starring: Farley Granger, John Dall and James Stewart
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
The film tells the tale of two young men (Farley Granger and John Dall in fine form) who, in order to obtain intellectual thrills and enlightenment, murder a university ‘chum’. They then hide him in a trunk and later serve a meal on said trunk containing the body to their unfortunate-friend’s family. Also present at the dinner party is the professor (Stewart) whose intellectual theories provide the motive for the murder.
This is a wildly amusing tale from Hitchcock which centers around the heroic performances of Granger, Stewart and Dall. Granger plays the killer riddled with guilt who gradually goes insane as the night goes on, with Dall as the confident, dominant and witty instigator of the crime. Rather unusually, Hitchcock’s perverse sense of justice forces the audience to side with the killers against the authorities – not least because of Granger’s sympathetic portrayl – which is not a trademark of the director, whose preference at this stage of his career was for the good guys at the final curtain call (1948 was still some time away from the horror of ‘The Birds’ and the bleakness of ‘Vertigo’).
The film itself is laced with the typical black humour and double entendres we have come to love from Hitchcock; there’s a great discussion about throttling chickens and Aryan supermen in this vein about half-way through. The supporting cast provide impressive support and substance to a picture which only gets better with repeated viewings. There’s some cool shots too – a favourite of mine being the scene with the swinging door and the piece of ‘rope’ being dropped in the kitchen cabinet in full view.
In itself, it was also a magnificent and risky experiment in film-making by Hitchcock, as the film was shot in ten-minute long takes. You can sense this throughout the movie which furthers the claustrophobic aura of the entire film. The zenith of the movie comes at the finale where a – by now – emotionally-broken Granger confronts the old professor, uttering the lines ‘Cat and Mouse, Cat and Mouse!….only who is the Cat and who is the Mouse?‘
Overall, a most intriguing, innovative and enormously entertaining piece of cinema.
If you like this, you may wish to try other Hitchcock thrillers such as Strangers on a Train (1951) and Dial M for Murder (1953).
hotdog rating: 9/10