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Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Rear Window, 1954. DVD Review

Director - Alfred Hitchcock
Producer - Alfred Hitchcock
Starring - James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr
Running Time - 112 minutes

Score - 10/10

Now I've only seen a handful of Hitchcock movies (North by Northwest, The Birds, Vertigo, Psycho, The 39 Steps, and Rebecca) so I wouldn't say I am an expert on them, but this is one of my all time favourite movies.

James Stewart star as L. B. Jeffries, a photo journalist who specializes in taking photos in dangerous places. His last one, at a race track, left him with a broken leg and confined to a cast and wheelchair for the past few weeks. As the movie begins we are told numerous things through the slow pan of the camera (not like in some modern movies where we are told basic information through a voice over or text scrawl) treating the audience intelligently and bringing us into the claustrophobic world of L. B. Jeffries and his apartment. To keep himself entertained while stuck in the wheelchair Jeffries watches his neighbours in the surrounding apartment blocks (The heat wave that has hit New York makes this all the easier as all the windows and shutters are open). There is Miss Torso, a dancer who practices in her underwear, Miss Lonely Heart who makes candle lit meals for her imaginary lover, and a pianist who is stuck on his latest composition (it is this last apartment where Hitchcock makes his cameo, a feature in all his movies, winding a clock) amongst others. Across the way lives a salesman (Raymond Burr) and his bed ridden, nagging wife.

Watching the comings and goings of his neighbours Jeffries drags his physiotherapist, Stella,(Thelma Ritter) and high society girlfriend, Lisa Carol Fremont, (Grace Kelly) into his voyeuristic world.

As the film progresses the odd behaviour of the salesman leads Jeffries and the others to the awful conclusion that he has murdered his wife. This leads to them investigating and getting awfully close to the possible murderer.

A fantastic movie with strong performances by all involved. James Stewart is especially amazing as he is in a wheelchair for most of the movie. The actors portraying his neighbours do an amazing job drawing you into their world and telling you everything you need to know about them in a few short scenes. The sparse soundtrack is also provided via the various radios around the apartments and the occasional interlude by the frustrated pianist.

Hitchcock's direction and use of the camera is great and ratchets up the suspense as only he can. The scene where Grace Kelly is looking through the salesman's apartment while James Stewart and Thelma Ritter look on in impotent horror as the salesman returns is particularly gripping. The huge set should also be mentioned for being a brilliant supporting actor to the unfolding drama.

It has also been retold and spoofed many times - a remake starring Christopher Reeve, Disturbia starring Shia Lebouf, The Simpsons etc

Everything about this movie works well and nothing is wasted, hence, the top score. Nothing more can really be said apart from watch this film. You won't be disappointed


Anonymous said...

This is my favourite Hitchcock film and, in my opinion, the best of the Hitchcock/Stewart collaborations.

In this film Jimmy Stewart shows what a class actor he was, and I only wish that some of today’s so called ‘top actors’ had at least half his talent!

Live for films said...

Totally agree with you David. Stewart rocked the wheelchair in this one and he was a true trooper. Must get round to watching It's a Wonderful Life again before Christmas hits.

Anonymous said...

Some more details. I'm old enough to say that I saw this movie when it first came out. :) The music heard on the radio was from Leonard Bernstein's "Fancy Free" ballet. It was the first time I had heard it and I was hooked on it. It wasn't until years later that I could afford to buy an LP of it. The pianist struggling to compose his song was Ross Bagdasarian, who wrote the Rosemary Clooney hit "Come On-A My House." And he wrote "Witch Doctor." He finally made it very big with a comedy record by The Nutty Squirrels: "Alllllllllllllllllv-in!" You can't knock success. But it's terribly annoying.

The bad guy was Raymond Burr, who later made it very big as Perry Mason on TV.