In deadly danger...because they saw too much!
Rear Window is a 1954 mystery-thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by John Michael Hayes, produced by Patron Inc., and distributed by Paramount Pictures. The film is based on Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story, It Had to Be Murder. It stars James Stewart and Grace Kelly. The film was nominated for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound Design, but did not win any of them.
"A murderer would never parade his crime in front of an open window." -Lisa Fremont
After an accident places L.B. Jefferies in a wheelchair for seven weeks, he has nothing to do but sit in front of his window and watch his neighbors. In the final week before his cast is removed, Jefferies begins to become suspicious of one of his neighbors who is seen walking around at night. As Jefferies continues to watch him, he becomes obsessed with the idea that this mysterious salesman committed murder.
So, if you don't know who Alfred Hitchcock is, here's a quick lesson.
Hitchcock is one of the most esteemed Hollywood directors of all time. He is known as "The Master of Suspense", with his most famous films being Psycho, Vertigo, The Birds, Rear Window, and North by Northwest. He has directed tons of thrillers and spy films between the 1920s and 1960s. And Rear Window is the first of his movies that I've seen.
And, oh boy, was it an experience. This is one of the most uniquely directed films I've seen. This has the mark of a famous director all over it. Hitchcock makes some decisions that are just incredible. With his superb camera work and great eye for visual storytelling, he is able to craft a very stylish environment.
This film is a masterclass in visual storytelling. Since the film centers around a man spying on other through his window, we see a bunch of these people that live in his neighborhood. And although they have no truly audible lines and we don't even know their names, we know everything about them. They all have distinct personalities that pop. And, as we watch L.B. Jefferies investigate a murder, we also see stories develop for these characters whose names we don't know. We understand their personality and situation. It's really amazing how Hitchcock was able to do that.
This film also just cranks up the tension at every moment in the movie. We don't actually see a murder happen, and as Jeff gets more convinced that the salesman across the neighborhood did kill his wife, we become more convinced as well. The intensity just continues to build on top of itself, all resulting in a nerve-racking climax. This has one of the best shots in a film that I have ever seen. I won't say it, just in case anybody who is reading this review hasn't seen this movie. But the shot that I am referring to is one of the most shocking and intense shots ever. It works so well because it's a payoff to all of this tension.
I also love that there isn't any background music in this movie. All of the music that the audience hears can also be heard by the characters. It immerses the audience in the world of Rear Window more. When you are fully invested in a film, it can be a lot more suspenseful and a lot more mysterious.
And I'd say that this is the right way to do a slow-burn mystery. A slow-burn is when the mystery slowly builds to a head, giving you small bits of information every few minutes. This movie does it so well, giving you just enough information to increase your interest but not making the final reveals obvious.
And I'm not going to dive deep into this, but the performances and screenplay are great as well. The dialogue is very snappy along with being haunting, and some of the facial expressions from the actors are very good.
I don't have any huge problems with the film. I'd say that it does have the mark of a 50s movie. That can be good for some people. It won't work for others. And I think that this movie does not treat women well. Especially L.B. Jefferies. He is a complete jerk to his girlfriend, and it can be very uncomfortable.
I really don't like Jeff as a character. Even though he is our main protagonist, he is very selfish and rude. He's also being a pervert and spying on other people. He is not a likable character, and the only redeeming thing is Jimmy Stewart's performance. And being horrible to his girlfriend makes him borderline disgusting.
The film also doesn't really start up until thirty minutes in. The scenes are long, there's a lot of dialogue, and I think some of it could've been cut. It slows down the excitement and thrill of the film. You are tired by the time stuff starts to happen, and I think if the story was pushed into motion earlier, I would've liked the film better.
This isn't a negative, it's more of a mixed aspect, but this is a very stylized film. Cinephiles will love it and appreciate it, but the more average modern movie-goer may not like it. This is not a movie for everyone.
Overall, Rear Window is a suspenseful and intense ride that has Hitchcock's name written all over it. Despite a touchy main character and a very slow beginning, it succeeds will the build up and payoff of tension.
I will give it a Savory rating. Age range is 8+.
Fun Factor: 8/10
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Rated PG for disturbing themes and images, minor thematic elements
Released on September 1, 1954
1 hour and 53 minutes
Jimmy Stewart as L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies
Grace Kelly as Lisa Fremont
Thelma Ritter as Stella
Wendell Corey as Det. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle
Raymond Burr as Lars Thorwald
Judith Evelyn as Miss Lonelyhearts
Georgine Darcy as Miss Torso
Ross Bagdasarian as The Songwriter