Rear Window

*Originally written in 2003

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Hitchcock takes all the ingenuity of previous films like Rope and Lifeboat, and translates them to Rear Window, one of his true masterpieces. Taking place in one apartment where the viewer is forced to see what Jimmy Stewart’s character sees, we are the voyeuristic witness to all the goings-ons of his neighbours. Frequently we look into their homes and become a passive viewer of their lives, wondering why they do what they do, what they will do next, and whether anyone can see us. Not only is it a technological treat, it is a pinnacle of tension and suspense, complemented by the twisting plot, excellent dialogue, and marvelous performances from all.

Stewart plays LB Jefferies, or Jeff, a well traveled photographer who hates the idea of settling down, of being trapped in the same place for any length of time. Ironically he has broken his leg, and is forced to stay in a wheelchair, in his apartment for a few months. Through his boredom, and his window, he watches his neighbours and the daily actions, giving them nicknames because of their behaviour. There is Miss Torso, an amorous young dancer, the newly-weds who like to keep themselves to themselves, Miss Lonely Hearts who spends her days planning how to catch the attention of men, and spends her nights failing. There is a tormented pianist whose music fills the air, and couple and their annoying dog. Lastly there is Lars Thorwald and his wife who are often arguing. Lisa (Grace Kelly) is Jeff’s girlfriend, a socialite who wants the opposite of Jeff – marriage, new dresses, and a place in high society. Their nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) also visits to add some humour and spark. Jeff becomes suspicious when Thorwald’s wife disappears, and at night he sees Thorwald acting strangely; taking small packages wrapped in paper from his flat, going back and forwards. Jeff becomes convinced that Thorwald has murdered his wife, and with Stella and Lisa begins to try to prove what they believe to a detective friend. They search for a body, for evidence that Miss Thorwald is alive etc, and soon we too are captivated, wondering if she is dead, or if it is all just a mistake.

The last 20 minutes of Rear Window must rank among the most suspenseful in movie history, and its influence can still be seen today, even in modern horror movies such as Ringu. The voyeuristic qualities are impressive and effective, and we are truly brought into the room with Stewart. There is excitement, comedy, romance, mystery, all the trademarks of Hitchcock, all flawlessly shown. Kelly is beautiful and feisty, her entrance memorable, her character strong, and in the end we see that although she will succumb slightly to Jeff’s needs, she will remain independent. Stewart is wonderful, giving yet another landmark performance conveying paranoia, annoyance and helplessness like few other actors can. Burr is frightening as Thorwald, and Ritter is extremely good as Thelma, adding much needed relief from the tension with tongue in cheek humour. Each of the neighbours is distinct and we come to understand them. Full of cynicism about people, love, romance and relationships, though not harsh, Rear Window is one of the great films of the 50s, and is still highly watchable and entertaining today.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Rear Window!

Dial M For Murder

This is a top rate suspense film from Hitchcok featuring many memorable moments, and some very strong performances from Kelly, Milland, and Williams. With a brilliantly executed plot and twisting story, this is one of the most impressively constructed films of the time.

Kelly stars as Margot, an unhappily married woman who has been seeing crime writer Mark behind her husband’s back. Her husband Tony is an ex tennis star whose wealth is slowly draining. Mark is an American, and is travelling over to visit the couple in London. However, Tony has known for a year that his wife has been with Mark. Tony concocts an ingenious plan to murder his wife, blackmailing an old college friend into doing it, and getting his wife’s money in the process. It is the perfect plan, as Tony believes there is nothing to link him to the murder- a burglary gone wrong while he is not even at the house. However, the murder goes wrong, and Swann, his old friend is killed by Margot in self defence. The police are eventually informed, but not before Tony has come up with an even more impressive plan which will see his wife framed for the murder. Enter the Sherlock Holmes like Inspector Hubbard whose intuition and genius, along with the help of Mark’s crime writing paranoia lead to the truth.

There are so many twists in this film that the viewer is completely led in circles by the director. Aside from the brilliantly constructed plot, special mention must go to Williams as Hubbard, whose tongue-in-cheek performance steals every scene he is in. Like Hitchcock, he is in control of the characters and deftly unravels the crime. This should not be overlooked because of Hitchcock’s bigger, more familiar hits as this is one of his best.

Dial M For Murder

Not much in the ways of extras on the disk, but a must for Hitchcock fans and one to try for all movie lovers.

As always, feel free to leave any comments. Does this rank amongst Hitchcock’s best? Is this the definitive Grace Kelly performance?