Today’s throwback review is about the film Rear Window (1954). Rear Window is by far one of this writer’s favorite films. During one of my film classes, I was lucky enough to see the film the way Hitchcock intended. This film is one of the Hitchcock films I had seen before the class. During the course, we also had to give reports on the various movies shown. Rear Window is the film I signed up for on the sheet being passed row to row.
Excuse me for digressing slightly since the original Rear Window remake of the same name in 1998, starring Christopher Reeve and Daryl Hannah. In this writer’s mind, this was not the only remake. Simultaneously, the studios repeatedly said that Disturbia (2007) was not an official remake of the film. Both films have the same basic plot and ideas behind them. Still, Disturbia is updated, and the person bound to his house has very different circumstances than James Stewart in the original venture.
While I have not seen Reeve’s official remake, I can say that Disturbia is not all that bad. It is a reasonably well-put-together film. Still, the truth is Rear Window handled the material far better than the updated version, or what most film students consider to be the second remake of the film. Maybe in all reality, it should be called a reboot, but since the film does not precisely produce anything for a franchise, that is odd.
Moving forward, I will start with the fundamental synopsis of the film is as follows, per usual when professional photographer L.B. Jeffries (Stewart) breaks his leg. At the same time, on assignment at an auto race, he is confined to a wheelchair, and subsequently, his apartment. The main thing he can do is what most would consider people-watching. He watches from the rear window of his New York apartment during his days and observes his various neighbors. Upon his observations, Jeffries discovers something fishy about his neighbor, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr).
Jeffries believes that Thorwald has killed his wife, Mrs. Emma Thorwald (Irene Winston). As he attempts to watch for further information to prove his point, Jeffries confesses his thoughts to home-care nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) and his girlfriend, Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly). At first, they both tell him Jeffries shouldn’t be looking in the first place, but after a while, the two women are dragged into his antics because the more Jeffries discovers.
Eventually, he even enlists the two women’s help and further investigates his neighbor from across the courtyard to gather the evidence he knows is right under everyone’s noses. While the plot might seem simple to most, most of the movie is in the point of the from the apartment window. This viewpoint makes the film much more potent. Unlike other horror films, this film reveals to audiences what is going on before the characters.
In terms of acting, Stewart is impressive in this film. Stewart always had a way of completely embodying the character that audiences were viewing for the time being. The best part is one does get to live out the film through his point of view. After all, audiences learn what Jeffries discovers, but only when he realizes it himself. He is just as shocked by the events laid out on the silver screen as the viewers who are watching the film.
Then there is the elegance of Grace Kelly. Kelly is by far one of the most beautiful actresses of all time. She is also one of the most talented. Within the film, because of her character’s standing in society, one can tell Lisa does not want to get dragged into the world Jeffries insists on across the courtyard from him. Eventually, she becomes so enamored with his stories that she says to him, “Jeff, you know if someone came in here, they wouldn’t believe what they’d see? You and I, with long faces, plunged into despair because we find out a man didn’t kill his wife. We’re two of the most frightening ghouls I’ve ever known.”
The other character noteworthy of praise within Rear Window is that of Ritter. Stella remains on the moral high ground for almost the entire duration of the film. At first, she even states, “We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes sir.” and even stresses that “the New York State sentence for a Peeping Tom is six months in the workhouse.” Once she genuinely believes that Jeffries is onto something, she gives in and joins in the search. No matter how crazy these two believe Jeffries are at first, they both band together to help him figure out if some innocent woman was murdered.
Overall, Hitchcock delivers with Rear Window. Through the acting, story, and directing style, Hitchcock aids in bringing the vision of the short story “It Had to Be Murder,” written by Cornell Woolrich. Part of Hitchcock’s magic is how he manages to reveal so many nuances within his various films, especially in the opening of this film. Plus, by allowing us to discover what Jeffries discovers audiences, he delivers suspense in an entirely different way. After all, they did not call Hitchcock The Master of Suspense for nothing.