their "inferior" classmate, hide his body in their apartment, and invite his friends and family to a dinner party as a means to challenge the "perfection" of their crime.

A wonderful little murder mystery movie from Hitchcock, but with a twist (of course). Instead of wondering who did the murder, how, or if a murder even happened, the mystery is whether the killers will be discovered or not. The audience sees the murder and where the body is placed at the start of the film. The tension comes from the possibility that they will be discovered.

Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan kill their former classmate, David, before a big dinner party. They place the body in the middle of the room in a chest, because the murder is so perfect that no one would ever suspect. Brandon is the leader of the group and has a clear superiority complex. Phillip is much weaker willed, being very paranoid that they'll be caught. Invited to the party are David's parents, David's fiance, and the housemaster that taught all the boys in their youths. Hitchcock's macabre sense of humor is on full display here, as Brandon frequently makes quips that could tip him off, and even serves dinner on top of the makeshift coffin instead of the dinner table. 

Throughout the dinner party, Brandon and Phillip begin to crack around their former teacher, played wonderfully by James Stewart. He, in fact, was almost invited to join in on the murder. As it turns out, the men got their viewpoints on killing FROM Stewart's character of Rupert Cadell. 

Rupert, picking up on the quips and odd behavior, is the only guest to figure out the murder. He realizes the error of his own thoughts and feels a responsibility for the murder. It's a joy to watch. Jimmy Stewart was just amazing, and the dialogue is very snappy and witty even nearly 70 years later. From a technical aspect, the movie is shot in a similar manner of a play (which it is based on), with the movie broken down into 10 minute chunks. Each of these chunks are done in one take. The set itself (an upscale apartment that is the only setting outside of a brief establishing shot) was made on wheels, so everything could be moved back and forth during takes to make room for the giant camera. 

There is apparently a lot of gay subtext in this that I didn't pick up on at all. Brandon and Phillip are in a relationship, Brandon and Rupert are implied to have had an affair during Brandon's schooling days, and Brandon also had a relationship with Joan, the deceased's fiance. I somehow missed all of that. I read the movie as a tract against Nietzschean/Randian philosophies of the Ubermensch and Objectivism. You can read into it what you will. I very much recommend it. Jimmy Stewart in particular is just WONDERFUL. 

It's one of the lesser known Hitchcock movies, but is up in the Psycho/NBNW/Rear Window/Vertigo tier for me.