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13 April 2021


Alfred Hitchcock directed over 50 films over a period of six decades from 1920-1980. Starting in the UK some of his early film were also some of the first "talkie" movies filmed in the UK. He quickly became noticed internationally with the success of films like The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes. By 1939 he was persuaded to move to Hollywood to continue his career. His films collected 46 academy award nominations with 6 wins. Notably he never won for best Director. He became known as the "Master of Suspense" for his thriller genre films. He is also well known for his many cameo appearances in his own films.

Andrew chose the film Rope filmed in 1948. I think the choice of film was largely made on the basis of it's length (Rope is only 81 minutes long). Some of the other films by other directors Andrew was considering were over 3 hours long! Rope was adapted from a 1929 play of the same name. The play was based on a murder committed by two Chicago University students who thought they could carry out the perfect crime and get away with it - they didn't get away with it and given a sentence of "Life + 99 years". Hitchcock saw the play when it was first broadcast on an experimental live show on the BBC in 1939. The TV show used long takes which inspired him to use the same process in a feature film version.

The film is set in a Manhattan apartment in which Brandon and Phillip decide to strangle to death their former classmate from Harvard. The body of the strangled victim is placed in a wooden cask which is at the centre of the room. The two then hold a small party, the guests at the party include a number of people that are in some way associated with the victim, including the victim's father and their school housemaster. Brandon believes that by holding the party while the body is still in the cask in the room will some how elevate the murder to a work of art!!

Hitchcock broke the film up into 10 takes each about 8 minutes long. The maximum length of time a single take could be was dictated by the amount of film that could be loaded into a film camera at the time (about 10 minutes). He cut between films by fading in to the back of someone's jacket or an item of furniture.

The film was well received by most members of the club. Most appreciated the technical skill required to make the film work. It was also a good story but there were a few anomalies - especially the first scene which shows the victim being strangled - he manages to let out a scream while being strangled! Because of the single location of the film it does appear very much like a play rather than a film. For this reason David marked it down because he does not like plays. Despite that the film scored an impressive 67%.

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