#240 Rear Window

(1954, Alfred Hitchcock)

“A murderer would never parade his crime in front of an open window”

I love Alfred Hitchcock. I love James Stewart. I quite liked Vertigo, although not as much as I expected to like it. But what about another famous Hitchcock/Stewart collaboration? How well does Rear Window stack up today?

In Rear Window, Stewart stars as L.B. Jefferies, also known as Jeff, a photographer who was involved in an accident at a race track and ended up with a broken leg, confining him to a wheelchair. In his boredom, he resorts to people watching, viewing the activities of his neighbours, including a practicing ballet dancer, an amorous newlywed couple, a frustrated songwriter and a lonely spinster. His spying causes complaints from his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and home nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter), but takes on a dark turn when Jeff witnesses what appears to be his neighbour Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) murdering his wife.

Let me say this again. I love Alfred Hitchcock. He’s considered one of the greatest directors of all time, and the master of suspense and thrills, and I can pretty much say that this opinion is entirely justified. I’ve gushed over the likes of Psycho and The Birds before, and now it’s time for me to do that with Rear Window.

This is a great film. From beginning to end, I loved this movie. James Stewart was great, Grace Kelly was great and Thelma Ritter was absolutely hilarious. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that this is probably my favourite James Stewart performance so far, even greater than It’s A Wonderful Life or Mr Smith Goes To Washington. He’s a perfect mixture of joker and paranoid voyeur, and flips between the two with ease constantly.

What’s more, the chemistry between actors is perfect. Jeff and Lisa are a believable couple, albeit not a perfect one, which is the point. What’s more, the interactions between them are charming and funny in a way I didn’t expect. I expected a dark, moody crime thriller, and got a suspenseful crime thriller with a lot of comedy, which was even better.

Beyond that, the movie is tightly plotted. I don’t think there was a single moment of Rear Window where I felt bored or disinterested. This is a movie that commanded my attention for every second of its running time, whether it was Jeff and Lisa chatting casually, the central mystery or even simply the people-watching itself.

Because the people-watching is something else Hitchcock did fantastically here. The movie never leaves Jeff’s room until the end of the movie, and so the view we have of the events outside in the other apartments is the same as his. Rear Window forces the audience to become just as much of a voyeur as Jeff himself, and it’s endlessly fascinating.

You see, the apartment block is so filled with details that it’s easy to get hooked into the stories of the other residents. Each apartment seems to contain its own movie storyline, and we only catch glimpses of them all. We become curious about the ballet dancer and her apparent suitors. We feel sorry for the spinster and wonder what led her to feel as lonely as she appears. We want to know more about the life of the songwriter in the studio apartment. Everything feels alive.

But of course, the supposed murder is central to everything, and that is every bit as suspenseful as you’d expect, especially as Jeff becomes more and more obsessed with finding out the truth. The mystery does leave some plot holes by the end, but it mostly wraps up neatly, and also raises moral questions over whether Jeff is in the right or not in his attempts to deal with what he’s seen, especially since he shouldn’t really have been looking in the first place.

I have nothing bad to say about Rear Window. It’s one of Hitchcock’s best, and one of Stewart’s greatest performances. It’s exciting and funny and I have absolutely nothing bad to say about it.

Starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter & Raymond Burr
Written by Cornell Woolrich (short story) and John Michael Hayes
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography by Robert Burks
Edited by George Tomasini

Favourite Scene: Pretty much every interaction between Jeff and Lisa.
Scene That Bugged Me: A neighbour’s dog is killed, prompting the neighbour to go on a long rant about neighbours not being neighbourly, and it kind of feeling like being smacked in the face with a message and goes on too long.

Watch it if: You love suspenseful murder mysteries
Avoid it if: You have no taste in movies

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Posted on December 3, 2013, in 1950s, Comedy, Crime, Mystery, Thriller and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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