Contributor Post Created with Sketch. ACF#25: Rope

 

So the ACF podcast is giving you more Hitchcock! Eric and I talk about Rope (1948) on its 70th anniversary. This is unusual by Hitchcock and genre standards: A thriller that lets you know the murderers from the opening scene and never lets them out of your sight! Hitchcock brings a lot of art to this idea to make the moral question urgent and its deep implications, for America and humanity, palpable. At the same time, we’re not worried about spoiling the plot talking about this and you can be sure you’ll love the movie at least as much after listening to our conversation!

A few notes: This was the first Hitchcock/James Stewart collaboration, I think. Six years before Rear Window, 10 before Vertigo.

This is also the first of two collaborations between Hitchcock and Farley Granger, the other being Strangers on a train (1951). In both cases, you see what Hitchcock saw in Granger: The look of guilt, of tormented youth, the slightly shifty, handsome looks, not quite trustworthy, not quite reliable–it’s a pleasure to see him squirm!

We think the movies are companion pieces. As this one is a scandal among the high classes in New York, that one is in the high classes of DC. This one’s about intellectuals, books, publishing — enlightenment in America, the other one about politics, respectability, and privilege — nihilism examined in a more practical environment. Eric and I have already recorded a conversation on that one as well and will share it soon!

Eric also brings his knowledge of music into the discussion — we listen to some Poulenc (Perpetual Movements) at a crucial point in the movie … And I bring Terry Teachout’s knowledge of painting — a Milton Avery portrait is on display in one of the rooms. I hadn’t caught it, but he did! So we talk about modernism in the arts, too.

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There are 35 comments.

  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The famous “ten minute take” is no longer as startling as it was at the time. For one thing, television studio methods, still seen by few in 1948, would bring something like this style into vogue: more gliding, continuous flow, less Eisenstein-inspired editing. A word of sympathy for Hitch’s crew: the Technicolor camera used at the time was a “three strip”–it used prisms to photograph three 35mm films at the same time–so it was huge and heavy, much bigger even than the Hollywood cameras we’re used to seeing. Imagine a bunch of middle aged men trying to shove two refrigerators around, ten feet away from the actors, all in dead silence.

    Stewart is, as you point out, only a few years before his classic Fifties films for Hitchcock, but he looks markedly younger, IMHO.

    There’s a creepiness and randomness about these criminals that foreshadows the troubling darkness of Fifties juvenile delinquency.

    • #1
    • February 9, 2018, at 11:22 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    Haven’t listened yet, but as I remember the story was based on Leopold and Loeb.

    • #2
    • February 9, 2018, at 11:39 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    There’s a creepiness and randomness about these criminals that foreshadows the troubling darkness of Fifties juvenile delinquency.

    The play on which it was based was inspired by Leopold and Loeb’s murder of Bobby Franks in 1924.

    • #3
    • February 9, 2018, at 11:39 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Yes, the movie’s based on a play based on the case.

    Here, art improves markedly on life, not least because no one was killed in the art…

    Even compared to the play–which itself had been filmed for TV for the BBC some ten years previous–the film adds certain Hitchcock touches to do with the female characters & matchmaking. He has great ways of showing that there is a lot that’s puerile in evil. It’s startling, like Gary noted…

    • #4
    • February 9, 2018, at 11:42 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    Yes, the movie’s based on a play based on the case.

    Here, art improves markedly on life, not least because no one was killed in the art…

    Even compared to the play–which itself had been filmed for TV for the BBC some ten years previous–the film adds certain Hitchcock touches to do with the female characters & matchmaking. He has great ways of showing that there is a lot that’s puerile in evil. It’s startling, like Gary noted…

    The “art” in the Leopold and Loeb case was in the police work that hung the case around their guilty necks, starting with the hinges on a pair of glasses found at the scene.

    • #5
    • February 9, 2018, at 12:27 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  6. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Percival (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    Yes, the movie’s based on a play based on the case.

    Here, art improves markedly on life, not least because no one was killed in the art…

    Even compared to the play–which itself had been filmed for TV for the BBC some ten years previous–the film adds certain Hitchcock touches to do with the female characters & matchmaking. He has great ways of showing that there is a lot that’s puerile in evil. It’s startling, like Gary noted…

    The “art” in the Leopold and Loeb case was in the police work that hung the case around their guilty necks, starting with the hinges on a pair of glasses found at the scene.

    Yes, that was solved remarkably fast!

    • #6
    • February 9, 2018, at 12:49 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  7. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I enjoyed this very much. Thanks.

    • #7
    • February 9, 2018, at 2:15 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  8. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    You’re welcome! Glad to hear from our audience!

    • #8
    • February 9, 2018, at 3:06 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. Judge Mental, Secret Chimp Member

    Brandon (John Dall), eminently punchable throughout, can’t live up to the superiority that he believes he has. He sees himself as coolly urbane, while he veers between mania and stuttering explanations, essentially screaming throughout that there is something highly unusual going on. And he therefore fails to live up to his own standards of superiority and sophistication.

    Consider the discussion of murder. While Rupert discusses the subject in a light, jocular manner, Brandon feels compelled to argue the point seriously, thereby disturbing David’s father to the point of demanding that the discussion end. When Rupert was speaking, the father is sure they must be joking (“in season“), while Brandon’s insistent manner on the subject, as he obviously tries to justify his actions not only to the guests but himself, show that he is only playing at superiority.

    Rupert, if he had decided to commit the murder, would have gotten away with it. Brandon never could. And Philip is carried on haplessly in Brandon’s wake.

    • #9
    • February 10, 2018, at 6:47 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  10. Judge Mental, Secret Chimp Member

    When it comes to character development, aside from grief, the only one who is seriously changed by the events is Rupert. I would expect him to be a quite different person going forward after the end of the story. He has seen the result of his thoughtless intellectualism. And I would expect him to be much more cognizant of his thoughts from that point forward.

    • #10
    • February 10, 2018, at 6:51 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  11. Judge Mental, Secret Chimp Member

    My favorite use of the long shots and play-based staging is when Mrs. Wilson starts cleaning up after dinner. There is an extended shot where the rest of the cast are still talking (I believe by then they are speculating about what happened to David). During the whole sequence, Mrs. Wilson is methodically cleaning up, taking items to the dining room and kitchen, coming closer and closer to the point where she will open the chest to replace the books that David’s father has passed by, thereby answering the question that is on everyone’s mind.

    It’s a very unconventional shot, but given what she is doing, her actions are certainly the most important thing happening in the story.

    I also very much enjoy the multiple uses of the swinging kitchen door, such as when Brandon is ‘hiding’ the murder weapon. “It’s just a piece of rope, a common household item. It belongs in the kitchen drawer.”

    • #11
    • February 10, 2018, at 6:58 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  12. Judge Mental, Secret Chimp Member

    The choice of music is also distinctive. The piece is very repetitive, and also somewhat disjointed, lending it an air of madness. This is reinforced when Rupert turns on the metronome, and deliberately sets it to a faster tempo than Philip is playing, even speeding it up at one point as he drills into whatever is upsetting the two young men.

    • #12
    • February 10, 2018, at 7:03 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. Judge Mental, Secret Chimp Member

    This is my favorite Hitchcock movie.

    • #13
    • February 10, 2018, at 7:04 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  14. Judge Mental, Secret Chimp Member

    One more point… Rupert did not let himself in. You see him for the first time already in the room, but you also see Mrs. Wilson closing the door behind him. It’s just that the camera was focused on something else at the time. Which strikes me as quite realistic; life proceeds outside of the camera frame.

    • #14
    • February 10, 2018, at 7:21 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  15. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    This is my favorite Hitchcock movie.

    The critics of the time were not enthused. The plot, for a Hitchcock film, is a little on the thin side. Hitchcock himself referred to it as “an experiment that failed.” I think of it as one of those movies where if you put more into watching it, you get more out.

    • #15
    • February 10, 2018, at 10:31 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  16. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    I don’t think Hitchcock believed in character development. I suspect he was largely right.

    But Farley Granger’s character is the one that gradually moves to insanity–every gesture, speech, & object that should be merely an event or thing taken on a moral importance that corresponds with the gravity of what he’s done. If you want to see what it means for the soil to cry out in blame–there it is…

    • #16
    • February 10, 2018, at 12:36 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. Judge Mental, Secret Chimp Member

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    I don’t think Hitchcock believed in character development. I suspect he was largely right.

    But Farley Granger’s character is the one that gradually moves to insanity–every gesture, speech, & object that should be merely an event or thing taken on a moral importance that corresponds with the gravity of what he’s done. If you want to see what it means for the soil to cry out in blame–there it is…

    He’s ready to crack from the opening scene. What he gradually moves to is drunkenness, making the cracks more apparent. He is crying out, though.

    • #17
    • February 10, 2018, at 12:44 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  18. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    I don’t think Hitchcock believed in character development. I suspect he was largely right.

    But Farley Granger’s character is the one that gradually moves to insanity–every gesture, speech, & object that should be merely an event or thing taken on a moral importance that corresponds with the gravity of what he’s done. If you want to see what it means for the soil to cry out in blame–there it is…

    He’s ready to crack from the opening scene. What he gradually moves to is drunkenness, making the cracks more apparent. He is crying out, though.

    Sure, that’s all true. But the point the movie makes with one thing after another is–as one of the two is trying to evacuate morality even from murder–the other guy floods the world with morality, even accidental dialogue.

    • #18
    • February 10, 2018, at 1:02 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. Judge Mental, Secret Chimp Member

    BTW, I like Psycho II better than Psycho. Nyah nyah, nyah nyah.

    • #19
    • February 10, 2018, at 1:13 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  20. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Not One of us! Not One of us!

    • #20
    • February 10, 2018, at 1:36 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  21. kylez Member
    kylez Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Is there no way to download this?

    • #21
    • February 11, 2018, at 8:42 PM PST
    • Like
  22. Arahant Member

    Okay, finally had time to listen. Interesting conversation. Titus, you have a great voice. Even when you get into your theories which are total horsefeathers, it’s fun to listen to. Very soothing, perhaps even hypnotizing.

    Anyway, not all of your theories are wrong. 😈 I liked your comments about the entrepreneur taking being his own boss too seriously.

    • #22
    • February 12, 2018, at 12:59 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  23. Arahant Member

    kylez (View Comment):
    Is there no way to download this?

    If you click on the “Listen on Soundcloud” button, there are buttons for GooglePlay and AppStore.

    • #23
    • February 12, 2018, at 1:01 AM PST
    • 1 like
  24. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    kylez (View Comment):
    Is there no way to download this?

    Yes, there is–I enabled it. You gotta go on the soundcloud page (all our tracks are here) & do it from there–hover over any track you want & options should appear as icons–the one with … (more) gives you the download option.

    • #24
    • February 12, 2018, at 1:08 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  25. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Arahant (View Comment):
    Okay, finally had time to listen. Interesting conversation. Titus, you have a great voice. Even when you get into your theories which are total horsefeathers, it’s fun to listen to. Very soothing, perhaps even hypnotizing.

    Anyway, not all of your theories are wrong. 😈 I liked your comments about the entrepreneur taking being his own boss too seriously.

    Thanks, old sport. Recently, people have been complimenting my voice. I just think it’s not what people pay for when they pay for radio–you know the radio voices I mean. Glad there’s anyone out there who likes it!

    • #25
    • February 12, 2018, at 1:09 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  26. Arahant Member

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    Thanks, old sport. Recently, people have been complimenting my voice. I just think it’s not what people pay for when they pay for radio–you know the radio voices I mean. Glad there’s anyone out there who likes it!

    Depends on the radio station. There are those overnight, music-to-fall-asleep shows. They usually have people with smooth, comforting voices. It’s not about what they say, but how they say it. The ability to blend into the music and into the dreams of the listeners.

    • #26
    • February 12, 2018, at 1:13 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  27. Judge Mental, Secret Chimp Member

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Thanks, old sport. Recently, people have been complimenting my voice. I just think it’s not what people pay for when they pay for radio–you know the radio voices I mean. Glad there’s anyone out there who likes it!

    You ought to drop the phony accent though.

    • #27
    • February 12, 2018, at 1:13 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  28. Arahant Member

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    You ought to drop the phony accent though.

    Blood, uh, I mean, but it sounds so good!

    • #28
    • February 12, 2018, at 1:16 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  29. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Thanks, old sport. Recently, people have been complimenting my voice. I just think it’s not what people pay for when they pay for radio–you know the radio voices I mean. Glad there’s anyone out there who likes it!

    You ought to drop the phony accent though.

    & lose my ‘everythin’s genuine but the accent’ brand? In this media environment? I dunno, chief…

    • #29
    • February 12, 2018, at 1:21 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  30. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    You should hear my Southern accent when I read the wife Walker Percy novels.

    Or the British accent, when I read her Evelyn Waugh novels!

    • #30
    • February 12, 2018, at 1:29 AM PST
    • 4 likes