Rear Window: Review
Just 15 years after Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Jimmy Stewart starred in what is arguably Alfred Hitchcock’s best film, Rear Window. In the earlier Stewart/Hitchcock collaboration, Rope Stewart was confined to just one room. Later, in The Man Who Knew Too Much, Stewart races across the globe. Rear Window is almost a go between where Stewart is an invalid adventurer confined to a studio apartment with only the view from his rear window to entertain him. It was 1954 and Hitchcock was already the anointed master of suspense. Rear Window served to reinforce that proclamation, delving into the thrills found in one’s own back yard, enhanced by the imagination of a restless mind.
A couple of other Hitchcock films come to mind when I think of Rear Window. The cult favorite, Psycho is an undeniably brilliant thriller that focuses on the internal isolation of an individual and the realities that may or may not exist within the confines of his small life. And then there’s the stylish North By Northwest, which is about a successful capitalist thrown into the frightening world of espionage where the common abilities of the Corporate Man are useless tools indeed. I believe that Window surpasses these two Hitchcock favorites because it merges both concepts neatly into one film, combining the growing paranoia of a man cut off from society with the overwhelming helplessness felt by one with the inability to control the events that have been thrust upon him.
This may all sound a bit deep, but the film certainly isn’t presented that way. Window remains extremely accessible to audiences, maintaining a high level of entertainment from beginning to end, complete with intrigue and suspicious goings on behind every back yard window, or where ever Jimmy Stewart points his telephoto lens. The beautiful Grace Kelly adds to the excitement as both love interest and girl Friday for Stewart, doing the leg work he cannot, and pulls off some daring dos of her own in the process. I especially like character actress Thelma Ritter who plays her usual roll as a wise cracking domestic of some sort. Ritter has no filter and often says out loud what other characters are thinking, but are too polite say (civilized or sophisticated) often providing Window with some great comic relief.
Although Vertigo is the preferred Hitchcock by many a film snob and critic, I really don’t feel it holds up to what I believe is a superior film. For all its fanfare and hoopla over style and finesse, it’s just way too overrated for its own good: the pacing is too slow, it’s impossible to believe that Stewart could ever be such a gullible character, and as nice as she is to look at Kim Novak is simply annoying as the tortured love interest. I guess when it comes to Hitchcock films; Jimmy Stewart really should have stopped at three.
If you want a good solid Hitchcock film, dealing in secrets and subterfuge, I suggest you give Rear Window another look. You’ll be reminded how satisfying a scary story about neighbors can be. And don’t forget to close the curtains.