Hitchcock's celebrated experiment in single-takes, joined together so as to create a unity-of-time effect, is a bit less rigorous than legend had cracked it up to be: the cuts between reels (three of them, in all) are not disguised in the least, and the cuts within the reels (four of those) are not disguised well enough to disguise them. But the experimental aspect turns out, also, to be not terribly important to the movie's attractiveness. The primary interest here, much more than elsewhere in Hitchcock, centers on such old-fashioned foundation stones as story and character; and the loose modeling of these on the infamous Leopold-Loeb case reveals a true fascination with the subject of murder. (The technical experiment must, one feels sure, have come second for Hitchcock, as a means of washing away some of the guilt for having availed himself of so stagy a stage play.) The one character on whom the bulk of the interest falls -- that of the two murderers' Philosophy professor in college and their Nietzschean mentor -- is one of the rare credible intellectuals in American movies. James Stewart is undoubtedly oddly cast in this role. But not, as some would have it, badly. His humor and his humanity loosen up the character, create larger pockets of ambiguity, prevent stereotyping, and hold back the movie from rushing all the way into the Capra-esque anti-intellectualism so prevalent at that time and since. John Dall, Farley Granger, Cedric Hardwicke. (1948) — Duncan Shepherd
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