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Crime, Thriller, Mystery, Romance
IMDB rating:
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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Maybe in the 1950s?
I'm a big Hitchcock fan and hadn't seen Rear Window since I was a child, so I was surprised when I sat down again recently to watch it and found the movie to be quite bad. Obviously this is one of Hitchcock's most famous movies and is considered a classic, but on re-examination one wonders if aside from the novelty of the concept of the film and it's reputation if it is really a very good movie after all.

I won't go into the details of the plot too much, because it is unlikely you are reading reviews of this famous movie to find out what it is about. And if you are then there are hundreds of other reviews here that already give a rough outline of the plot. The core concept in Rear Window of having a story that plays out from events witnessed while looking in the neighbors' windows in a building across a courtyard or alleyway from one's own apartment is a great concept and that is really the best thing about this film. The sound and music are also quite good, especially impressive is the way we get just snippets of (often ambiguous) sound drifting in from the apartments across the way as we see what is happening inside them.

Anyway, aside from the novel concept and some of the nice technical aspects of the film making, what are the problems with this movie? First of all, there is not really any reason to be suspicious about the murderer. Jimmy Stewart is convinced that the man murdered his wife, but he doesn't have any reason to believe anything like that happened and neither do we the audience. And this is true well over an hour into the movie, so it is just boring. Then in the end his theory turns out to have been magically true... so what? It was still boring, and all that happened was it stopped making sense when the man turned out to have murdered his wife even though there was no evidence or reason for any suspicion whatsoever that he had done so.

One thing that doesn't help the movie is that Jimmy Stewart was extremely poorly cast. He is about ten years too old for the relationship with Grace Kelly to play out the way it should, and he hardly fits the bill of a globe trotting adventure photographer. I love Jimmy Stewart, but this role needed an actor who was younger and less pedestrian in personality.

Well, those two things pretty much ruin the movie. The plot is implausible at best and having an implausible lead actor doesn't make it any better. Perhaps in the 1950s audiences were naive enough to get in on the idea of 'suspicion' about this man who murdered his wife, but when you look at the movie today he is just a man living his life there is no reason to believe he did anything wrong at all and that ruins the suspense of the movie and makes it pretty strange to watch for the first eighty or ninety minutes. The characters don't make any sense, because you can't understand why they are buying into this idea that the guy 'over there' murdered his wife when there is literally no reason whatsoever to have any suspicion (that they know of or that we the audience know of) until the movie is already almost over. Personally, as a viewer, I could not get into a 'suspension of disbelief' for this plot and that made the viewing extremely tedious.

Like I said, I love Hitchcock and had considered this to be a classic movie from what I remembered when I saw it as a child, but it hasn't aged well.
Sweating the details with the Master
It was Fred Astaire who discovered that you have to photograph dancers with a static camera because dancers move and a moving camera reduces movement. Most of Alfred Hitchcock's films, (although not all: see ROPE) are like a game of billiards. The characters are like billiard balls moving all over the table and colliding with each other until they all meet at the finale. But here the camera is static and it is the world that moves. What comes out is not simply the story, but all the details- all the stories. The result is a moment in time- a few days in the courtyard of a New York City apartment building in the sweaty summer of 1954- captured forever and most vividly. How many details and how many human stories do you see in FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, SABOTEUR, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH or NORTH BY NORTHWEST? Just the one. When you watch those films you are in an audience in a theater, watching a story played out on the screen. Here you see it all. You are in the movie. Remembering REAR WINDOW is like remembering something that you witnessed yourself- something that actually happened to you, not just a movie you watched. The result is not just Hitchcock's greatest film but one of the greatest films ever made.

The marvelous detail of this film is just amazing. Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly are legends of the cinema and Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey and Raymond Burr are actor's actors. But the real star is the set, a world unto itself. And the photography of that set, all that was needed to allow us to see into the rooms clearly- it's amazing stuff, (the lighting needed was so hot it set off the sprinkler system). But even better than that is the sound. It's not all just flat on the soundtrack, like actors in a dubbing session. Like good radio drama, it recognizes that people who are some distance away sound different. The voices coming from across the courtyard are just perfectly done and do more than even the camera work to `put you there'.

The musical score for this film is not a film score at all- it's the music of these people, also heard across the courtyard. We hear the composer composing his song. We don't hear him doing it in five minutes, as we have heard in all the musicals. Instead it evolves over time. The dramatic piano cords he plays underscore the drama to come. We also hear some opera music that does the same. Everyone seems to have their own music-everyone except Thorwald, the murderer. And what a brilliant touch it is to make the murder a pathetic man, instead of some brilliant mastermind. In the end, he is one of us, as well, in a twisted way.

I can't think of another movie that creates a world so vivid for the audience to live in. ROPE was strictly about the action in the apartment. The view out the window is just a painted backdrop. Maybe a better comparison could me made to DEAD END, but as good as that film it's not really the same. Our perspective changes too much. Perhaps my favorite scene in REAR WINDOW is the one moment, (seconds, really), the perspective does change. It's when Jefferies is struggling with Thorwald and everyone in the apartment house looks in the direction of his apartment for a change. Now there's a twist!
So brilliant and yet not...
I'm quite frustrated having watched this one. I'll get to that later...

Rear Window is about Jeffries, a photographer for a magazine in a kind of half-way house (Or maybe it's his own place) after an accident broke his leg. With nothing to do all day he stares out the window onto the courtyard and watches his neighbours' various lives. However, after a while one of them seems to go missing and her husband seems suspicious in his behaviour, so Jeffries decides he must have killed her. The rest of the movie sees Jeffries bringing his girlfriend and nurse in on the paranoia, as well as a detective friend he has.

The acting is terrific, no 2 ways about it. Superb, witty dialogue which exudes intelligence handled charismatically by all players. They truly suck us into their world, as the incredibly claustrophobic direction does. The cinematography is amazingly effective given the movie is set in one room, and makes the viewer as involved in the story as any movie I've seen. Hitchcock does a fine job here.

Moreover the plot itself is utterly gripping, and, not surprisingly, suspenseful, and all 3 factors combine to give it all a level of charm which really smarts.


The film just 'ends'. There's no twist, no plot, no explanation, nothing. What they suspected was the truth. The end. And this is what frustrates me about the movie.


It's a fine piece of cinema, but ultimately because of the reason I state in the spoiler, it's a bit hollow.
Excellent. Sharp, clever, funny, inventive, with great values all round.
Ah it's a movie that's in IMDB's Top 20, and it has good reason to be. For starter's let's look at the simple premise - James Stewart is L. B. Jeffries, a photographer who is currently recovering from an injury on assignment. With his broken leg he's stuck in his apartment, with nothing better to do than spy on his neighbours and be visited by his girlfriend, Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly), his officer friend Wendell, and his nurse, Stella. Jeffries observes the coming and goings of the various apartments he can observe (from his rear apartment window) and it is one of these - a Raymond Burr - who draws his attention because. could it be that the man has committed some heinous crime? Let's find out.

One of the beautiful things about the movie is its superb use of location. The whole movie, bar a couple of brief scenes, is set in the apartment. This would seem claustrophobic but Hitchcock never inhibits us like this - he lets us escape through Jeffries binoculars and camera lenses, and his roving camera swoops down to let us see what the characters see (but never, thankfully, anything more than that - this is how you do suspense!). The set design is wonderful - the apartment is just the right size and is nicely laid out. However the real praise is for all the other apartments visible to Jeffries - an actual habitable set with multiple stories where characters can be observed only as they pass by their own windows (yeah, they don't care much for curtains). There's a sense of individuality gone in to each home, despite the fact we can only see barely elements of each. This is helped by a nice, differing range of characters inhabiting each and going about their daily lives - there's a mini soap-opera contained in the movie, all observed at a distance. Excellent stuff.

Acting? It's great here. There's some nice depth to the characters here, with them feeling like actual real people rather than slick one-dimensional tags. Stewart is very proficient in this type of role - he was born to it - and Kelly proves she is more than just a pretty face, managing to effuse her character with both grace (*groan*) and steel. Even supporting characters like Stella are good (she has a wickedly black sense of thinking that's hilarious). What's so incredible is that the characters we observe from a distance in the other apartments (and with whom we never actually interact with) have as much depth as most main characters in movies nowadays. Excellent script and acting in this movie.

I've already praised Hitchcock's set location and camera work, so I won't prattle on about him much more. He does a stellar job here and, in my opinion, this is the best piece of work he's done (that I've seen). It's virtually flawless and you're never let down (or bored). Well done. It's a shame he lost out on an Oscar (although he did have tough competition that year with `On the Waterfront').

`Rear Window' is a great example of how you can successfully have sharp acting, script, and directing and not feel the need for a slew of swear words and gratuitous violence. Regarded as a classic, and deservedly so. 9.1/10
Dated, slow, plastic, and predictable.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, having read reviews over the years.

That said,it is what it is, and does not stand up against the test of time. A great counter: "12 Angry Men" stands up. Sure, it has some cliché characters/lines..but the story brilliantly unfolds.

Not a true spoiler, but perhaps characters can thought of as such. The angry couple, dumpy neighbor, dancer, lonely heart, etc. ZZZZ. Reads like a sophomore play, and screens as the same.

Shots of each character, as James Stewart see them across the court yard through his rear window. Continues throughout the movie with scenes of the characters lives and daily goings on.

However, never builds to the point of leading to viewer to care.

Save 2 hours of your life, and watch a true classic. You'll be grateful to have missed this one.
Hitch Breaks New Ground Again
By today's standards, a film like "Rear Window" would seem quite uninspired, unoriginal, and just plain derivative (see: Disturbia). However, when one considers that Hitchcock's "Window" actually SET the standard, it really can be considered a groundbreaking film.

For a basic plot summary, "Rear Window" sees photographer L.B. Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) laid up with a broken leg, with nothing else to do but stare out the window at the activities of his city- dwelling neighbors. One neighbor (played by Raymond Burr) in particular, though, arouses the interest of Jeffries due to his strange behavior and disappearing wife. At first, things seem relatively harmless, until Jeffries' girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) gets pulled into the proceedings, making things a whole lot more personal.

Once again, this movie shows just how far ahead of the game Alfred Hitchcock was compared to other directors of his time. In 1954, while other directors were cranking out B-pictures, character flicks, or even "variety show" events that did nothing more than draw crowds, Hitch was crafting a spooky tale of voyeurism that still holds up very well to this day. The directing is fantastic, as Hitch slowly builds the tension to a few scenes towards the end that will make your blood run cold.

The acting is also top-notch. You can't go wrong with Jimmy Stewart, and Grace Kelly shows that she isn't just a "pretty face" as well. Raymond Burr (though only uttering a few lines of dialogue) is also intriguing as the antagonist throughout.

About the only criticism I have of this film (what drops it from a 5-star to 4-star rating) is that Hitch puts in some character development just for the sake of character doesn't really lead anywhere. A full 20 minutes could have been cut out in relation to character-building, and the overall product might have been more exciting/better paced.

Overall, though, this is a great movie that truly stands the test of time. Immerse yourself in Hitchcock's original fare and see the master at his best.
Another Hitchcock masterpiece
Alfred Hitchcock is considered by most to be the master of suspense. I believe he was also a master of understanding human nature. He intuitively understood that human beings are voyeurs by nature, not in the perverted sense, but in the curious sense. We are a species that slows down to look at accident scenes and steals furtive glances at lovers in the park who are oblivious to everything but each other. A major appeal of cinema and television is that they offer us an opportunity for guilt free voyeurism. When we watch a film, aren't we in essence looking through a window and watching people who behave as if they don't realize we are there?

Hitchcock realized this and took voyeurism to the next level, allowing us to watch a voyeur as he watched others. While `Rear Window' as a whole is probably not quite at a level with `Vertigo' (which was far more suspenseful and mysterious with a powerful musical score) as a cinematic accomplishment, it is more seductive because it strikes closer to our human obsessions. Hitchcock's mastery is most evident in his subtle use of reaction scenes by the various characters. We watch an event that Jeff (James Stewart) is watching and then Hitchcock immediately cuts to his reaction. This is done repeatedly in various layers even with the other tenants as they interact with one another. For instance, in the scene with Miss Lonelyheart (Judith Evelyn), we see her throw out the man who made a pass at her and then we see her reaction after she slams the door, followed by the reaction of Jeff and Lisa (Grace Kelly). In another scene, Detective Doyle (Wendell Corey) sees Lisa's nightclothes and presumes she will be staying the night. Hitchcock shows the suitcase, then Doyle's reaction, and then he goes to Jeff who points his finger at him and says `Be Careful, Tom'. This elegant scene takes a few seconds and speaks volumes with little dialogue. Such technique gets the viewer fully involved, because if we were there this is exactly what we would be doing, watching the unfolding events and then seeing how others around us responded. In essence, it puts us in the room with them.

Hitchcock was a stickler for detail. For instance, he aimed the open windows so they would show subtle reflections of places in the apartment we couldn't see directly. However, there were certain details included or excluded that were inexplicable. Would Thorwold really be scrubbing the walls with the blinds open? Would Lisa be conspicuously waving at Jeff while Stella (Thelma Ritter) was digging up the garden? Moreover, wouldn't Lisa have taken off her high heels before climbing a wall and then a fire escape? This film had numerous small incongruities that are normally absent from Hitchcock films. Though these are picayune criticisms, they are painfully obvious in the film of a director known to be a compulsive perfectionist.

The acting is superb in this film. Jimmy Stewart is unabashedly obsessed as the lead character. Photographers have an innate visual perceptiveness and the ability to tell a story with an image and Stewart adopts this mindset perfectly. Grace Kelly has often been accused of being the `Ice Maiden' in her films, yet in this film she is assertive and even reckless. Though cool at times, she is often playful and rambunctious. I always enjoy Thelma Ritter's performances for their honesty and earthiness and this is another example of a character actor at her best. Raymond Burr often doesn't get the recognition he deserves for this role, which is mostly shot at a distance with very few lines. Yet, he imbues Thurwold with a looming nefariousness using predominantly physical acting.

This film was rated number 42 on AFI's top 100 of the century sandwiched between `Psycho' (#18) and `Vertigo' (#61). I personally think more highly of `Vertigo' but it is a minor distinction, because I rated them both 10/10. `Rear Window' is a classic, a masterpiece of filmmaking technique from a director who was a true pioneer of suspense.
Hitchcock, Simple and Sweet
Alfred Hitchcock finds a way to take a person who is doing the wrong thing and make him a hero, another example of the genius that was the director. Jimmy Stewart plays Jeff Jeffries, a world famous photographer who broke his leg and is wheel-chair bound. In an age before video games, computers, cable TV, for that matter widespread TV viewing, boredom was adverted by leaving the apartment and doing something. Well, Jeffries and his wheel chair couldn't leave the apartment, so he has to fill his hours by eavesdropping on the neighbors across the courtyard from his bedroom. The entire apartment complex may be one of the greatest set designs of all time, an entire building as a set, looking fantastic, like an actual apartment that could be found anywhere, and the source for the success of the film. An unconvincing set, something that looks fake would take away from the real tension that ensues. Jeffries is wrong in watching all of his neighbors going through their lives each night, as we are told by his physical therapist, Stella (Thelma Ritter), tells him at the beginning of the movie. One night, while Jeffries is looking out the window while going in and out of sleep, he thinks he sees a neighbor kill someone (Raymond Burr). Not sure, he discusses it with his girlfriend, the radiant and beautiful Grace Kelly as Lisa Fremont, and convinces her to go over to the man's apartment to look for clues. That is the setup and Hitchcock pumps up the tension by allowing the audience to see everything the same way Jeffries does, through the rear window of his apartment. There are very few shots that do not originate from somewhere in Jeffries' apartment, a simplistic approach that makes it all seem so real. Hitchcock also fills all of the other apartments with characters that interest Jeffries and ourselves, plus adds a song writer to a studio apartment who supplies the soundtrack to the movie. Every detail shown early in the movie comes into play later in the movie. Hitchcock never cheats, and we are left wondering what will happen next. Rear Window may be the simplest movie ever made, proving you don't have to blow up 700 cars to create a truly tense and spine-tingling movie.
"A murderer would never parade his crime in front of an open window"
There can be absolutely no doubt that Alfred Hitchcock was one of the most gifted film directors ever to work in Hollywood, and 'Rear Window' is one film that demonstrates most exhaustively his enormous talents. I must admit that, on my first viewing of the film, I was quite new to his work, and, whilst I thought it was a solid achievement, it didn't strike me as being anything particularly special. How wrong I was! With subsequent viewings of 'Rear Window,' include one in a cinema, I was able to better appreciate its intricacies: the flawless performances, the 100 minutes of subtle, wonderfully-executed suspense, the shades of delightfully-dark humour, the manner in which Hitchcock places the viewer inside Jeff's tiny apartment. Released in 1954, 'Rear Window' was the second of four Hitchcock films to star James Stewart (the others being 'Rope,' 'Vertigo' and 'The Man Who Knew Too Much'), and the second of three to feature one of Hollywood's greatest beauties, Grace Kelly ('Dial M for Murder,' 'To Catch a Thief').

On the surface, the plot to 'Rear Window' is deceptively straightforward. The screenplay was written by four-time Hitchcock collaborator John Michael Hayes, and based loosely on the short story 'It Had to be Murder,' by Cornell Woolrich. Confined to his apartment with a broken leg, successful adventure photographer L. B. "Jeff" Jefferies (Stewart) passes the tedious days and weeks by peering through the window at his neighbours, watching and learning their daily activities and rituals. When he is not being a voyeur, Jeff is distracted by visits from an embittered insurance company nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter), and his beautiful, glamorous socialite girlfriend, Lisa (Kelly). Jeff's "peeping tom" activities become considerably more serious than simply a means of passing the time, and he is soon immersed in the triumphs and failures of his neighbours. On one particular night, Jeff notices a man in the apartment across the courtyard (Raymond Burr) acting in a suspicious manner, and, despite the doubt of his friends, he begins to suspect that this man has committed an absolutely heinous crime.

The sheer genius of 'Rear Window' is not just how well-executed this storyline is, but how Hitchcock ties it together with numerous other narratives, making all of the strings equally-interesting to watch. Each of the apartments visible from Jeff's window acts like a different world – a separate movie – and the combination of all of these creates a rich tapestry of lifestyles, and a range of human relationships that mirror that of Jeff and Lisa. For example, there is hard-working salesmen Lars Thorwald, who arrives home each day to the incessant nagging of his invalid wife (Irene Winston); the woman in the floor below, dubbed "Miss Lonelyheart" (Judith Evelyn), is a hopeless romantic who, in her depression, is addicted to alcohol and sleeping pills; a young music writer (Ross Bagdasarian) struggles to make an income; a sexy young dancer, "Miss Torso" (Georgine Darcy), practises her dance moves and battles various suitors; two newly-weds frequently culminate their marriage with the blinds drawn, though, by the end of the film, the wife has begun the nagging that is arguably characteristic of the gender!

Despite obviously being in love with Lisa, Jeff is apprehensive of approaching marriage, fearing that his gritty, adventurous, globe-trotting lifestyle will not be compatible with Lisa's love of socialising and high-fashion (she is never caught wearing the same expensive dress twice). At first, we notice Jeff using the lives of those in the other apartments to distract from the troubles in his own, and he often uses the examples before him to support the decisions that he must make in his own life. As the film progresses, Lisa reveals a daring, audacious streak in trying to solve the mystery, and Jeff realises that, when love is concerned, small compromises can and should be made in order to make a fateful relationship work. As the film closes, we notice Lisa lying on a bed in common, unglamorous clothing, reading the book, "Beyond the High Himalayas," no doubt in preparation for the couple's next adventure. However, though some compromises have been made, Lisa still remains her own women, suddenly casting aside Jeff's reading material and raising her own "Harper's Bazaar" magazine to her face.

Of course, despite the multitude of little narratives that comprise the film, the most significant – and, indeed, the one we remember best – is that of Lars Thorwald and his missing wife, Anna. After witnessing the former acting suspiciously during a stormy night, Jeff suspects that the over-worked and under-appreciated Thorwald has brutally murdered his wife, decapitated her body into several pieces and carried out the remains in a suitcase. Though Jeff's police detective ex-War buddy, Thomas J, Doyle (Wendell Corey), believes Jeff's story to be fantastic, Stella and Lisa soon come to accept the theory as fact, helping an immobile Jeff to solve the mystery. That we never fully understand the motivations of the murderer, having to be content with brief glimpses from afar, is crucial to Hitchcock's storytelling, and, by making the audience complicit in his characters' voyeurism, we feel as though our safety is being placed in jeopardy. The entire film possesses a very subtle air of unrelenting suspense, but the final ten minutes or so are among the most thrilling in cinema history.
Hated the ending

This movie could have been about a 9 but they built it all up to the most stupid and predictable ending ever!

Where was the twist?

What was the message? Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean your neighbors aren't trying to kill you...? Really disappointing.

Hitchcock had it primed to deliver a powerful ending with Stewart's paranoia either destroying his own life (getting his girlfriend jailed, his best friend fired, and losing his own mind) and/or destroying his neighbor's life for no reason (getting him arrested for murder even though his wife was still alive, or killing him/suicide out of fear).

The era this film was made demanded a much more wholesome ending. As a result we were forced to accept that despite all logic and evidence to the contrary, the paranoid crackpot murder theory of a shut-in depressed photographer was dead right from the beginning.

This film should be remade with a much more intelligent and thought provoking ending.
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