Theatre / Rope

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"The good Americans usually die young on the battlefield, don't they? Well, the Davids of this world merely occupy space, which is why he was the perfect victim for the perfect murder. 'Course he, uh, he was a Harvard undergraduate. [*snicker*] That might make it justifiable homicide."
Brandon

A 1929 stage play by Patrick Hamilton, more famously known as the 1948 Alfred Hitchcock film that was shot in ten takes and cut to look like one.

One day, two elite young Manhattanites, Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger), murder their acquaintance, David Kentley (Dick Hogan), and hide the body inside a wooden chest at their penthouse apartment. Their reason for doing so is to commit the perfect murder; to see how perfect it is, they host a dinner party with the chest kept in plain sight as a buffet table. All the guests at the party—including David's father (Cedric Hardwicke), his fiancé, Janet Walker (Joan Chandler), and the killers' former prep-school teacher, Rupert Cadell (Jimmy Stewart)—grow worried at David's absence. As Brandon pushes his luck, Phillip shows remorse and Rupert investigates his suspicions. All of this leads to a discovery...

The film is particularly known for its experimental style. Hitchcock abandoned typical shooting and editing methods in favor of long unbroken scenes. Each shot ran continuously for up to ten minutes without interruption. He would go on to use the same technique in Under Capricorn (1949) and to a lesser extent Stage Fright (1950). The homosexuality subtext was also considered daring for its time. While not a major hit at the time of its release, the film gained in popularity over the following decades. Today it is often listed among the best of the director.


This film features examples of:

  • Adaptational Sexuality: Brandon and Philip being gay was a lot clearer in the original play but is reduced to subtext in the film (mostly due to the censorship at the time) and Brandon is implied to be bisexual.
    • Word of God says Rupert was written as being gay, too, and had even had an affair with Brandon.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    Janet: Well, now, you don't really approve of murder, Rupert? If I may?
    Rupert: You may... and I do. Think of the problems it would solve: unemployment, poverty, standing in line for theatre tickets...
  • Astrologer: Mrs. Atwater is one, or at least professes to be.
  • Back Blocking: At least every 10 minutes, Hitchcock ends a shot by panning to a character's back blocking the entire screen, then begins the next shot by panning away or when they move aside.
  • Bi the Way: Brandon, who is not only supposed to be Phillip's lover but had also once dated Janet. Rupert, as well — although written as being homosexual and a former lover of Brandon's, Jimmy Stewart added the business of him (apparently) reciprocating Mrs. Wilson's romantic feelings.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Rupert figures out what Brandon and Philip have done and alerts the authorities, but it's clear that by now he is a broken shell of a man.
  • Break the Haughty: Brandon, the least-remorseful of the two killers, gets his comeuppance when Rupert gives him a big "The Reason You Suck" Speech before alerting the police to the murder.
  • Building of Adventure: The entire film takes place inside one apartment.
  • Complexity Addiction: Brandon's insistence on style is the reason they get caught almost instantly.
  • Creator Cameo: Two of them, in fact. Hitchcock is seen as a sidewalk pedestrian during the opening credits, and later a red neon sign of his famous self-portrait silhouette is visible outside the apartment window once the sun goes down.
  • Dead Man's Chest: Brandon and Phillip hide David's body in a chest, which they then use to serve supper on.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Rupert, at times.
    Rupert: (meeting Janet) Brandon's spoken of you.
    Janet: Did he do me justice?
    Rupert: Do you deserve justice?
  • Depraved Bisexual: Brandon is implied to be this, as there is obvious subtext that he and Phillip are involved and he also refers to a past relationship with Janet.
  • Dramatic Irony: Any time the other guests wonder why David is late to the party. The audience knows he isn't late at all and was actually early to the party.
  • Dull Surprise: James Stewart as Rupert Cadell.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The events take place over the course of a single evening, and actually unfold even faster than Real Time.
  • Fatal Flaw: Brandon's is Pride. He and Phillip probably could have gotten away with the murder (at least for a while) if Brandon hadn't been taking risks and dropping subtle hints that aroused Rupert's suspicion, all because he had to have an audience at whom to flaunt his "perfect crime".
  • Faux Affably Evil: Brandon. He loses whatever "charm" he has very fast.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: Rupert does this at the end to call the authorities.
  • For the Evulz: Brandon's motivation is the theory that if he is superior he should prove it by committing The Perfect Crime.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: It's pretty clear that Brandon and Phillip are in a relationship, even considering the strict censorship of the time. That said, this was apparently clearer in the play.
  • Godwin's Law: A discussion of Nietzsche and Brandon believing in the concept of supermen prompts the response "so did Hitler" from David's father.
  • Grande Dame: Mr. Kentley's sister-in-law, Mrs. Atwater.
  • Guilt-Ridden Accomplice: Phillip.
  • Gun Struggle: Between Rupert and Phillip.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Although, given the homosexual subtext, this may be intentional.
    • Discussing her reaction to Kenneth having dumped her, Janet explains, "I just couldn't be the gay girl anymore."
    • When Janet offers Brandon some chicken, he says he never eats it, prompting her to reply, "How queer!"
  • Heel–Face Turn: Rupert does one at the end. Although...Jimmy Stewart could never really be a heel, anyhow.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The chest containing David's body.
  • Hollywood Old: Jimmy Stewart is greyed at the temples, but it's still obvious he's the same age as his supposed former students.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Several characters, most notably Phillip after the party guests have left.
  • Inspired by...: See Ripped from the Headlines below.
  • Insufferable Genius: Brandon. He puts on as elaborate a display as he can of the murder, as part of a joke only he'll enjoy. Phillip calls him out on this, accusing him of secretly wanting to get caught just so he can boast about how cleverly he committed the act.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: David was attending Harvard prior to his death. Janet and Kenneth went there as well, as did (presumably) Brandon and Phillip.
  • MacGuffin: It's Hitch, so it's pretty much required. In this case, it's David's body.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: The film was originally meant to open with a scene of Janet and David in Central Park but that was cut and put in the trailer instead.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Our two "heroes" decide that David's "inferiority" justifies his death. Rupert Cadell also counts, considering the murder was inspired by his rhetoric, but he renounces his way of thinking once he realizes what happened.
  • The Oner: Hitchcock wanted to make the film one long, continuous shot. Sadly, this wasn't feasible with the technology of the time: film would run out after about ten minutes. So Hitchcock resorted to using Body Wipes all over the place, meaning the the camera would zoom in on some person or something, and zoom out when it cuts. Sadly, even this wasn't enough; there are still nine "hard cuts" in the film (because film reels in the cinema would also run out after ten to twenty minutes and need to be changed over, so some cuts are straightforward and normal) but that's pretty impressive when most movies have hundreds of hard cuts.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: David provokes an alert by his mere absence, since he was known as The Reliable One and would never be late for an engagement without telling anyone. Janet suspects trickery on Brandon's part, but only Rupert realizes just how right she is.
  • The Perfect Crime: Brandon brags that it is "the perfect murder", which leads to him being so cocky about it.
  • Posthumous Character: David.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Rupert gives a big one to Brandon (and partially himself) when the latter tries to justify David's murder with Rupert's rhetoric.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: We know the two are guilty; the only question is if they can get away with it.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The stage play from which the movie was adapted was inspired by the infamous Leopold and Loeb murder case from 1924. Another fictionalized version would come about a decade later with Richard Fleischer's Compulsion.
  • Self-Deprecation: Janet is constantly making little offhand remarks about what a mess she thinks she is.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sissy Villain: Brandon and Phillip.
  • Smug Snake: Brandon. Brandon. And Brandon.
  • Spanner in the Works: Rupert Cadell. Ironically, this was the point: Brandon wanted someone who might catch on in order to entertain himself.
  • Spotting the Thread: Rupert cottons on to something being off with Phillip's behavior early during the party until he eventually unravels the whole thing.
    • Earlier, Janet and Kenneth start to suspect something's up when they realize that Brandon did know they broke up, but dismiss it as one of his crude pranks.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer shows the final scene of Rupert finding out about David's murder, thus eliminating a lot of the suspense.
  • Villain Opening Scene: The opening scene is the murder.
  • Villain Protagonist: Brandon and Phillip.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Rupert is disgusted to learn that his musings on inferior humans, which to him were purely rhetorical, were the inspiration (or perhaps just the excuse) for David's murder.

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