(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to write something you’re afraid to say, so here’s an opinion that might be unpopular.)
Though my opinion may not count compared with greater critics,
Who see more cinematic worth with fancy analytics,
There’s something rather overblown that most would not dare knock,
And that’s the reputation of the great Alfred Hitchcock.
His reputation’s such that everybody knows his skill
Long before they may or may not glean from him a thrill.
He was a master filmmaker and could make showers tense,
But does he merit being called “the master of suspense?”
Perhaps we have been spoiled with more recent horror thrillers,
With darker shades of wickedness and more alarming killers,
But looking at Rebecca, Rope, Notorious, and such
Just doesn’t make my mind or heart start racing very much.
I freely will admit that Psycho is a masterwork;
Rear Window gets good at the end, though Jimmy plays a jerk;
And while The Birds does have its moments of anxiety,
The lead-up that should hold my breath gets boring, honestly.
In films like Dial M for Murder, tension’s at its best
In one distinct, iconic scene, but who recalls the rest?
So though most may cry blasphemy, I feel it must be stated
That many of “the master’s” works are tedious and dated.
No offense, but for suspense, he’s rather overrated.
MPAA rating: PG
Having seen Alfred Hitchcock’s most successful films like Psycho and The Birds, I thought I’d check out one of his smaller and more inventive efforts. Rope is based on a play and one of the most purely translated plays, enclosed as it is in a single apartment with careful attention to its setting and structure. Decades before Birdman, Hitchcock experimented with long takes and a bare minimum of cuts, which are craftily hidden, sometimes obviously, sometimes not.
Clearly based on the infamous Leopold and Loeb murder, the plot revolves around two arrogant school chums Brandon and Phillip (John Dall and Farley Granger) who strangle a classmate with rope merely to prove their superiority and then invite the victim’s family and friends for a dinner party over the hidden body. As an intellectual experiment, Rope is intriguing and thought-provoking. As a thriller from the master of suspense, it’s rather disappointing. There is far more talking and plotting than actual tension, and the plot hinges on the revelation of how the truth will come out rather than if. One point of contention I didn’t see was rumors about the assumed homosexuality of the killers. Sure, they live together as roommates, but if there was such a subtext, it was so subtle to avoid controversy that I didn’t even recognize it.
Like the motivation for the crime, Rope’s message is more cerebral than visceral. The murderers make it clear that their “superior” ideology stemmed from their teacher Rupert Cadell, played by a serious James Stewart. At the party, Rupert confirms his elitist leanings but only in theory and only until he sees cause for grief. It’s all innocent discussion to debate who is more or less intelligent, cultured, or worthy of life, but such philosophy can be put into action by the unprincipled, like the two killers or Nazi Germany. Rupert was not involved in the murder, but Rope emphasizes that the seed of an immoral idea can be just as regrettable as the crime itself.
Best line: (Mrs. Atwater, a guest) “Do you know when I was a girl I used to read quite a bit.” (Brandon) “We all do strange things in our childhood.”
Rank: Honorable Mention
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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