Jimmy Stewart collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock four times, but their first endeavor together was 1948’s “Rope,” based on the play by Patrick Hamilton. Inspired by the notorious killing of a 14-year-old boy by Leopold and Loeb in the 1920s, “Rope” is the second of Hitch’s “limited setting” films (after 1944’s “Lifeboat”) and takes place largely in the same apartment. It also sees Stewart as a dark, manipulative college professor (the ubiquitous good guys always make the best villains, don’t they?) who pushes two of his students (the terrific Farley Granger and John Dall) against each other, which leads them to do the unthinkable and commit murder.
In an experimental turn, “Rope” is Hitchcock’s first Technicolor film, and, for those who haven’t seen it, gives off the illusion that it is all shot in one take (an attempt made more recently in the Oscar-winning “Birdman”). At the time, you could only shoot using 10 minutes of film at once, and Hitch had to devise a plan to make this work for an 80-minute picture. Using dark objects — like an actor’s suit jacket or a large wooden chest — Hitchcock drew the camera into the darkness and then out for the next shot, leaving the viewer unaware that the film was just replaced. It was a genius idea at the time, and though the film has been criticized by some, others hail it as a crowning achievement in an auteur’s repertoire.
In Catherine Grant’s exploratory video essay for Film Studies for Free, she cuts “Rope” down to the exact points in which the film is edited, and explains the differences between Hitchcock’s disguised and undisguised cuts, leading up to Jimmy Stewart’s big reveal at the film’s conclusion and the idle shot of the criminals like sitting ducks, ironically to the tune of Francis Poulenc’s “Perpetual Movement.”
Gain some insight on how the masters fooled their audiences before CGI.