Rope (1948)

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Released 26-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of-(32:27)
Gallery-Art
Trailer-Trailer Compilation (6:14)
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:26)
Booklet
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1948
Running Time 77:27
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:43) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring James Stewart
John Dall
Farley Granger
Cedric Hardwicke
Constance Collier
Joan Chandler
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Leo F. Forbstein


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
Dutch
Swedish
Danish
Norwegian
Finnish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   Just as every collection of Alfred Hitchcock's films has a chance of including one of his gems, there is equally a good chance of it containing one of his misses. And unfortunately Rope is one of those misses. That is not to say that it is entirely a dud, but it wears its experimental nature on its sleeve a little too obviously. It was the first colour film that Hitch did, which is perhaps the least experimental thing tried here. What made this vastly different from any of his other films is the fact that this was filmed on a single set that was designed to allow this play to be filmed in long, continuous sequences. And yes, it is a play. Whilst that is not the cause of the issue here, it does actually contribute to the problems of the film in my view. Another contributor to the problems is the fact that the original play was very British and the translation to America has not been especially great. However, the big problem with the film is the complete lack of suspense, for the simple reason that we know what happened, we know how it happened and the sole purpose of the film is to see if anyone can trip up the perpetrators. The overt homosexuality of the film was certainly never guaranteed to ensure huge box office traffic in the ultra-conservative America of the times.

   Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger) are a couple with some unusual views - or at least Brandon has and forces them upon Phillip. Out of interest, they decide to experiment with that view upon David Kentley (Dick Hogan), the current beau of a former girlfriend of Brandon's in Janet Walker (Joan Chandler). In celebration of their experimentation, they hold a party to which not only Janet is invited but also David's father Henry (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) and another former beau of Janet's in Kenneth Lawrence (Douglas Dick). Also invited is the boys' former prep school teacher in Rupert Cadell (James Stewart), the man who actually inspired their unusual views. Making up the party is David's aunt Anita Atwater (Constance Collier). Most of what goes on here is quite irrelevant as there really is only one person who can call the boys on this one.

   But to be quite honest, the story here is subservient to Alfred Hitchcock's desires for experimentation. The shooting of the film in a small number of long, continuous takes is even today something of a rarity in film. The result is a fluidity of action that is refreshing enough but the edit points are rather unnatural (such as close ups of peoples backs, then pull backs to take in the action). However, whilst this sort of shooting would be fairly easy to do today with cameras such as steadicams, back in the 1940s with the huge Technicolor cameras it was something of a nightmare, and it shows at times with some of the most obvious camera movement you will ever see. The single set imposes its own limitations that are perhaps not quite overcome as well as they were say in the vastly larger and more intricate set used in Rear Window. This is a much sparser set and much more unnatural in its design. But really and truly the big reason the film does not work is the fact that Hitch unusually decided to let the entire raison d'être for the film be shown in all its glory in the first couple of minutes. By doing so, there really is no suspense at all here - we know what happened and where it happened and even why it happened. Not much suspense there at all really, and notably the screenwriter also disagreed with Hitch making the deed so obvious. Had he not done so, I cannot help but feel that the suspense would have been much heightened - where is he, what happened to him?

   The need to play down the outright homosexuality of the play meant that there was a degree of stiffness to the performances that does not really create enough emotion in the play. And to be honest I find little of conviction from the performances of any involved, not even the usually reliable James Stewart. Clearly he had something of an issue with the role and it seemed to carry over into a slightly reticent performance, albeit one that is still the best on offer here.

   This is Alfred Hitchcock very much in experimentation mode, and it is not an overly successful experimentation either. It is by no means an outright dud, for I doubt even Hitch in experimentation mode could actually create such a beast, and still has some merit compared to the overrated trash many directors come up with. But if you were looking for a good place to enjoy the art of the maestro, this is not by a long way what you are looking for.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    When you remember that this was made in 1948, you begin to realize that this is not too shabby an effort. Whilst by no means an early Technicolor film, it is fair to say that even in 1948 they were still working at perfecting the art of colour film making.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, which is extremely close to the theatrical ratio of 1.37:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    This is actually a quite sharp transfer, which I was not expecting at all. There sure are a couple of lapses here and there but they are relatively minor. As indicated, the set is a little sparse and this is quite evident in the flat look to the whole picture. Indeed, it is so flat that the cityscape outside the window is so obviously a painted background that it is not funny. Still, whatever detail there is in the set is brought out well enough by the transfer. Shadow detail is not an issue here, as the lighting is fairly constant throughout the film. A little surprisingly, there is not much of an issue with grain and the overall transfer is quite clear. There did not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    Unlike some of the later Technicolor films in the 1950s, the overall look here is of matte colours, with a tendency to undersaturation. The skin tones are not really that natural and there is a degree of unbelievability as a result. However, you soon adjust to the palette and find little to complain about. There is nothing in the way of oversaturation here at all and colour bleed is not an obvious issue either. There is something of an inherent problem in the early part of the film, right after the deed, in that there is a slight issue with the solidity of the blue colour of the suit worn by Brandon. This is accompanied by a blue colouration on the print itself that flashes on and off for about two minutes around this time.

    There is a consistent loss of resolution in pan shots here, which I would attribute to the camera operators not being able to move those bulky cameras as quickly as they would like. Other than that there did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are little in the way of problems with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, apart from a few minor instances of moiré artefacting in Rupert's tie (around 71:34 is a good illustration of this). There are quite a few film artefacts floating around the transfer but nothing more than would be reasonably expected in a film of over fifty years of age.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 60:43. If I thought the layer change in The Man Who Knew Too Much was appalling, then this one has to be abysmal. Once again it occurs mid-scene during motion, this time with a gun being placed into a pocket - just before the gun is slipped into the pocket, stop everything! We have the layer change to throw in here. I am beginning to wonder just exactly how they chose the layer change points in these films, especially here as it is not a long film and there are several Hitch inserted natural change points.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks on offer on this DVD; an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack and a German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. I listened only to the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue comes up clear and easy to understand in the transfer. There did not appear to be any audio sync problems in the transfer.

    The original music for the film comes from Leo F Forbstein, but this is not a real high point of the film and nor was it designed to be. The film is a play and was shot as a play, and thus does not demand much from any musical support.

    Another somewhat unmemorable soundtrack, that is free of any serious problems but does not offer any real excitement. In comparison to the other films reviewed so far in the box set, it is a better overall soundscape, somewhat more believable and less mono sounding (although it still is mono of course). This is one film where the lack of surround encoding and bass channel support is not entirely missed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Another quite consistent extras package with the other "new" films in the box set.

Menu

    Like the other DVDs making up The Hitchcock Collection Volume One, the menu presentation reflects the feature presentation. Accordingly, these are not widescreen presented and are not 16x9 enhanced, although the main menu does come with the normal audio enhancement. Again the theming is only decent (and reflecting a commonality in the menus of the other DVDs in the collection), and the overall impression is decent enough without being truly spectacular.

Featurette - Rope Unleashed: The Making Of Rope (32:27)

    Universal obviously went to some trouble to put these together and this is another consistent effort in line with the others seen so far. Mainly featuring interviews with some of the crew members involved in the film, this is another quite interesting voyage through the making of this somewhat unusual film. Presented in a Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is quite a good featurette overall and worthwhile watching, even though it is blighted a little with some minor aliasing issues and some cross colouration issues.

Gallery - Art

    Comprising 45 stills of publicity and behind the scenes photographs together with poster work for the film, they are all unannotated. Again of decent enough quality, but really needing some annotation.

Trailer - Trailer Compilation (6:14)

    Narrated by James Stewart, this is an extended promotional effort for the five films acquired from Paramount by Universal, duly restored and reissued in the mid-1980s. Unfortunately, it is blessed with some oversaturation of the red credits, as well as some noticeable dot crawl. The presentation is in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 which is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The quality is pretty good overall, but I am guessing that by the time I finish this collection I will be pretty fed up with it.

Theatrical Trailer (2:26)

    A slightly more conventional trailer for this film, but one that is not of the best quality at all. It suffers badly from hissy sound and has some fairly poor colour. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version misses out on:     The Region 4 version misses out on:     There is nothing overwhelming to suggest that the Region 1 version is significantly better than the Region 4 release.

Summary

    Rope is Alfred Hitchcock's experimentation film, and in some respects reminds me of Robert Wiene's Cabinet Of Dr Caligari, not as much for the look of the film obviously but rather for the attempt to do something different to highlight the story. Personally I see this as a failure on Hitch's part, but that still makes it better than average I guess. The transfer is by no means perfect, but for a relatively unsuccessful film from the 1940s, this is not too bad a transfer overall.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, July 02, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews
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Comments (Add)
A Printing Mistake on the Jacket Art? - NickM
b/w cover for other Hitchcocks in this series - Neil