Friday, October 20, 2017

2017 Blind Spot Series: Rear Window

Based on the short story It Had to Be Murder by Cornell Woolrich, Rear Window is the story of a man with a broken leg who sits in his apartment watching his neighbors from the building across from him where he sees a murder happening. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and screenplay by John Michael Hayes, the film is a look into a man who observes everything around him while he is forced to watch from afar where something sinister is happening. Starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey, and Raymond Burr. Rear Window is an intoxicating and eerie film from Alfred Hitchcock.

Set in a New York City at an apartment complex in Greenwich Village, the film revolves around a photographer with a broken leg who observes the occupants at the apartment building from his rear window as he believes a murder has occurred. It’s a film that is about voyeurism but not in a creepy way as it’s more about a man’s curiosity of the world around him as he is stuck in a wheelchair with a broken leg that’s about to be fully healed in a week. Yet, he notices something is off as it relates to a neighbor living across the building from him as he turns to his girlfriend and a nurse for help as they realize that something isn’t right. John Michael Hayes’ screenplay is set mainly in this apartment area where the photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries (James Stewart) is staying at where he would look out at his apartment window during a hot summer. There would be various individuals he would observe including a ballerina, a songwriter, a newlywed couple, a lonely woman, a couple with a dog, and a mysterious man with an ailing wife.

Jeffries would get frequent visits from his nurse Stella who works for an insurance company that pays for Jeffries’ work as a photographer as he had been injured on the job as she knows there’s trouble around. Also visiting Jeffries is his socialite girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) who wants to marry him but he’s reluctant feeling she’s too perfect for him as she often arrives wearing fashionable and posh clothes as well as bring food that is expensive. The two women would eventually realize something isn’t right as well as notice a few things that are off including a flower bed as Jeffries even turn to his friend in the NYPD detective Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey) for help who isn’t sure that this man has done anything. Yet, a key event that other people from the building saw would force Jeffries to take matters into his own hands with help from Stella and Lisa.

Alfred Hitchcock’s direction is very stylish for the fact that it’s set entirely in this apartment complex in the middle of Greenwich Village where it never leaves that setting though it’s all mainly shot in a soundstage at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. Hitchcock’s usage of the wide shots have him capture what Jeffries is seeing from his window as there are some unique crane shots to capture ever occupant in the building and their activities. While Hitchcock would use some close-ups and medium shots in scenes at Jeffries’ apartment to play into his own life and the time he spends with Lisa. Hitchcock is more concerned with what Jeffries is seeing from his binoculars or his camera with a wide angle lens to get the scope of what is happening. Much of the film is shown from Jeffries’ point of view as there is never a close-up of the other residents except for the suspect in Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) who is unaware that he’s being seen until the third act. The element of suspense of whether Thorwald is really a killer or doing something else just adds to the intrigue where Stella and Lisa would make plans to see what Thorwald is hiding as the latter would go into his apartment. It would then lead to the unveiling of what is happening with Jeffries being confronted for his voyeuristic tendencies. Overall, Hitchcock creates a thrilling and evocative film about a man possibly witnessing a murder from his window.

Cinematographer Robert Burks does brilliant work with the film’s gorgeous Technicolor cinematography from its approach to lighting some of the scenes at Jeffries’ home at night as well as the way the exteriors would look in day at night at the apartment courtyard. Editor George Tomasini does excellent work with the editing as it help play into the suspense with its approach to rhythmic cuts as well as other stylized cuts to help create that sense of intrigue and heightened drama. Art directors J. McMillan Johnson and Hal Pereira, along with set decorators Sam Comer and Ray Moyer, do incredible work with the design of the apartment buildings and backdrops behind the buildings as well as the room where Jeffries sees everything.

Costume designer Edith Head does fantastic work with the costumes from the gorgeous dresses that Lisa wears as well as the skimpy clothing of the ballerina. Sound recordists John Cope and Harry Lindgren do terrific work with the sound in creating that raucous atmosphere in the building as well as the screams and small noises that help play into the suspense. The film’s music by Franz Waxman is superb for its orchestral score that has moments that are serene as well as low-key moments to play into the suspense while the film also feature music that is played on location include a piece by Ross Bagdasarian who appears in the film as the lonely composer.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Ross Bagdasarian as the lonely composer, Judith Evelyn as a lonely middle-aged woman seeking companionship, Rand Harper and Havis Davenport as the newlywed couple who had moved in to the building, Frank Cady and Sara Berner as the couple with the dog, Irene Winston as Thorwald’s wife, and Georgine Darcy as the ballerina who is called Miss Torso. Wendell Corey is superb as Jeffries’ detective friend Tom Doyle as a man who would check on Jeffries' suspicions though he doesn’t think Thorwald has done anything without any real evidence. Raymond Burr is fantastic as Lars Thorwald as this mysterious man who is believed to be hiding something as he is also very secretive where he eventually realizes that Jeffries is watching him leading to a confrontation in the film’s climax.

Thelma Ritter is excellent as Stella as a nurse who watches over Jeffries in his recovery as she would notice little things from the window as she provides some of the best lines and commentary as well as be a comic relief of sorts for the film. Grace Kelly is amazing as Lisa Fremont as the socialite girlfriend of Jeffries who is trying to help him as well as deal with the fact that her life is too perfect for Jeffries as she would later prove to be a helpful ally for Jeffries when she also suspects Thorwald. Finally, there’s James Stewart in a brilliant performance as L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries as an injured photographer who looks out his apartment window to see his surroundings as he notices something is off as he believes a murdered has occurred where Stewart provides that sense of restraint and curiosity into his performance as it is one of finest performances of his career.

Rear Window is an outstanding film from Alfred Hitchcock that features great performances from James Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Thelma Ritter. Along with its dazzling production design, beautiful cinematography, and provocative ideas of voyeurism. It’s a film that explores the idea of a man seeing something he probably shouldn’t have seen and wonder if there’s something bad happening. In the end, Rear Window is a magnificent film from Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Hitchcock Films: (Number 13) - (The Pleasure Garden) - (The Blackguard) - (The Mountain Eagle) - (The Lodger) - (A Story of the London Fog) - (The Ring) - (Downhill) - (The Farmer’s Wife) - (Easy Virtue) - (Champagne) - (The Manxman) - (Blackmail) - (Juno and the Paycock) - (Murder!) - (The Skin Game) - (Mary) - (Lord Camber’s Ladies) - (Rich and Strange) - (Number Seventeen) - (Waltzes from Vienna) - (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 film)) - The 39 Steps - (Secret Agent) - (Sabotage) - (Young and Innocent) – The Lady Vanishes - (Jamaica Inn) – (Rebecca) – (Foreign Correspondent) – (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) – Suspicion - (Saboteur) – (Shadow of a Doubt) – Lifeboat - Bon Voyage - (Spellbound) – (Notorious) – (The Paradine Cage) – Rope - (Under Capricorn) – (Stage Fright) – Strangers on a Train - I Confess - Dial M for Murder - To Catch a Thief - (The Trouble with Harry) – The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 film) – (The Wrong Man) – Vertigo - North by Northwest - Psycho - The Birds - Marnie - (Torn Curtain) – (Topaz) – (Frenzy) – (Family Plot)

© thevoid99 2017


Brittani Burnham said...

I really need to see this, it's quite sad that I haven't. I'm putting it on my prelim list for next year's blind spot right now so I don't forget. Great review!

Dell said...

Another excellent Hitchcock thriller. And Jimmy Stewart is perfection.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-There's a lot of films of Hitchcock that everyone needs to see as I still I haven't seen enough. I want to do more. Any Hitchcock film is essential for a Blind Spot.

@Wendell-Indeed. I had fun watching this as I just want to seek out more and more of Hitchcock's work.