In the same year that my mother was born, Rear Window was also born. Rear Window is one of many films directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock, with whom I am about as familiar as I am the back of Clark Gable's hand. I saw Vertigo when I was like 15 and thought it sucked monster donkey balls. I'm sure my opinion would differ today. Anyway, when Super Mario Kart Double Dash!! didn't show up at the video store, I picked up Rear Window instead.
Recommend this product?
Now I see why it's ranked #13 on IMDb.com's Top 250.
You ever notice how much you can learn about people just by watching them, even when you can't hear anything they say? Well I sure hope so, because that's what a good 2/3 of this movie is. Miss Lonely Hearts lives on the first floor and greets imaginary boyfriends at her door. On the second floor is a miserable salesman with a nagging wife. On the third floor is a couple who sleep on a mattress out on the fire escape, incidentally "escaping the fire" of the three-digit temperatures inside. Just to the left is a ballet dancer who dances around like there's no tomorrow. Below her is a sculptor, and in the building just to the left is a pair of unsure newlyweds. Across the courtyard is a musician who feigns happiness, but plays on, and no one complains. Ah, those were the good old days.
Jeff is a feisty news reporter who will stop at nothing to get his story from the greatest angle possible, even if it means getting hit by a wayward racecar. Now, he's stuck in a cast for eight weeks, living off the breeze that comes in his rear window. Everyday, he wakes up and has nothing to do but watch these people all day. Even without the murder angle, that would've been enough to pique my interest. (Oops, did I say "murder"?)
Rear Window is told entirely through Jeff's point of view, during his eighth week. You see these people over and over again, almost never hearing a word that they say, but always knowing exactly what they are thinking. Hitchcock (and all the fine actors) make superb use of body language, music, light, shade, shades, and even the space between apartment windows.
The acting is elegant and formal at times, satirical at others, and it even gets downright sexy. I guess my problem is that when I think of old movies, I think of a bunch of guys sitting around reading cue cards. Not once did I gather such an impression here. James Stewart is charming, stubborn and hard to get as Jeff, Grace Kelly is (needless to say) gorgeous, but possesses the three S's -- sweet, sensitive and spunky. Thelma Ritter (as Stella) oozes sarcastic wit and is funny without being unbelievable as an actual person.
The best thing about Rear Window is its script (by John Michael Hayes). Much like 12 Angry Men which also takes place in confined quarters, Rear Window has to keep your attention with interactions. Those would be between Jeff and his caretaker Stella, as well as Liza his girlfriend (we think), and detective Tom Doyle, none of whom buy into Jeff's theories about the people he sees. At least, not at first. The conversation Jeff has with Stella at the beginning is one to watch for; I wonder why I ever thought they couldn't be witty in the fifties. This stuff is not outdated, if that's what you're worried about.
There is no cat jumping out from behind a trash can, jarring sound effect, or sudden appearance of a deformed face with a scar that he got two decades ago from the protagonist's pet ferret. The suspense here is all psychological. Mystery is an integral part of power, and thankfully, Hitchcock keeps the mystery intact for as long as possible, with some remaining even after the credits roll.
You shouldn't miss this one.
This review has been brought to you as part of sleeper54's Lean-N-Mean write-off, in which we keep the number of words in our reviews down below the mark of the big D, 666. Wwwwhoa. To read more of these short but scintillating entries, point your browser in this direction, you may fire when ready. WHAT?
Read all comments (14)