One of Alfred Hitchcock’s most stylistically daring endeavours, this insidious drawing-room (or rather, dining-room) thriller was filmed on a single set in a succession of long takes to simulate the sensation of one continuous shot. Seeking to demonstrate their Nietzschean superiority, a pair of fey college-boy snobs (John Dall and Farley Granger) kill a school friend in their flat, conceal his body in a chest, and then host a dinner party for his friends and family in the very room in which his corpse lies hidden. As the night goes on, one of the guests — the boys’ ironic, supercilious former professor (James Stewart) — slowly comes to realize the horror hidden beneath the hors d’oeuvres. Making brilliantly atmospheric use of the changing light conditions and darkening Manhattan skyline seen through the apartment’s enormous bay window, Hitchcock transforms what could have been a claustrophobic technical exercise into something far deeper: a disturbing meditation on the morality (and responsibility) of thought.
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