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  • Full Frame
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
  • German: Dolby Digital Mono
    English, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Featurette - Rope Unleashed
  • Photo gallery
  • Booklet


Warner Bros./Universal . R4 . COLOR . 77 mins . PG . PAL


Good eeeeeeeeeeeeeevening...

This week we're invited to a dinner party at the New York apartment of the rather arrogant Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and easily led Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger). Keen studies of their former prep school teacher, Rupert Cadell (James Stewart), it seems they have taken his teachings of Nietzsche's 'superman' theories just a little too seriously, and for a good old jolly jape they have just strangled their friend David Kentley with a piece of rope, stuffed him in a chest and made his resting place our dinner table. Oh, did I mention our fellow guests for the evening? Well, Mr Cadell is coming along, as is David's fiancée Janet, her former beau Kenneth, oh, and of course David's parents are invited, too…

As the party progresses, concerns about the non-appearance of David heighten, Phillip becomes rather frayed, Mr Cadell's suspicions are raised and Kenneth makes a play to get Janet back. Will Phillip's rapid unravelling or Brandon's sheer arrogance cause our two murderers to be discovered, or will their attempt at pulling off the perfect murder be successful?

"Nobody commits murder just for the experience of committing it. Nobody except us..."

Rope is based both on the real life case of Leopold-Loeb, two Chicago students who pulled essentially the same twisted stunt, and a play by Englishman Patrick Hamilton entitled Rope's End - and boy does the latter show. Set in the one apartment with one unbroken timeline, as well as being Hitchcock's first foray into the world of colour film it also presented the opportunity for him to employ a novel, yet not entirely successful, method of filming. Back then a camera could hold no more than ten minutes of stock, so Hitch decided to film each scene in one extended tracking shot, moving the incredibly bulky cameras all around a set-on-wheels, and going to great (and often cheesy) lengths to retain the flow of the film as appearing seemingly uncut by zooming in on the backs of people, or employing close-ups on dark items for the reel changes. The man himself described it in hindsight as a "nonsensical stunt", so I guess no more need be said on the matter.

My main criticism of Rope is that unlike most of the acknowledged Master of Suspense's films, he dispensed with his key element of suspense almost at the outset of the film. We see Brandon and Phillip commit David's murder, and we know where they hide him, the only outlet left for any tension is as to whether they will be found out. In all this is hardly the most thrilling premise.

Things aren’t helped greatly by the cast. Stewart was normally brilliant with any script that was thrown his way, yet here he seems strangely detached and uncomfortable. Granger is his typically wooden self, although he's not alone as his partner in crime Dall has quite the Pinocchio vibe going himself as well. It's performances from a couple of the supporting players that are more impressive, notably Sir Cedric Hardwicke (Mr Kentley) and Constance Collier (the rather jolly Mrs Atwater). Perhaps their sheer Britishness just suits what was originally a British play all the better, or perhaps it's just because they were two of the only players here who didn’t seem to have broom handles firmly jammed up their rear ends?


1948. That is the year this film was made, only three years after the end of World War II - goodness, that was forever ago! Considering its vintage what we get here is pretty impressive, especially when you consider that Rope didn’t receive the restoration treatment that the likes of Rear Window or Vertigo (deservedly) had lavished upon them.

Yes, it's rather speckly at times, sure it can tend to be a little grainy, and agreed it does look slightly washed out and unnaturally dull - however, Hitchcock has gone on record to say that he took deliberate steps to reduce the colour to a minimum. Looking at the positives, the transfer is remarkably sharp without being overdone, and the colour is solid without being, well, overly colourful. It is presented in full frame, however before anybody starts flapping his or her arms in despair about that please note that it's because that's essentially the ratio it was filmed in.

Special mention must be given to the layer change, as it is more ham-fisted than Porky Pig. The film has a number of natural points that would have been perfect to sneakily slip in the change, but instead some dolt decided to put it at a pivotal, and extremely unnatural, spot. Hanging's too good for 'em!


Not surprisingly, Rope's audio is in mono. Being essentially a stage play it isn’t like we miss out on much in the way of sonic gymnastics, and the most important factor, dialogue, is clear and easily discernable at all times, with no audio synch problems witnessed. However, there was a little crackle on occasions, and the music did tend to distort a little at times, though once again considering the age of the film I think I'd be a bit hard if I criticised it too much.

Speaking of the music, it was provided by Leo F Forbstein, and to be honest it's a little ho-hum. Unlike many of his films, Hitchcock wasn't using the score as an important dramatic player in Rope, so I guess the more serviceable one provided here isn't such a great problem.


A static, but pleasantly Hitchcockian nonetheless menu accompanied by that fabulous 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents..." music leads us to...

Making of - Rope Unleashed: A 32-minute feature which in itself makes this disc infinitely more worthwhile. Created in 2000, it features interviews with the film's treatment writer Hume Cronyn, screenplay writer Arthur Laurents, actor Farley Granger and Hitch's daughter Patricia Hitchcock-O'Connell. Much fabulous insight is given on the play's transition from something quintessentially English to a format deemed more suitable for American cinema - particularly the complete glossing over of the story's homosexual overtones. Sorry, that word wasn't allowed at the time, so I should say the story's "it" overtones. Tales here of censorship at the time are quite fascinating, with many of the filmic dos and don'ts divulged, plus there's plenty of gossip about what happened behind the scenes. Presented in full frame, the video quality is excellent for all the recent footage, and the clips from the film are as good as the main feature.

Art gallery: We get 45 photos, all in pretty good shape, including movie posters from around the world, many fascinating behind the scenes shots (goodness, those cameras were HUGE!) and promotional stills.

Trailer compilation: This is the same one that graces the discs of Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much and The Trouble With Harry. Hosted by Jimmy Stewart, it was made in the '80s for the re-release to cinema of the five "missing" Hitch films (Vertigo was the other one) which had been secreted away as part of his private collection, having been bought back from the studio as a legacy for his daughter. It runs for just over six minutes, and features glimpses at all five films.

Theatrical trailer: Ah, the days when trailers were more than just clip compilations from the feature - at least when Hitch was involved. Featuring a scene of poor old David proposing to Janet on the day he wouldn’t see the end of specially shot for the trailer, as well as talking-to-the-camera Stewart footage, it is in reasonable shape visually, although the soundtrack is rather hissy. The tagline that this is "Alfred Hitchcock's most startling adventure in suspense" is extremely melodramatic and quite frankly a fib, but as trailers go it's simply divine.

4-page booklet with production notes: Apparently you get one of these, however as this review copy didn't come with one I am unable to comment on it.


Eschewing the best of Hitchcock's usual armoury of weapons, most notably his employment of rapid cutting to be replaced by a film that essentially has no edits at all, really does leave Rope kind of dangling in the air a bit as an incredibly un-cinematic affair. It is still undeniably the work of a master, but its staginess and aforementioned lack of that usual edge-of-the-seat suspense that we've grown to love, and I guess expect, leaves it somehow unfulfilling. It's not a bad or boring film, just not a particularly riveting one.

However, Hitchcock fans should welcome the DVD release with open arms, if for nothing else than a surprisingly well-presented print, and a simply brilliant 'making of' featurette that has only one fault - it is criminally short.

Anyway, we all know there was much better to come...

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      And I quote...
    "Rope's staginess and lack of that usual edge-of-the-seat suspense leaves it kind of dangling in the air a bit..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
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          Pioneer DV-535
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    • Video Cables:
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