Senior HTF Member
- Feb 7, 2001
First Hitchcock film that I ever saw and in a theater in the 90s!!View attachment 62478
112 minutes Color 1.66:1
James Stewart - L B "Jeff" Jeffries
Grace Kelly - Lisa Carol Fremont
Wendell Corey - Lieutenant Thomas J Doyle
Thelma Ritter - Stella
Raymond Burr - Lars Thorwald
Judith Evelyn - Miss Lonelyheart
Ross Bagdasarian - Songwriter
Georgine Darcy - Miss Torso
Sara Berner - Woman on fire escape
Frank Cady - Man on fire escape
Jesslyn Fax - Miss Hearing Aid
Rand Harper - Newlywed man
Havis Davenport - Newlywed woman
Irene Winston - Mrs Anna Thorwald
Alan Lee - Landlord
Anthony Warde - Detective
Based on the short story- It Had To Be Murder. A 1942 short story by Cornell Woolrich
Screenplay by- John Michael Hayes
Score by - Franz Waxman
Directed by - Alfred Hitchcock
Production Studio - Paramount Studios
Alfred Hitchcock The Masterpiece Collection Blu Ray box set, Universal, 2012
Also available in the Alfred Hitchcock The Masterpiece Collection box set, Universal Studios, 2005
L.B. Jeffries or Jeff is a professional photographer working for a magazine who is stuck in a wheelchair in his Greenwich Village apartment. He has a broken leg caused by photographing an automobile race when one of the cars crashes and he’s in the way. With nothing to do, he spends his days looking out his apartment window at the courtyard below and the various neighbors apartments. He gives each one a nickname too. One night he thinks he hears a woman scream and then notices one apartment with a bedridden woman is missing. Jeff suspects murder and he soon enlists his girlfriend, Lisa Carol Fremont and nurse, Stella as they engage in speculation as to the woman’s whereabouts.
This is Hitchcock’s examination of voyeurism. It’s not something I ever realized. I just sort of thought it was about a bored guy who was stuck in his apartment because of his broken leg and passed the time looking out the window as life passes by for everyone else. Until he notices something is not right. First he hears a woman scream and we hear the crash of glass breaking. Later Jeff begins to notice the woman is gone.
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I never realized until this viewing that the film opens with a long single unbroken shot where the camera looks out of the window of Jeff’s Greenwich Village apartment and out at the courtyard and the neighbors apartments who all live there, giving us a first look at them and then the camera pulls back into Jeff’s apartment and a shot of Jeff asleep in his wheelchair, leg in cast and then a look at the apartment and cameras, photos and magazines he’s shot photos for. It sets the scene up of who Jeff is and what he does. ( having seen Rope so recently probably made me more aware of the long single takes that Hitchcock continues to use in later films.)
This film sucks you right in as we meet the neighbors from Jeff’s window, and then Stella the insurance agency nurse who makes a daily visit to Jeff’s apartment to look in on him and then his girlfriend Lisa Fremont who is a part of New York’s socialite world. The films starts off with setting up the relationship between Jeff and Lisa and I always found that Jeff was being such curmudgeon and making comments to undercut Lisa’s attempts to engage in taking the relationship to marriage. They do look like a mismatched pair.
Then the fun begins as Jeff starts to wonder why one neighbor is making so many late night trips with his large jewelry sample case one night. Later he notices that the wife is gone and he sees him cleaning a knife and saw. He thinks he’s murdered his wife. Perhaps he’d cut her body up and taken the parts out in the case.
The film builds on this as Jeff convinces Lisa and Stella of his suspicions and they get involved. And then Jeff tries to enlist his police friend to look into it as well and all he can come up with is enough circumstantial evidence to show the wife had gone out of town and no explicit proof otherwise. It’s a great romp as they dig further and one suspenseful episode builds to a great climax which I won’t get more detailed about.
Another aspect that I always liked is that the character arc for Jeff and Lisa grows from Jeff not wanting to be married until he sees Lisa in action getting her hands dirty and then getting caught by the killer. He comes to realize she could change and he sees her with new eyes. She shows Jeff she’s capable. But still she likes what she likes in the end too.
The Hitchcockian elements include; the limited setting of the apartment and courtyard, the icy blonde, voyerism, and the macguffin that might be buried in the flowerbed being the major bits. There’s other themes I’ve read that are examined in Rear Window but they never occurred to me. I was never too big on looking for any themes in Hitchcock films beyond the obvious. I can see that can be fun for some viewers and it’s another element to find in his films. I just sometimes wonder if it’s looking for something that is not there. So is there something more to Jeff having a broken leg? He certainly wasn’t able to drive the action, so others had to do it. It also made him unable to defend himself in the climax. I read that Hitchcock based the character of Jeff on a photojournalist Ingrid Bergman had an affair with and added the romantic aspect to the storyline.
I was really looking forward to see Rear Window as I had not seen it in about 3 or 4 years. Each time I see something new. One thing I think I’d not really noticed was that Thorwald’s wife was sort of being a thorn to him. She is putting him down and they bicker.
Another cool facet to this film is that there is no musical score. Franz Waxman wrote the titles and end tiles. I think he wrote the Lisa Theme that the struggling composer is seen trying to write. What we hear are the sounds of the neighbors, the street sounds, the kids playing, the rain, and the music from the party’s going on in the other apartments.
Another marvel I find about this film is that large single set of the courtyard, the apartment and the extension to the street behind the courtyard and restaurant we see the characters walk out to but only seen from Jeff’s apartment. The film restoration really shows all the detailing that went into the set. It’s so well lit too to show daytime and late night.
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I’m kind of realizing is that this is one of 5 Hitchcock titles that Hitchcock’s estate had owned and was not seen publicly for decades after they were shown theatrically. It wasn’t until the early 1980’s that James C. Katz and Robert A. Harris were involved in a Hitchcock film restoration project as they found that these films were in great danger of being lost. It required a lengthy effort to restore the lost yellow layer in order to correct the film color. The films include, Rope, Rear Window, The Trouble With Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Vertigo. I knew about this restoration because I remember getting the laser disc special edition of Vertigo where Katz and Harris is prominently showcased as doing the restoration. But what it made me wonder is if these films were out of circulation, when did I first see Rear Window?
In the early 1970’s apparently this film was aired on ABC and without the proper rights, so that was the last public viewing, if what I read is correct on IMDB. I could have sworn I knew about this film or seen it as a kid. But maybe it wasn’t until the late 80’s and early 1990’s that I actually saw the film on laserdisc. It was one of several Universal MCA laserdiscs I had acquired. Since then I’ve seen the film in each iteration from single film DVDs from Universal in 2001 to the box set DVDs and the blu ray set. The blu ray set is the best I’ve ever seen it and heard it. So maybe it seems like I’ve seen it longer ago then is reality. The advent of home video made this film really accessible.
I’m finding that I always like to learn and possibly buy items seen in films and TV shows that I like or are fascinated by that are actual items people could buy. I was curious about finding the lighter used in Strangers on a Train. I haven’t found that one yet. (Without the tennis rackets and initials of course). I found the cool Art Deco glasses that Ingrid Bergman uses in Notorious that she serves drinks to Cary Grant and the other guests at her house. But those are vintage and have leaded glass, so I didn’t buy them. On this viewing of Rear Window, I paid more attention to Jeff’s camera. I’d recently gotten more into photography and so I found his camera interesting. I learned from an internet search that it is a Exakta VX made in Germany in the early 1950’s. The long lens is a 400mm lens and according to the IMDB, it’s a 400mm Kilfitt.
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The camera Stewart uses but the Paramount prop department covered the logo with black.
This film is so full of visuals. And the sound design is equally cool. It doesn’t get old and I always enjoy watching it. All the cast are terrific. James Stewart is Hitchcock’s favorite everyman. And I really disliked him early in the film for being so mean to Lisa. So it was nice to see him change. Grace Kelly plays the socialite so well. The part as written just for her so she could better bring it to screen. She’s a classic beauty and her first scene, the shot of her moving in to kiss Jeff looks so dreamy, so unreal in a sense. Thelma Ritter is great with her straight forward talk! Her one liners were terrific and she just blurts out what everyone is thinking.
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Still a favorite of mine!
It’s time for a UHd blubray release!!