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John Brandon and his friend and roommate, pianist Phillip, strangle their mutual friend, David Kentley, with a piece of rope and then temporarily place his body in a trunk, intending to dispose of it in the country that night. Over champagne, Brandon boasts to Phillip that they have committed the perfect crime because they are exceptional men. As an added touch, they have planned a dinner party that evening for David's parents; his fiancée, Janet Walker; his friend, and Janet's former fiancé, Kenneth Lawrence; and their former prep school housemaster, Rupert Cadell. Brandon attributes the impulse for the murder to Rupert, who professes to believe that murder is a crime for most men, but a privilege for the few. After Mrs. Wilson, the men's housekeeper, sets the dining room table for dinner, Brandon decides it would be far more interesting if the dinner was set out on the trunk that holds David's body. The guests arrive as scheduled, but because Mrs. Kentley is ill, Mr. Kentley is accompanied by his sister, Mrs. Atwater. When she mistakes Kenneth for David, Phillip is so unnerved that he breaks the glass that he is holding. Rupert is the last guest to arrive. When Phillip states that he does not eat chicken, Brandon explains to the guests that it used to be Phillip's job to choke chickens and once, one revived. Phillip angrily denies the story, to Rupert's bemusement, because he knows that the story is true. Rupert then expounds his theory that murder should be an art, reserved for the few who are superior beings. When Kentley asks who will decide who is superior, Brandon responds that men of intellectual and cultural superiority are above traditional moral concepts. Recognizing the ideas of philosopher Frederich Nietzsche, Kentley points out that Hitler, too, espoused his beliefs. Privately, Rupert asks Brandon if he is planning to do away with someone. As the evening progresses, Kentley becomes alarmed by David's failure to arrive; Janet grows dismayed by Brandon's efforts to reunite her with Kenneth; and Phillip becomes more and more agitated. When Brandon gives Kentley a bundle of books tied with the rope they used to strangle David, Phillip cracks. Disturbed by the odd behavior of Phillip and Brandon, Rupert tries to determine where David might have gone. After a distraught Mrs. Kentley telephones the apartment to report that David is not at home, the guests leave hurriedly. Mrs. Wilson gives Rupert a hat, but it is not his, and he notices the initials D. K. inside. After everyone leaves, Brandon and Phillip quarrel when Phillip admits that he is frightened. Then Rupert rings the doorbell, claiming to have forgotten his cigarette case. Once inside, Rupert speculates on what happened to David. He reconstructs the crime and then pulls a piece of rope out of his pocket and starts to play with it. This action drives Phillip into hysterics. Rupert then finds David's body where it is hidden. When Brandon explains why they committed the murder, Rupert responds that he has given his words a meaning that he never intended. He then opens the window and fires several gunshots into the air, and together, the men wait for the police to arrive.