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Rear Window
Year:
1954
Country:
USA
Genre:
Crime, Thriller, Mystery, Romance
IMDB rating:
8.7
Director:
Alfred Hitchcock
James Stewart as L. B. 'Jeff' Jefferies
Grace Kelly as Lisa Carol Fremont
Wendell Corey as Det. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle
Thelma Ritter as Stella
Raymond Burr as Lars Thorwald
Judith Evelyn as Miss Lonelyhearts
Ross Bagdasarian as Songwriter
Georgine Darcy as Miss Torso
Sara Berner as Wife living above Thorwalds
Frank Cady as Husband living above Thorwalds
Jesslyn Fax as Sculpting neighbor with hearing aid
Rand Harper as Newlywed man
Irene Winston as Mrs. Anna Thorwald
Havis Davenport as Newlywed woman
Storyline: Professional photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries breaks his leg while getting an action shot at an auto race. Confined to his New York apartment, he spends his time looking out of the rear window observing the neighbors. He begins to suspect that a man across the courtyard may have murdered his wife. Jeff enlists the help of his high society fashion-consultant girlfriend Lisa Freemont and his visiting nurse Stella to investigate.
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Reviews
One of Hitchcock's best. Nearly as great as Psycho.
Rear Window is Alfred Hitchcock's comment on the voyeuristic quality of society (`We've become a race of peeping toms…'). It is the story of a man bound to a wheelchair by a broken leg who sees what he believes to be a murder being covered up in an apartment across the courtyard from him.

James Stewart delivers an excellent performance as L.B. `Jeff' Jeffries, the magazine photographer who is bound to a wheelchair and who finds himself spying on his neighbors, at first out of boredom but very soon out of strong suspicion. This is a very talky thriller and is limited entirely to what is seen from Jeff's large apartment window. The fact that the entire two-hour film takes place in such a small setting is a strong statement about Hitchcock's tremendous skills as a director. He makes the film interesting in countless ways, such as his excellent, meaningful use of shadows, the very thorough character development, his interesting use of symbolism (such as Jeff's difficulty in reaching itches underneath his cast), not to mention the amazingly effective suspense, a Hitchcock trademark.

Just before Jeff notices some suspicious events occurring across the courtyard, he is constantly complaining about not being able to find any interesting work as a photographer, and it is ironic that he soon finds something interesting right outside his own window, and while he is confined to a wheelchair, no less. The fascinating crime story of the man across the courtyard having murdered his wife is made even creepier by the fact that it is all deducted from behavior that Jeff sees out his window, and we don't even find out for sure if he is right or not until the film's exciting climax. Hitchcock fans are also likely to notice a line of dialogue that may have foreshadowed some of the events that were to later take place in Psycho, such as the insurance company nurse's speculation that the killer must have cut up his wife's body in the bathtub (`That's the only place he could have washed away the blood…').

Another thing that sets Rear Window aside from other thrillers (including its own 1998 re-make which, incidentally, was far superior to the 1998 re-make of Psycho), was the way that it had several stories going on at the same time, which is one of the ways that it was able to remain so interesting. Jeff is an injured photographer, he is unsatisfied with his work, he is having a dilemma about marrying his sweetheart because he feels she is too perfect for him (the flimsiest excuse on the planet, of course, but he actually makes it make a little bit of sense), and then he comes across these events across the courtyard from his apartment that make him think that there has been a murder over there, and the murderer (Raymond Burr) is trying to cover it up.

Some of the things that happen in this film are not perfect, or seem uncharacteristic of Hitchcock, but the film as a whole is still spectacularly effective. For example, as a Hitchcock scholar, I found it strange that the killer strangled the dog and left it in the middle of the courtyard for all to see (and for Jeff to make revealing conclusions about). Think about how much more effective this would have been if the woman who owned the dog had just stood out on her porch calling for him, and he never came. This way, the realization that the man had killed the dog would have been much more gradually realized, and may have made the suspense created by it that much more impressive. At any rate, this is an outstanding film, and Hitchcock definitely created an amazing amount of suspense with such limited means, leading up to a tremendous climax that provided a quick but satisfying ending to this classic film.
2001-04-02
Through a Glass Not Darkly Enough
First let me get this out of the way. I'm a huge Hitchcock fan. But this simply is not one of my favorites. Usually movies based on noir writer Cornell Woolrich's plots work very well with his unusual twists and turns and core themes of nothing being as it 'seems' until in the end we see 'the truth' behind the facade. There's a little of that here, but just a little. It's as straightforward as possible. Yes, the set for this movie is wonderful. But the 'star' turns from Stewart, Kelly, Ritter, even Burr et. al, are a bit artificial. James Stewart, I have to admit, I've never liked in Hitchcock movies like 'Rope' or 'Man Who Knew Too Much' - his aw shucks, limited acting vocabulary doesn't stretch far. Grace Kelly - I don't believe she is in love with this man for a minute. Her accent is strange throughout and distracting and she is wooden - trying so hard to look beautiful she doesn't dare let a real expression cross her face. Her saving the day from afar is the last thing I'd expect this Patrician Figure to attempt - maybe Teresa Wright or even an Anna Massey, but not Grace. Thelma does her shtick - but does it to better effect in ALL ABOUT EVE. Burr seems a bit uncomfortable in the role of the one-note hapless villain and Judith Evelyn seems lost as sea as well in her rather thankless cameo as Ms. Lonelyhearts. She does her usual hysterical turn, but not as well as she does in THE TINGLER or FEMALE ON THE BEACH. There are some boring stretches along the way and too much artifice here - notwithstanding the interesting 'claustropobic' set, done just as well in LIFEBOAT as far as I'm concerned. The actors never seemed real people but 'stars' playing themselves. As such, they didn't provide enough interest for me as characters and helped keep the movie a bit 'flat'. The so-called climactic scene of Burr confronting Stweart was a real let-down. I can name a lot of H's movies that seemed scarier and more real, and had great photography too, such as THE BIRDS, MARNIE, and the excellently acted FRENZY. Not to mention the tension, editing and groundbreaking cinematic 'vision' seen in his early black and white pictures. But this seems to be everybody's favorite and that's fine with me, there's no right or wrong opinion. This one just doesn't grab me.
2009-05-11
One of the Most Thrilling Films Hitchcock Ever Directed
I saw this last night on AMC and was blown away by the plot, the characterization, the setting, and of course, the suspense. I am a huge Hitchcock fan, some of my favorites being "North by Northwest," "Psycho," "Lifeboat," and now this.

L.B. Jefferies, known as Jeff by his friends, is wheelchair-bound in his Manhattan apartment, dealing with a broken leg. With nothing else to do but look out the window, he takes to watching the lives of his neighbors around the center courtyard: the struggling musician, Miss Torso, the dancer, the eccentric couple with the curious dog, the newlyweds, Miss Lonelyheart, and of course, the Thorwalds, right across the way. Lars Thorwald and his bed-ridden wife become Jeff's focal characters to observe...until Mrs. Thorwald disappears, and Lars becomes progressively suspicious. He quickly involves his uptown girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly) who opts to do some investigation, and then involves his nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter). Helpless in his apartment, he works through them and the moderate help from his friend, Doyle (Wendell Corey), a detective. Questions continue to arise, and Jeff, Lisa, Stella, and Doyle seem to be coming to a conclusion. Yet, this is Hitchcock, and our team of protagonists aren't close to just solving the case and moving on. Oh no, the last twenty minutes or so prove to unbearably suspenseful as Lisa investigates the Thornwald's apartment while it's unoccupied, and Jeff and Stella watch helplessly as Lars comes home....

This truly is an amazing film. James Stewart and Grace Kelly give amazing performances, and Thelma Ritter is wonderful as the witty nurse. The vignettes on the lives of each of Jeff's neighbors are all quite interesting, and I found Miss Lonelyheart's story in particular to be absolutely wonderful. I also loved how Jeff was helpless, while the two women were off doing what one would think to be the man's role in the movie. Lisa, particular, is quite an innovative character. First of all, she's very funny. I love when Jeff is telling her the rough aspects of a traveling photographers life, and how when he asks her something in the way if she had ever been 5000 feet up, struggling to stay warm in twenty below zero weather, and she replies, "Well, when I get a few minutes after lunch...." She also takes that role of the elegant uptown girl and admits her sophistication and perfection, like when Jeff comments on how she never wears the same dress twice, and Lisa notes light-heartedly, "Only because it's expected of her [me]." And then, when she takes all those risks to uncover the truth in the end. Not only could I not sit still, I was so scared (which is rare for me with most horror movies) but I was amazed at how she proved that she wasn't afraid to risk anything. Now, that's one hell of a heroine, and perhaps the greatest Hitchcock woman ever.

I also loved Stella. She had some of the greatest lines in the movie, and I love when she's commenting to Lisa and Jeff on the probable gory details of Lars's act. She was definitely memorable with all her witty lines, and had me laughing many times.

And of course, James Stewart gave a great performance, conveying that feeling of helplessness, and near claustrophobia being in that apartment, unable to do anything, and just as he's safe in his apartment watching everyone, he goes through hell trying to figure out what to do when Lars comes home while Lisa is still at his apartment.

The movie is enthralling from the amazing opening to the wonderful epilogue, and the title music totally sets the scene for some fun. I recommend this movie to anyone, it is an amazing film.

2000-07-17
But did you believe it?
Never saw the whole thing through until tonight, on TCM. And I must say, I again got impatient with Hitchcock's penchant for manipulating reality, as if it didn't matter, in setting up his character conflicts towards suspenseful endings. It's all to do with believing what you see. One should not take for granted any audiences, all of whom are familiar with real life.

The film begins with a long long establishing panning shot of the location and ends up in tight close-up of our hero at the window, which was fine, but why was the camera movement so shaky? Surely smooth pans were achievable back in 1954, weren't they?

Then silly little things annoyed me. Like, did New Yorkers ever leave their front doors unlocked? When I lived there in the early sixties, we installed police locks, because regular locks were deemed too easy for intruders to break in. And what was with the SLR camera and its huge long lens that Stewart kept peering through? He wasn't taking pictures, he seemed to be using it as a telescope in preference to his powerful binoculars.

Dramatic writing skill consists largely of giving information necessary to the plot in well disguised ways. When we first meet Grace Kelly, the method used to reveal her character's name was by her pointing out bits of furniture after herself - embarrassing. And one could not believe her sudden conversion from scorn to belief in Stewart's suspicions, nor her journey to dig up the murderer's garden while wearing the long flowing "new look" fashion, nor her break-in climbing ladders to get into his apartment.

What I'm saying is that paying attention to real-life situations to serve the setting up of dramatic conflict has always been a challenge for film-makers, and if done successfully can only serve to make the finished product much more acceptable - suspension of disbelief being key. Hitchcock too often reveals a contempt for this, preferring to manipulate the small details of real life, in order to serve what he sees as his higher purpose.
2009-06-28
A Deep & Entertaining Classic
One of Hitchcock's greatest masterpieces, "Rear Window" is a deep and entertaining classic with many strengths, and a little bit of everything. A fine suspense story is combined with romantic tension in the main plot, and there are numerous sub-plots, some humorous and some moving, all with many psychological overtones. The main characters are wonderfully portrayed and full of life. The apparently simple setting in an apartment complex is developed into a world filled with intriguing and sometimes unsettling possibilities, and this apparently average neighborhood comes to life with a wealth of lavish visual detail and interesting minor characters. It is the kind of film-making that (like many of Hitchcock's greatest movies) is very flattering to the viewer. The director assumes that his audience will pay close enough attention to appreciate the many subtleties with which he has filled the movie. It rewards both careful attention and repeated viewings, since there is much more here than merely a suspense plot, as good as that story is in itself.

For the first 30 minutes or so, we simply get to know the characters. Jimmy Stewart gives one of his best performances as a photographer recuperating from an injury, forced to spend several weeks staring out his apartment window at the minor dramas in the lives of his neighbors. Grace Kelly is ideal in the role of his perfect girlfriend, who can never find a way to break down Stewart's reserve. The study of their relationship would have made a good movie by itself. Almost every action and every word between them is filled with meaning, and what they see in the lives of others is an interesting reflection of the tensions and possibilities in their own present and future. Thelma Ritter is wonderful as a colorful, no-nonsense nurse who constantly sheds some light - sometimes unwanted - on what is happening between them. The action and suspense that occur later serves in large part as a catalyst that resolves some of the important issues between the two.

After we get to know the characters and their world, things start to happen, as Stewart becomes engrossed in some of the things he has seen. The ethical and moral concerns of meddling in others' affairs become intertwined with more urgent questions about what may have happened in those other apartments, and from then on the tension builds steadily. It leads up to a riveting climactic sequence filled with suspense, and made even more meaningful by our awareness of its deeper significance to the main characters.

There is much more that could be said, but you should see this for yourself. It is a classic that will be enjoyed not only by thriller fans, but by anyone who appreciates carefully crafted movies with a lot of depth.
2001-06-20
Classy, gentle excitement with nice subtexts within the enjoyably tense main story
Jeff Jeffries is an adventure photographer for a major newspaper who, thanks to an attempt to get an action shot during a motor race, has found himself in a plaster cast spending his days and nights in a wheelchair. His only visitors are his carer Stella and his beautiful, but pressurising girlfriend Lisa and the majority of his time is spend staring out the window into the courtyard area of his apartment complex. It is during one typically hot night that he spots something funny going on inside one of the apartments opposite his – the woman of the house seems to be gone and the man is acting suspiciously; from the confines of his chair, Jeff keeps watch, with the case becoming increasingly clear to him and his friends.

Despite having themes in common with many Hitchcock films, this stands out as being one of a couple of his movies that are accessible and entertaining to a wider audience. Using voyeurism as its central theme, the film takes us into a fairly straightforward mystery that is well told but also laced with subtexts and other windows to stare through. To me this makes it a better film because there is much that intrigued me about the characters and the neighbourhood while also providing me with an engaging mystery. Modern audiences who have seen this film copied and referenced countless times will doubtless struggle to see what the fuss is about and perhaps they are right as the story doesn't have the twists and turns that are considered the norm now in a lot of thrillers; but it is still strong enough to keep the interest. The voyeuristic nature of the characters is interesting – with them changing throughout the film; meanwhile the many lives on display in the other flats provide other things to be interested in as well.

Of course a massive part of it working is the cast. Stewart plays his usual "aw-shucks" personae to good effect but crosses it with a certain lack of ethnics and a less than wholesome character who spends his nights with a young girl who he doesn't want to commit to and an unhealthy habit of staring at his neighbours. Kelly is sexually innocent and seductive with it – unlike Hitchcock I tend to find blonde princesses all a bit dull and obvious but she worked here. Stealing most of her scenes is sterling support from Thelma Ritter, not that different a performance from some of her others but still very well timed and blessed with some really great lines. Burr is rather stiff but at a distance it doesn't really matter and he does well enough. The various other neighbours each works well with their mini-stories that barely exist within the film but do add to the layered effect of the film.

Overall the film is classy and the rich colours and ordinary setting are nicely in contrast with the action of all the main characters. The mystery is well delivered and engages in a gently dramatic fashion while the starry cast are impressive and interesting throughout. For my money not as pound-for-pound entertaining as North by Northwest but still one of Hitchcock's more widely accessible films if not quite one of his best.
2005-03-28
Terrible Ending
I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one disappointed by the ending.

If this movie had ended with L. B. Jefferies realizing that Lars Thorwald was innocent, it would have been great. But no, it turns out that Thorwald actually did kill his wife. If ever there was a movie that needed a twist ending, it was Rear Window.

And I'll admit that I thought the camera never leaving the room seemed gimmicky. And didn't people use blinds in New York in the 1950s? And if Jefferies has no problem seeing his neighbors, why doesn't any one of them see him, especially with that huge camera lens he's holding. (Well, Thorwald sees him in the end, but why did it take him that long? Jefferies had his camera lens pointed at his room for more than half the movie.)

And even after I accepted the fact that the twist ending I had hoped for wasn't going to happen, I couldn't get past how stupid the climax was. Really? The villain is stopped by camera flashbulbs? That's something I'd expect to work only in a cartoon.

I've seen two other Hitchcock movies and I didn't like them either. Vertigo was just boring. The villain in that movie just came up with the most convoluted plan to get rid of his wife. And North by Northwest wasn't that great either. Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Goldfinger (the first three James Bond movies) were all more exciting and all of them had a lower budget than North by Northwest. But Rear Window is definitely the worst of the three.
2014-02-25
The Master In Control
Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, wittily written by John Michael Hayes, is one of his many films I think of as much of a technical exercise as anything else. It is in this sense like his silent The Lodger, the static, confined Lifeboat, and the cut-less, one set Rope. Considered in this light it is a cold masterpiece, playing more with the audience's thoughts and fears than with its softer, more personal emotions. As such, it is a very cerebral and satisfying piece of work. The plot is deceptively simple: a photographer (James Stewart) is stuck indoors with his leg in a cast during a hot New York summer. His socialite girl-friend (Grace Kelly) is eager to marry him but Stewart has his doubts, since he lives a wandering life and is from a different social class. He spends most of his time idling about and playing with his camera. In time he becomes a voyeur (which he probably already is, to a degree) and begins to observe his neighbors' private lives, as he views them through his lens in the courtyard. He develops attitudes toward each of them, ranging from mild amusement to empathy to sexual interest, depending on who he's looking at. Without realizing it he is really looking at different aspects of either himself or his relationship with Kelly. The courtyard is a kind of mirror of his soul. These people and their predicaments represent different sides of his (and to a lesser extent Miss Kelly's) personality, offering glimpses of potential past, present and future selves; and it is not always a flattering picture. The newlyweds are continually having sex; Miss Torso is a beautiful young woman who entertains many suitors; there is a childless, somewhat pathetic-seeming middle-aged couple who dote over a pet dog; Miss Lonelyhearts is a depressed, aging spinster with no apparent friends; and the young, bachelor song-writer, when he isn't trying to compose songs, is either throwing parties or fits. Then there are the Thorwalds, a squabbling couple across the way. Stewart is at first only slightly interested in them until Mrs. Thorwald disappears and her husband starts going out at night carrying paper parcels that look like they came from a butcher shop. Soon Stewart is, understandably, suspicious. He convinces Kelly that something is amiss, but has trouble with his detective friend. His nurse Stella agrees that something is wrong across the courtyard, and the threesome become amateur detectives. Rear Window is great fun. It's a thriller, a romance, a mystery, and at times a comedy of manners. The actors all give superb, unflashy performances. Hitchcock had been making movies for three decades by the time he undertook this one, and he knew exactly what he was doing; everything happens as it should, on time, with no fuss or bother. The courtyard set is magnificently designed and photographed; it looks both artificial and realistic, and seems almost to change at times, as circumstances dictate. This is, after Dial M For Murder, Hitchcock's first truly 'fifties' film, which is to say it is a far cry from the genteel romances and spy stuff he'd been doing before. There's less use of atmosphere here, as a new, more independent director was emerging, decidedly post-Selznick, often using color. Hitchcock is playing a sort game of cinematic chess, moving people and things around here and there, changing camera angles slyly, never showing his hand. The film lacks only warmth. All sorts of learned books and articles have been written about this picture, some of them quite silly; all at least partly right. This is at times a profound film, but it also aims to entertain, it has a light touch, and it can be scary, it's romantic about couples and cynical about people. There's a little bit of everything in it,--it's a work of art.
2001-04-08
Looking at Urban Life ... through binoculars and voyeurism
Some of Alfred Hitchcock's films date badly, or are flawed by script points he chose to ignore as "Maguffins", or just are not his cup of tea. But REAR WINDOW is one great movie - a film that just never stops fascinating it's audiences as much as the world of that Greenwich Village enclave fascinates L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries (James Stewart).

Hitchcock built a meticulous set of apartment flats with a common courtyard. Although extensive it is, in fact, claustrophobic, with the seemingly separate lives of the residents running into each other more frequently than one expects (witness Raymond Burr's growling at a neighbor as he is working on his garden patch and she tries to give him some advice). The fact that it is supposed to be in the middle of a heat wave (this is in the pre-air-conditioned apartment days) adds to the feelings of closing in - even if the audience actually feels no heat from the set. At least five separate stories are going on that we are invited into during the course of the film, besides the main one of the fate of Mrs. Anna Thorwald (Irene Winston).

Jeff has been a widely respected and awarded photographer around the world, and he is nursing a broken leg (from his photographing a careening racing car). His only contacts with the outside world are his nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) and his girlfriend Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly) who is a supermodel of the period (c. 1954). Stuck with nothing to do Jeff starts looking out his window at his neighbors. They include a ballet dancer, a newlywed couple, a struggling pianist composer, a lonely woman seeking companionship, a couple with a dog, and a sculptor. Also there is Mr. Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), a salesman, and his wife Anna.

Voyeurism is intoxicating, because (as long as you are unobserved) you can imagine what is actually going on - illustrated by the newlyweds pulling down the blinds of their window, and Steward struggling for words to explain to Kelly about what the couple behind the blinds are doing. But it becomes a matter that we are increasingly urgent as Jeff is aware of what is going on in the lives of those people. In particular the Thorwalds, who are always arguing.

One night he hears a woman scream, and wonders who it could be. Then he notices Thorwald acting very methodically (and atypically) in leaving his apartment with his salesman bag at late hours of the night. He slowly concentrates on Thorwald and his movements in his apartment - and the fact that the hitherto bedridden wife is missing. Both Stella and Lisa dismiss this, until they both are unconsciously drawn into watching some of Thorwald's activities themselves, and they start realizing there is something a bit odd.

Jeff calls in a war friend of his, Police Detective Thomas Doyle (Wendell Corey) and he to is rather dismissive, but checks into the story. And he finds that everything on the surface seems explicable. But despite occasionally making Stewart and Kelly ashamed of themselves, sooner or later some other business by Thorwald or near his abode reawakens suspicions.

The conclusion is memorable for giving Thorwald an opportunity to confront his main prosecutor and demand an ethics answer that just can't be simply answered.

Hitchcock appears to have used elements of the Crippen murder for the story - based by the way on a short story by the gifted noir writer Cornell Woolrich. The cast is splendid, not only giving a bravura performance to Steward, but giving Kelly a chance to stretch her acting when in danger, and giving Ritter another one of her wise, wizened women roles. Burr had his best recalled moments on film here - if not his best performance (I still favor his avenging D.A. in A PLACE IN THE SUN). Corey too is the voice of reason and common sense - until the last moments of the film when Stewart finally jars him.

One of the finest thrillers ever constructed and filmed by a master director
2007-09-18
the most over rated film ever.
oh my god, i may believe that sun can rise from west but can't believe the position of this movie on IMDb's list of top 250. it doesn't deserve even to be in top 1000. there is no mystery, no thrill. what it does contain is a person just keep looking out of the window all the day to all kind of people. i shall advice all mystery lovers that it can make your mystery taste very sour. one more thing is that a movie directed by alferd hitchcock doesn't guarantee its success. below average for me. all the facts given in this movie are verbal and not practically filmed. whole movie contains buildings with windows.shut the windows on this kind of movie.
2009-12-05
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