Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection Blu-ray Report: Rope
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection Blu-ray: Rope (1948)
“Innovator” might not be the first word that springs to mind when thinking of Alfred Hitchcock, but a casual glance over his long career reveals a master filmmaker who was always willing to take risks. Rope (1948) is fine illustration of this principle, where Hitch indulged in both technical and narrative boldness. Rope is a kind of “locked-room” mystery, with no actual mystery. The viewer gets to see the crime and who commits it in the opening moments, and the rest is just the tense unraveling of the fiendish plot. The question is not if the perpetrators will be caught, but when. Based on the stage play Rope (1929) by Patrick Hamilton (with a healthy dose of Leopold and Loeb thrown in), the movie doesn’t vary from theatrical staging, mostly taking place in one room. And still… it’s riveting.
Famously, Rope was shot in long, continuous takes of 10 minutes each (the length of film the camera of the day would hold) and the changes required for fresh film cut by tracking into a solid object and pulling back again. However, being a cheeky monkey, Hitchcock accounted for the reel changes projectionists would have to make in showing the film with blatantly undisguised, standard cuts. It was a bold experiment, and one undertaken by a firmly established director with a big budget powers. But Hitchcock was engaging in another experiment in Rope and that was the use 3-strip technicolor. Also famously, Hitch later told Francois Truffaut that he reshot the last 5 segments of the movie because he didn’t like the color of the sunset.
The restoration of Rope was one of the biggest complaints that early reviewers for Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection Blu-ray lodged about the set. There was a lot of natter about the picture quality. The restoration isn’t perfect, and almost seems like an over correction of early Technicolor’s most egregious exaggerations. The colors seem muted, almost muddy at times, but still comes off as natural enough. More importantly, there is some Technicolor bleed that causes red fuzzy edges in some scenes. I believe this is a just an artifact of the 3-strip Technicolor process, and I’m not entirely clear if this is even correctable (maybe some more familiar than I with the technical aspect of this can comment). But overall, this print is kinda great. I’ve seen Rope many times, and I’ve seen many different prints, but this is the crispest, clearest one I’ve seen.
The sound mix in this edition of Rope is a bit problematic. The disc has two-channel DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix, according to the specs. Again, I’m no expert. I just know that parts of the movie sounded a bit thin in places, but all. In Rope, sound – or rather, dialogue – is crucial, so it was noticeable. That said, the superior picture is worth weathering some spotty sound for.
The Rope disc includes Rope Unleashed a 32 minute baby doc with commentary from scriptwriters Hume Cronyn and Arthur Laurents and actor Farley Granger. Worth watching for Laurents’ comments on the homosexual subtext of Rope and for all the bitching he does about the script, decisions made by Hitchcock, and the performances. Also on offer are 8 minutes worth of production photos and the original theatrical trailer.
I’m not saying I bought a Blu-ray player just so could have this set, but that’s exactly what I did. As I watch each movie, I’ll report on the picture and sound quality and the extras included. Check back to read all 15 before you drop a bundle. Or, hell, just drop the bundle. It’s Hitchcock!