Rear Window (1954)

Friend, blog reader and sometime fellow blogger Harvey nudged me gently last week with a bit of information I hadn’t remembered. August 13th, 2014 was the 115th birth anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock. Was I planning to post something Hitchcock-related to mark the occasion?

And how could I not? Hitchcock – in my opinion, one of the best directors cinema has ever seen, regardless of time and place – is a firm favourite of mine. I’ve reviewed several of his films; in fact, one of the first films I reviewed on this blog (The 39 Steps) dates from Hitchcock’s early British period. I’ve reviewed a hilariously black comedy (The Trouble with Harry); I’ve reviewed classics like Rebecca, and relatively little-known ones (among those not Hitchcock aficionados, I hasten to add) like Strangers on a Train or Lifeboat.

Time (and occasion) therefore, I concluded, to review one of my favourite of Hitchcock’s colour films, in the classic suspense mould. Rear Window, about a photographer stuck in his tiny apartment with a broken leg…

James Stewart as LB Jefferies 'Jeff' in Rear Window

James Stewart, a Hitchcock favourite (he also starred in Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much and the brilliant Rope) plays LB Jefferies, ‘Jeff’. The first few minutes of the film give us an idea of who Jefferies is, just by the camera panning from one end of the rather messy room to the other, and back again. We see Jeff’s leg, in a plaster cast on which someone has scribbled his name. We move on to a smashed camera, to a series of fascinating photos – shots of a racing car hurtling up in an obviously terrible accident; people running from a raging fire; an explosion; what looks like a mushroom cloud. More cameras, more photographic equipment.

Jeff recovers from a broken leg
Jeff lives dangerously. His broken leg – the fracture sustained in the car accident he was able to photograph, though it cost him limb and camera – is to remain in the cast another week. Meanwhile, Jeff has been amusing himself by looking out of the rear window of his apartment at his neighbours.

... and spends his time looking out at his neighbours
And what an interesting lot they are, too. Jeff doesn’t know any of them, but he’s been looking in through their windows, into their lives so closely all these six weeks, he has begun to assign them names, begun to take an interest in them. For instance, there is ‘Miss Torso’ (Georgine Darcy), the young and very supple ballet dancer, who obviously leads a hectic life, both dancing and entertaining men.

'Miss Torso' with her visitors
There is Miss Lonely Hearts (Judith Evelyn), middle-aged and hopelessly romantic but all alone. Come evening, she dresses up, lays out a pretty candlelit dinner, pours wine, welcomes and chats with an invisible beau – and then, realizing she’s deluding herself, curls up and cries.

Miss Lonely Hearts, all alone.
There is a song writer, inclined to drink and perhaps having a hard time making a success of his career. There is the female sculptor who’s a bit of a busybody, but probably good-natured in her own way. Above her, a few stories up, lives a somewhat untidy couple: they’ve decided it’s so hot, they’re best off sleeping out on the fire escape, even if it means having to hang up their alarm clock from the railing. On a lower floor, there’s a newly-married couple, very much in love, who’ve just moved in—and whose window blinds have been pulled down ever since.

The newlyweds
And there is the Salesman (Raymond Burr) and his wife, who live next door to Miss Torso. Two windows of their house are invariably open: one in the bedroom, one in the sitting room next door. These seem to be the sort of people a rather cynical, commitment-shy Jeff fears marriage is all about: a nagging wife who is an invalid, confined to her bed; a harried and frustrated husband.

The Salesman and his bedridden wife
These are literally windows into the lives of his neighbours, and Jeff is intrigued, amused, derisive, and sympathetic in turn as he watches the dramas of their lives play out while he looks on.

Not that Jeff himself is completely bereft of all company. Every day, the insurance company nurse Stella (the brilliant Thelma Ritter, an old favourite of mine) comes visiting, not just to massage Jeff’s back and help him around a bit, but also to dispense good, old-fashioned, hard-nosed advice. Stop being a peeping tom. Get a life of your own. Get married to Lisa.

Stella comes to attend to Jeff
Jeff’s girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) is the other daily visitor. She and Jeff seem to be polar opposites, at least on the surface: she is immensely wealthy (the dress she’s wearing when she first appears is—she announces nonchalantly—worth $1,100); she moves in the very highest circles of society; a cozy dinner, for her, consists of getting a great restaurant to deliver a lobster dinner, wine and all, at Jeff’s place.

Lisa, Jeff's girlfriend
Yet, Lisa is truly and deeply in love with Jeff. She’s been trying to get him to marry her, asking him if they cannot come to a compromise—either he can stop flying around the world on dangerous photo assignments, or she can give up her plush job as editor of a fashion magazine and join him. She is willing to do that (and it’s obvious that she really means it, even if she does not fully realize exactly how hair-raising Jeff’s job can be).

Lisa tries to get Jeff, once again, to marry her
Jeff, however, is adamant: this will not work. Can’t they go on as they are? Maintain the status quo, as it were? And Lisa, though she’s hurt and angry enough to leave, is back again the next evening…

…by which time, a stormy night has resulted in some very interesting proceedings in the Salesman’s apartment opposite Jeff’s. Jeff, sleepless through much of the night, sees that the blinds of the Salesman’s bedroom window are pulled down, but through the other window, the Salesman can be seen, picking up his sample case, donning a raincoat and going out. Then, 45 minutes later, coming back in. Again going out, and then—after returning—going out a third time. At 3 o’clock in the morning? Why on earth?

The Salesman goes out one stormy night
Jeff, exhausted, finally falls asleep. When he comes awake, it’s broad daylight – and, picking up his zoom lens (Jeff’s already tried binoculars, only to discover they aren’t powerful enough) – he looks towards the Salesman’s house. The blinds of the bedroom are still down, but through the other window, the Salesman can be seen. He’s wrapping something up in newspaper: a large, evil-looking kitchen knife. And a saw.

Some odd things seen
Jeff, till now merely curious, suddenly turns suspicious. Lisa, when she arrives, is dismissive, but Jeff presents the case well. Soon, the elegant Lisa too has been roped in: she sneaks across and reads the Salesman’s name on the address board: Lars Thorwald.

And what has Lars Thorwald been up to, with knife and saw, going out three times in the course of one night? And why are the blinds on his bedroom window pulled down?

Lisa and Jeff discuss Thorwald
But they aren’t pulled down for long. The next time Jeff looks, he sees straight into the bedroom. Mrs Thorwald isn’t there; the bed is empty. There’s a packed trunk, tied with stout rope. Even as Jeff – along with Stella – watches, Lars Thorwald receives visitors: two men from a freight company, summoned to take away the trunk. Stella rushes off to try and see the name on their van, but to no avail.

Thorwald hands over a trunk to be shipped
By this time, Jeff has decided whatever it is Lars Thorwald is doing, it cannot be legal. Where has Mrs Thorwald gone? Left her husband? But she was an invalid; she couldn’t even get out of bed. And what about that knife and saw? The ominous trunk, sent away? He does the only thing he can think of: he phones his old friend, Detective Lt. Thomas Doyle (Wendell Corey) and calls Doyle over.

But Doyle is not convinced. Jeff should not be prying into the private lives of his neighbours, and anyway, there’s probably a very good reason for all that Jeff’s been witnessing in the apartment opposite. Reluctantly, and after much badgering from Jeff, Doyle agrees to make a few discreet enquiries. Nothing official, not yet, since he can just about imagine what the reaction will be if he seeks a search warrant on such flimsy ‘evidence’.

Doyle pooh-poohs Jeff's suspicions
And what does Doyle come up with? The news that Mrs Thorwald isn’t ‘missing’ as Jeff imagines her to be; no, she has left town, at 6 AM that morning. The building superintendent has confirmed it. And the trunk? It has been confirmed by a cop whom Doyle put on the job to check who collected that trunk. Mrs Hannah Thorwald.

A damp squib. A wild goose chase.

But is it? Jeff does not believe it, despite everything.

Rear Window does interesting things with tried and tested formulas. One, of course, is the oft-used trope of the locked room, but turned on its head here. Instead of the crime being committed in a locked room, it is the detective who is in the confined space: Jeff, bound by his broken leg to a wheelchair, unable to move around much without help. It is this enforced inertia – and the ensuing ennui – that has probably made him turn to this voyeurism to relieve the boredom of daily life. It is this inability to stir out of his room which makes Jeff become an armchair detective. The crime, happening almost in front of his very eyes (though with little direct evidence), the detective, in an enclosed space.

The second trope which Hitchcock turns on its head is one Hitchcock used in several of his other films (especially the early British ones), all the way from The 39 Steps and Young and Innocent to Saboteur: the hero who has to flee because he has been mistakenly accused of a crime he did not commit – and whom nobody is willing to believe. In Rear Window, the opposite happens: the hero (rather, the protagonist) is again not believed, but it’s not his assertion of innocence that is doubted, but his assertion of another man’s guilt. Nobody, at first, believes Jeff when he insists that Thorwald has murdered his wife. Jeff can present whatever logic he wants; there is always someone – whether Stella or Lisa or later (and more strenuously) Doyle – to refute or simply scoff at what he says.

What I liked about this film:

So much. The actors (James Stewart and Thelma Ritter are among my absolute favourites, and Grace Kelly is gorgeous as always). The taut, tight scripting and the storyline – which is enhanced by the fact that Jeff cannot race about, like other thriller film heroes, trying to solve the crime for himself, simply because he is physically incapable of doing so.

The story isn’t terribly convoluted, either. It doesn’t teem with red herrings, and other than Thorwald, there are no real suspects (because nobody except Jeff, and later Stella and Lisa, believes a crime has been committed). Yet, despite being so straightforward – man suspects neighbour of murder, man observes, story plays out – it doesn’t get boring, and there are interesting little twists and turns (the little dog and the flowers, for instance) that suddenly come along and spice things up.

And there is, always, Hitchcock’s deft hand at suspense. The slow buildup, the gradual closing in. In the first couple of scenes, Jeff is merely looking at his neighbours through the window: he (and we) can see them, but we can’t hear any dialogue, and we can’t clearly see their faces. Impressions are what we get. Then, as the story progresses and Jeff begins to use first binoculars and then his zoom lens, we are allowed to get closer to the neighbours. We see them better, because Jeff can see them better. And we hear them better, because their volume rises: Miss Lonely Hearts screams at an unwanted lover, the woman who sleeps on the fire escape berates the rest of the neighbours, the newlywed husband has his wife calling plaintively to him, the song writer has a loud party at home… slowly, these people have gone from being the people in the windows around Jeff’s to being an integral part of the story that’s playing out.

Then, the little things that go into filling out the main story: the struggle between the commitment-phobic Jeff and the I-want-to-get-married Lisa; the no-nonsense wit of Stella; the personal lives of the neighbours. And the occasional mentions of things that one should perhaps ponder over: window ethics. How ethical is it to invade a man’s privacy, peering in at him, even if it is to find him committing a crime?

Thelma Ritter, Grace Kelly and James Stewart in Rear Window
What I didn’t like:

Or rather, what I think could have been better.

The character of Lisa. Lisa is pretty much the usual Hitchcock heroine: blonde, beautiful, successful, yet not empty-headed. She is smart, clever enough to be able to make deductions that help Jeff in his quest to get to the truth about Lars Thorwald and his wife. From the beginning, though, even when she’s trying to convince Jeff that they should get married and that she will accompany him on even the most dangerous and inconvenient of his expeditions, it’s obvious that this woman has no real idea of what she’s getting into – rather ignorant, if you come to think of it. The stereotypical ‘thinking with her heart’ woman, too impulsive for her own good.

That stereotype gets reinforced towards the end of the film, when a sudden impulse makes Lisa do something that sends the story spiraling out of control. Jeff refers to it as brave, courageous; I thought it was downright foolhardy. Another instance of the silly woman who jumps in without thinking, and ends up nearly getting everybody – not just herself – into trouble? At least long enough for the male protagonist to be able to come to her rescue (in this case, if not literally, then through proxy)?

But that’s a minor point, and eventually, if I look at the film as a whole – and when compared to other contemporary films that showed women in a far less flattering light – I can find it in me to forgive this blow to the feminist in me. Especially as the suspense film lover in me finds Rear Window utterly satisfying.

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38 thoughts on “Rear Window (1954)

  1. Terrific review, Madhulika! One of my favourite Hitchcock films too (though Notorious is unshakably at the top spot!) – I love the way AF turns his own staple tropes on their head, as you describe so delightfully.

    • Thank you, Karthika! I’m glad you liked the review, and I’m glad you share the love for Rear Window. I can’t say which of Hitchcock’s films is my favourite – there are too many I like a lot, all the way from The Lady Vanishes to The Trouble With Harry (and Frenzy and Family Plot too!), though somehow I’ve never been too fond of Notorious, despite the presence of both Grant and Bergman.

      • Sorry, Madhu: very tardy response but I was ill all week. I think my abiding admiration for Notorious stems above all from its genre-bending acrobatics. Beyond the technical wizardry (everything is so top-notch, it’s breathtaking, and I am gobsmacked by how it all fits seamlessly to create a larger “whole”), the immensely talented (and pulchritudinous!) actors and a terrific plot, it is Hitchcock’s thematic sleight of hand, I think, that holds me spellbound — ehr, pun unintended! That ultimately, the thriller is *almost* just a Macguffin, not to the love story of these three damaged souls, but to the one of redemption. And I see the redemption not as Alicia’s but as Devlin’s. She may lose her life, but he is in danger of losing his humanity, his, well, soul. And when Devlin allows cynicism and jealousy to ride roughshod over his belief in Alicia’s loyalty, Hitchcock rachets up the tension (and our involvement) so masterfully. It was a wonderful arc, I thought. And how well he wrote the part of Sebastien (Claude Rains).

        Oh dear, there I go again!

        • PS: Oh, yes! The Lady Vanishes is terrific. I am very fond of Young and Innocent too, even if it’s a lot more ‘raw’. There are quite a few, actually!

        • Oh, poor you! I hope you’re better now, Karthika.

          That’s an interesting (and, I must admit, attractive) review of Notorious. I will confess that it’s been many years since I watched the film, so it is highly possible that on rewatching it I might find it a whole lot better than I did the first time. Talking of Spellbound, that was one film I was totally in love with when I first saw it as a pre-teen. Then, watching it a few years back, I realised that a lot of that psychobabble was really too much for me – and that perhaps I didn’t care for the film as much as I had in my younger days. :-) So the opposite may well have happened with Notorious, though that I watched rather more recently – perhaps 10 years back?

          • Still a bit ‘poorly’, so to say. But quite cheered by your piano-player post and Jabberwock’s Paanch Rupaiyya Baara Ana analysis! Oh, Madhu, I hope you get to watch Notorious again! It’s also quite disturbing in its anti-archetyping (wasn’t Hitchcock taking a big risk in those post-WW2 years where the state was paranoid about cinematic depictions of its intelligence organisations etc?): I mean, the government agents are clearly shown as amoral, and indifferent to Alicia’s fate….

            Spellbound! I was 17 when I first saw it, and … spellbound! But watched it again later, and, like you, was less charmed. Visually, it remains a treat, and, again, its stars glowed. But I was less engrossed by the story, it seemed a lot less urgent, and the details are now rather tattered in the mind.

            • I do hope you get well soon! And I must go read Jai’s analysis of Paanch rupaiyya baarah aana – hadn’t even realised he’d posted something new. That sounds like fun.

              Yes, you’re right about Spellbound being a treat visually – Peck and Bergman are gorgeous, and that Dali dream sequence is really memorable. But other than that, yes – I think you hit the nail on the head when you say it seemed a lot less urgent.

  2. Wonderful review, dear Madhu! Enjoyed reading it. I found myself agreeing with you on so many terms.
    I particularly like your idea of the reversing of the theme, a person pleading his innocence. Never thought about it that way.
    I think I’ve watched tis film at least ten times and every time I sit at the edge of the sofa during the ending. There is so much going for the film. But nevertheless, agree with your “what I didn’t like” section as well. Since at the end, Hitchcock ends up confirming Jeff’s views, that women are manipulative and will have their way in the end and men are the freedom-loving adventurous people, who get bind by women’s manipulative ways, but it is oh-so-hard to resist them. Something on the lines of How To Murder Your Wife (http://youtu.be/vixJordE_vc). But those were the times! The times reflect also in the names of the villains of the films during those years. Mostly Germans, here for e.g., Lars Thorwald.
    These points apart, I just love this film! Hitchcock is simply a master of his art!
    There was a spinoff of this film in one episode of Tatort (Scene of Crime), a very famous crime television series, which started sometime in 1970 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatort), where an old, invalid woman is the witness to the crime, which I liked as well.
    BTW, you have also reviewed Dial M for Murder, haven’t you? First or second review on your blog?

    • “The times reflect also in the names of the villains of the films during those years.

      Yes, I hadn’t noticed that, actually – but it’s so true. (Incidentally, I thought Lars Thorwald would denote Scandinavian descent; now that I pay attention to the ‘-wald’ bit of his surname, I realise he must have been of German origin. ‘Forest’, am I right?

      Oh, I’d never heard of Tatort, even though I do recall watching a couple of German TV series when I was a kid – I remember one which I particularly liked, The Old Fox. The episode of Tatort you describe sounds good.

      And yes, your memory serves you well. :-) I have reviewed Dial M for Murder; not quite so early on in my blog, but yes, within the first year, when I had just a handful of blog visitors. And I remember you had reviewed Rope! What a great review that was.

      • Wald is forest! In most Scandinavian languages it would be skog.

        You remember “The Old Fox” too! Wow, those were the days, eh? The series is still going on strong, though not so exciting (for me) anymore. The detective, whom we knew was played by Siegfried Lowitz. The fourth generation is at play now. Tatort is a good series. A bit gloomy, people say, but I like the social and political issues they tackle. There are twenty different cities (mainly in Germany but also in Austria and Switzerland), each city has its own detective pairs and some are lovable, some are crooked, some are old some are young.

        You remember Rope! Wonder where the review has gone! I can’t even remember the blog address anymore. Thank you for your kind words.

        Coming back to ‘The Rear Window’. I still remember the line “Here lie the bones of Jefferies” (or something similar) written on his cast. As far as I remember, we as the audience never leave Jeff’s room, we see only what he sees (for the most part). That is what makes it more thrilling, even claustrophobic. Hitchcock was a master in giving you that claustrophobic feeling.
        SPOILER WARNING
        We hardly know much about the villain, except for his old invalid wife, who we supoose that she nags him. Till the villain enters his room, we haven’t seen much of him. Other characters in the the other windows have their ups and downs, and thus they are people, whom we can sympathise with. We know Mr. Thorwald only through his actions and we hardly see his face clearly (if I remember right), thus when he enters Jeff’s room it terrifies us much more.
        SPOILER OVER

        Fantastic movie, would love to see it again and Dial M for Murder as well.

        • “The detective, whom we knew was played by Siegfried Lowitz.

          Ah! Didn’t know that. I really liked him a lot! He was a very good actor, and the stories themselves were excellent. Later, there was another German detective series – also police procedural – but I’ve forgotten what it was called. I think it was the name of the detective, if I remember correctly, something beginning with H. Also very good, but I preferred The Old Fox.

          Spoiler ahead

          Actually, one does see Lars Thorwald’s face quite clearly well before the climax – because by now, Jeff is using the zoom lens, and there are moments when Thorwald is almost looking straight at the camera. Of course, the climax is still very dramatic (and appropriate, considering Jeff’s a photographer), but no: it isn’t the first time one sees Thorwald up close.

          Spoiler over.

          P.S. Your blog is still on my blog roll (if I recall, you had written something – in your last post – to the effect that you were stopping for the time being; I am always hopeful that you will restart!) I can’t find Rope, sadly. :-(

  3. Madhu, another one of our crazy coincidences here! My next post – should be ready later today – is another ‘lesser’ Hitchcock. :)

    Rear Window is one of my favourite Hitchcocks. James Stewart was absolutely brilliant, so dynamic even though wheel-chair bound. I haven’t watched it in a long while but I still remember being annoyed at Grace’s character. (But oh, so beautiful!) Thank you for an excellent review.

    • Thank you, Anu! Yes, I thought Grace Kelly’s character was also – while being utterly breathtakingly beautiful – so stereotyped. Manipulative, as Harvey describes her so very well… that last scene in the film reinforces it. Still, the overall film is very good, and James Stewart – ah. Ever brilliant. :-)

      And now I must scurry off to your blog and see what you’ve posted!

  4. Madhu,
    I have to thank you for this wonderful review, because among all the Hitchcock films I have seen I found this the least Hitchcockian, especially compared to the quintessential Hitchcocks – Frenzy, North by Northwest and Strangers on a Train – I saw around the same time. Secondly, while other films I got to repeat many times over, somehow I could not see RW again. Your review refreshed my memory that the film was more than just James Stewart’s voyeurism.

    It is interesting you should mention it, and you might recall I too referred to Hitchcock’s famous mysteries in which the real criminal is known to the audience all along. That was in the context of my own preference that the whole plot of the movie is discussed. But I understand that there is an established protocol of not revealing the end.

    AK

    • Thanks, AK! I find it interesting that you should refer to Rear Window as the ‘least Hitchcockian’ of the films you’ve seen (though, of course, that might mean you haven’t seen some of his more offbeat ones – like Mr & Mrs Smith, or even the loony but hilarious The Trouble With Harry). Compared to North by NorthWest or Vertigo or even his early British films, however, I think I see what you mean – there’s invariably a lot of action, not much of this enclosed space thing, the enforced inertia and the armchair detective.

  5. Wonderful review of one of my favorite Hitchcock films. Cary Grant is my favorite Hitchcock actor, but James Stewart is a close second and he’s just marvelous in Rear Window. When you think about it, Stewart has to engage the audience’s attention for the entire film almost single-handedly and it’s a testament to his charisma and talent that one never gets bored while watching the film. And I share your love of Thelma Ritter – she’s great in everything that I’ve seen of her.

    PS. Have you seen Hitchcock’s “Under Capricorn” with Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten? It’s…different.:-)

    • No, I’ve never seen Under Capricorn. Bergman? And Cotten? Enough reason to go searching for it now! Thank you, Shalini, for that suggestion. I’ve heard of it, but never really looked for it.

      P.S. And Thelma Ritter: oh, she’s such a gem. And she has the best one-liners in Rear Window, by a mile.

      • I’m currently on the hunt for “For Love or Money” which has Thelma Ritter playing a millionairess who forces her lawyer, Kirk Douglas to find matches for her three daughters. I think it would be fun to see her in a glamorous, elegant avatar as opposed to her normal, working-class women roles.

  6. I love this film! Still remember the first time I saw it on TCM years ago. It was early in my Hitchcock watching experience and I remember wondering why the film was so slow. And then, as the story progressed and the tension started building, I was hooked! I’ve watched it several times since then, and while I still love it, I feel that Grace Kelly and James Stewart make an ill-assorted pair. She is too much the fashionista-clothes-horse and he is too much the lone ranger. I think the Doris Day-Jimmy Stewart pair in The Man Who Knew Too Much worked much better.

  7. Like you noted in your email, my domestic crisis continues and guests too decided to drop in to meet us at this time, It was nice to see them after a long time but I just do not have time for anything else. It is late in the night but I decided to check my mail and what do I see that both you and Anu have decided to review two of my favourite Hitchcock films. I will be honest I did not have time to read the entire review, I scrolled down to your What I Liked and What I did not Like sections. I agree with your views.
    There is a dialogue in this film which amused me (being a Bengali) a great deal. Grace Kelly wants to get married when James Stewart tries to dissuade her by telling her about the problems of his profession, that he has to travel far and wide and then he asks her in anger, ” Would you like to eat fish’s head and monkey’s brain?” Grace replies with obvious disgust,” Of course not”. I laughed out loud, Bengalis do not eat monkey’s brain but they definitely relish fish’s head.
    I really miss such films, nobody makes suspense films anymore, the type where you are on the edge of your seat.

    • Heh! Yes, that ‘fish head’ line cracked me up too, considering it’s a delicacy not just in Bengal, but even otherwise – I was recently watching an episode of Masterchef Australia in which a contestant (of South East Asian origin) made a fish head curry which won her a lot of accolades from the judges. (Though from what I’ve noticed, it seems most contestants in the Masterchef US series are less adventurous – so perhaps it also has to do with overall ‘culinary cultures’).

      Talking of suspense films, I do agree: I don’t remember seeing any of these Hitchcockian films made in the past two decades. Suspense now seems to have become dominated by more action and less cerebral work.

      • Yes I did see that episode of Master Chef, actually I am an avid viewer of Master Chef Australia, I like it better than the other Master Chefs and the Indian Master Chef……Oops! What am I doing? This is about Hitchcock’s film and not about Master Chef.
        While on Hitchcock, I love all his films but there was this film, ‘ Rope’ that I found a bit verbose. It was also filmed like a play. ‘Rope’ like ‘Dial M for Murder’ was originally a play but I felt that the cinematic adaptation of the latter was far better than the former.

        • The first time I watched Rope, I didn’t care for it much, either. But I liked it better the second time (by when I’d also read Harvey’s extremely well-written review of the film, which actually helped me appreciate Rope more).

          And oh, do let us talk about Masterchef Australia. :-) Please look at me as if I’m some sort of nutcase when I say the only TV programme I watch is Masterchef Australia (I do watch Masterchef US too, and a couple of other cookery programmes, but that’s only while I’m waiting for MSA season to roll in). I think it’s by far the best of the Masterchef series – US pales into insignificance in comparison (and everybody’s so nasty and rude there), and MS India is painful, too.

  8. Madhu Ji,
    Rear Window was one of my earliest Hitchcock films I remember seeing during my college days. The opportunity to watch it again somehow eluded me time and again. While going through your review of this film, the entire film unfolded before me once again, and I could recollect the film frame by frame. Thanks for the excellent review and for reviving past memories. After my weekend trip, I watched the movie yesterday night with my son and wife.
    I too feel that it was one of the best Hitchcock movies I have watched. I saw it once again, I think after 35-40 years. I did not feel that I was watching a Hitchcock thriller. It was an exposition on the everyday happenings in the life of the neighbours (society) through the eyes of an incapacitated photographer. The murder angle, although very involving, seemed to be incidental. We could hear no spoken word from the characters in front of us. The characters were slowly emerging through the eyes and reactions of the protagonist. Gradually we have a closer look through his binoculars at first and then his zoom lens of his camera. We get to understand the relationship between various characters in front of us. Simultaneously a drama unfolds on this side of the window too through the interactions, mainly between the two female characters and the protagonist, their views on marriage, relationship, commitment, noncommittal feelings etc. in the midst of a tense situation. Hitchcock transforms this backyard into complete vision of human society with all its drama.
    Well that was my reaction then and I did not feel any different even after all these years.
    The acting especially of James Stewart was memorable. One part I found it strange was Jeff’s reluctance to marry his beautiful girlfriend!
    Well I will not drag any further. Thanks once again for an excellent review of an excellent movie.

    • Venkataramanji, thank you so much! You’ve put that so well, explaining how we (along with Jeff) get slowly drawn into the lives of his neighbours, while his own life proceeds at closer quarters. “Hitchcock transforms this backyard into complete vision of human society with all its drama.” – so true!

      I’m glad you got the chance to watch the film again, and that you liked it as much as before. Hitchcock, I think, is one of those ‘men of all times’ – his films are everlasting. So good.

  9. One of my favorite movies. I just love James Stewart in Hitch’s movies. I think Hitch brought out the best in him. But I found one aspect of this movie very contrived and that is all the tenants (except the newlyweds) leaving their windows open for all to see. But without this contrivance the movie couldn’t have been made. Although Hitch does show that it’s summer when many folks do leave their windows open. But at least they draw the curtains for some privacy.

    • Ye…ess. True, that is contrived. And yet, as you point out, without that, there wouldn’t have been a story in the first place. I am beginning to wonder, though, how it would have been if the voyeur saw only snatches of stuff here and there, and had to come to a conclusion from that. My brain has begun to work; there might be a story there. :-) Thank you for the inspiration!

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