Inspired by the real-life Leopold-and-Loeb murder case, Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 "thrill kill" drama Rope is famous for being composed of only nine takes, each approximately eight to nine minutes long, the time it took to use up a camera's film magazine. We see the entire story played out uninterrupted in nearly real time, and the camera floats as if we're in the room, ghost-like, with the murderers, their unsuspecting houseguests, and the body in the trunk. In a high-rise Manhattan apartment, two wealthy prep school pals use a rope to kill David, one of their peers. Why? Simply for the "experiment" of committing the "immaculate murder." Brandon (John Dall) justifies their act with classist notions of his right to do away with "inferior beings" who "merely occupy space." Phillip (Farley Granger) is the sensitive one, and his nervousness and growing sense of guilt threaten to give the crime away. That danger of being revealed couldn't get higher than at a dinner party the lads throw for the victim's fiancé and parents. Also invited is their college professor, Rupert Cadell (James Stewart). Hitchcock's detective-equivalent, Cadell begins to piece together what has become of the missing David. Rope was the first time Alfred Hitchcock gave a starring role to Stewart, whose solid performance is the hub on which the movie turns. Now that we're able to view it as a piece in Hitchcock's body of work, Rope serves as a before-dinner brandy preparing the way for the full meals of Rear Window or North By Northwest that were to come.
This Universal "Hitchcock Collection" DVD is visually much improved from previous versions, but the original master was plainly in distressed shape compared to others in the series. The highlight of the supplements is the new documentary, Rope Unleashed, produced by Hitchcock historian Laurent Bouzereau. Keep-case.