August 23, 1948
[section label=”Behind the Scene”]
Behind the Scene and other Major Plot Points
Filmed entirely in-studio
The picture was filmed entirely in-studio (except for the opening credits). The clouds that you see out the window are made out of fiberglass. For the effect of a police siren coming towards the apartment building at the end, Alfred Hitchcock had an ambulance come at full speed, from several blocks away, straight to the Warner Brothers studio, siren blaring all the way. The sounds were picked up by a microphone suspended from the studio gate.
Although the film lasts about 80 minutes and is supposed to be in “real time”,…
the time frame it covers is actually longer – a little more than 100 minutes. This is accomplished by speeding up the action: the formal dinner lasts only 20 minutes, the sun sets too quickly and so on. The September 2002 issue of Scientific American contains a complete analysis of this technique (and the effect it has on the viewers, who actually feel as if they watched a 100-minute movie).
According to screenwriter…
The screenwriter Arthur Laurents claimed that originally Alfred Hitchcock assured him the movie wouldn’t show the opening murder itself, therefore creating doubt as to whether the two leading characters actually committed murder and whether the trunk had a corpse inside
The theatrical trailer features footage shot specifically for the advertisement that takes place before the beginning of the movie. David (the victim) sits on a park bench and speaks with Janet before leaving to meet Brandon and Phillip. James Stewart narrates the sequence, noting that’s the last time Janet and the audience would see him alive.
Inspiration for the film.
Alfred Hitchcock’s inspiration for the long takes came from a BBC Television broadcast of Rope (1939). The producer, Dallas Bower, decided on the technique in order to keep the murder chest constantly in shot.
Shooting of the film
Alfred Hitchcock only managed to shoot roughly one segment per day. The last four or five segments had to be completely re-shot because Hitchcock wasn’t happy with the color of the sunset.
About the film
Alfred Hitchcock‘s first color film.
Included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.
What is ‘Rope’ about?
Simply to show their ability to get away with murder, two New York college students, Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Philip Morgan (Farley Granger), strangle their ‘intellectually inferior’ classmate David Kentley (Dick Hogan), hide the body in an old chest, and then throw a party for David’s fiancée Janet Walker (Joan Chandler), Janet’s ex and David’s best friend Kenneth Lawrence (Douglas Dick), David’s father Henry (Cedric Hardwicke), David’s aunt Mrs. Atwater (Constance Collier), and Brandon, Philip, and David’s former prep school master Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) from whom they took the idea that murder could be justified in certain circumstances. As Brandon becomes more flippant in his conversational innuendos and Philip becomes more reticent, Rupert takes notice of their odd behaviors, and when David doesn’t show, doesn’t call, and can’t be located, Rupert begins to suspect.
How does the movie end?
After all the guests have departed, Rupert returns, claiming to have left his cigarette case. Philip doesn’t want to let him in, but Brandon confidently answers the door after placing a small pistol in his pocket. While chatting, Rupert surreptitiouly withdraws the case from his pocket and sets it on top of the chest behind some books. He then suddenly claims to find it, putting Brandon and Phil on edge because Brandon only recently placed the books on the chest after the guests had left, and the case wasn’t there then. Rupert sits down to nurse a drink and wonders why David didn’t show up at the party. He intimates that Brandon, like Janet suspects, may have done something to ‘prevent’ him from coming. Brandon challenges Rupert to to describe how would go about ‘preventing’ David from coming, and Rupert concocts a scenario that pretty much matches how it really happened. Philip suddenly tosses his drink and yells, ‘Cat and mouse! Cat and mouse! Which is the cat and which is the mouse?’ When Rupert comments on the gun in Brandon’s pocket, he takes it out and nonchalantly tosses it on the piano, claiming that he was planning to take it to Connecticut because there have been some burglaries in the area around the farm. But when Rupert pulls the rope from his pocket, Brandon and Philip both realize that they’ve been caught. Philip grabs the gun, but it is unclear who he means to shoot before Rupert grabs it away from him. In the struggle, the gun fires once, hitting Rupert in the hand. Brandon tries to explain that Philip is drunk and even in danger of becoming an alcoholic. Rupert, tired of the cat and mouse game, opens the chest. Inside, of course, he finds David’s body. Brandon explains that he’s proven Rupert’s theory about the intellectually superior man, but Rupert realizes that his own words have been turned against him. After admonishing Brandon for daring to decide that David was ‘intellectually inferior’ and justifying it as a reason to murder him, Rupert opens the window and fires the gun three times then sits down to await the police.