Title: Movies: Hitchcock Credit: Chris Banks Movies Friday 30th December 2005 - 12:00pm1135897200 Article: 1530 Rights
Who but Alfred Hitchcock could make films about psychotic homosexual murderers so delightfully compelling, and yet inoffensive to a gay audience? In “Rope” (1948), Hitch pushed boundaries by having not one but two psychotic homosexual murderers. The film is set in an upper-class Manhattan apartment over the course of an evening. It tells the story of Brandon and Phillip, lovers and college graduates, who decide to murder a fellow student to see if they can get away with it. They strangle him, put his body in a book chest, then proceed to invite his parents, friends, and former college lecturer around for a buffet dinner, which is served off the chest. Will their keen intellectual cynic lecturer, played by James Stewart in a radical departure from his trademark wholesome persona, figure out what's going on? Will sensitive concert pianist Phillip crack under the pressure? Will the maid open the book chest and discover the dirty deed when no-one is looking? Based on the British play “Rope's End”, references to homosexuality in the stage version were much more overt. The strict production codes of the time meant these overt references had to be removed, but it has to be said, the censors must have been either blind or looking the other way to not know what was going on. Brandon and Phillip are clearly a couple, and clearly living together. The couple are played by gay actors John Dall and Farley Granger, the latter of whom was to undergo a metamorphosis for his next Hitchock appearance, “Strangers On A Train” (1951). In this film, Granger plays butch celebrity tennis player and aspiring politician, Guy Haines, who is being stalked by his former wife. Guy's wife refuses to give him a divorce, leaving him in quite a predicament when she threatens to create a public scandal over his affair with a senator's daughter. But things take a turn for the worse when a chance encounter with (who else?) a psychotic homosexual murderer on a train leads to a deadly proposal. Our friendly PSM for this film, Bruno Anthony (played with unrestrained glee by Robert Walker), makes Guy an offer. They should swap murders – Guy should kill his father, and he in turn will kill Guy's wife. There's no connection between them, and no-one will ever find out the truth, reckons Bruno. Guy politely takes his leave of Bruno, obviously thinking the man should be sectioned. Bruno, unfortunately, gets the wrong end of the stick, and believes their bargain has been agreed to. After Guy's wife is stangled in a magnificently creepy Hitchock set piece at a fairground, Bruno proceeds to stalk Guy in order to get him to keep up his end of the bargain, infiltrating his way into Guy's social circle. Will Guy submit to the bargain in order to get rid of his stalker? Or will Guy be blamed for his wife's murder when Bruno decides to frame him? Just like “Rope”, it's a Machiavellian game of chess with a thrilling conclusion and a perfect film for a lazy Christmas afternoon. Chris Banks - 30th December 2005    
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