By Steve D. Stones
In his book Crackpot, director John Waters mentions Rope as his favorite Alfred Hitchcock film. Rope may not be Hitchcock’s most well-known effort, but it has all the suspense elements that make his films distinctive. The film is inspired by the real-life Leopold-Loeb murder case.
Two college buddies murder a classmate in their high rise New York apartment by strangling him with a rope. They place his body in a trunk and hold a party for his family and friends as a challenge to see if they will get caught. The trunk is used as a buffet table for the party.
A former professor of the two men named Rupert Cadell, played by James Stewart, attends the party. A conversation during the party leads to the topic of committing the perfect murder. Rupert and his two former students get into a philosophical debate as to whether or not moral concepts of right and wrong, good and evil apply to intellectually superior individuals. They conclude that those who are intellectually inferior in life should be murdered, ridding society of poverty and other ills.
The entire film takes place on one set of the high rise apartment, adding to the suspense. A maid almost discovers the body in the trunk as she cleans up after the party to place books in the trunk. Rupert returns to the apartment after the party, claiming to have left his cigarette case behind. The tension builds as the viewer waits in anticipation for Rupert to open the trunk to discover the body. Rope is a brilliant film made with a small number of actors and one location.
The philosophical debate the three main characters have about committing the perfect crime leads the viewer to believe that Rupert will at some point side with the two murders. In the end, he discovers their crime and argues that no human being has the right to take someone’s life, regardless of how “intellectually superior” they may think they are. A brilliant premise. Happy Viewing!!!