I’m continuing my cinematic mission to watch the 100 greatest movies of all time. You can read more about my idea here. #96 – Rear Window Year released: 1954 Genre: Mystery, Thriller IMDb rating: 8.4 Summary: A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. Previously seen?: No
I've never heard of this movie, but the summary is interesting. It reminds me of the recent Amy Adams-led thriller The Woman in the Window. The movie hasn't been released yet, but the book has been sitting in my Audible wish list for months. This is the second Hitchcock film on the list (North by Northwest was the first) so I'll be interested to see how this one measures up.
When I was a kid, sometimes my dad would take my brother and I to the mall to people watch. I admit that he didn't describe it that way; but we would get something to eat in the food court, sit down, talk, and watch the people around us. It can be interesting to just observe people.
L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries - the main character in this film played by James Stewart - goes well beyond the line of people watching. He's confined to a wheelchair after breaking his leg in a photography-related accident (they didn't have crutches then?) and he passes the time by becoming a low-grade peeping tom on his neighbors. His neighbors are interesting to watch, there's an amateur dancer, a bachelor composer, a lonely older woman, a newlywed couple, and a man and his nagging wife - the latter confined to her bed due to an unknown illness.
All is well, until it's not. After a scream wakes him up in the middle of the night, Jeff sees the man - Mr. Thorwald - leave with a suitcase several times. And the next morning, the bedridden Mrs. Thorwald is nowhere to be found. He runs the suspicious situation by Stella, his physical therapist and Lisa, his glamorous girlfriend (played by Grace Kelly), and both are eventually on board with Jeff's theory: Mr. Thorwald killed his wife and got rid of the evidence in the middle of the night.
There's plenty of intriguing mystery while Jeff and his co-conspirators attempt to drudge up the evidence needed to prove to the police what they believed happened. Mr. Thorwald remains elusive (I must admit, for a lot of the film, I was convinced that he hadn't actually killed his wife) until Lisa sneaks into the apartment while he's out only for Mr. Thorwald to surprise her with an early return. There's a confrontation, Mr. Thorwald figures out Jeff has been spying, and following a brief fight between the two men in Jeff's apartment, Mr. Thorwald throws the armchair detective out of the window. Shout out to the 1950s special effects in this scene - we've come a long way, baby!
And just like that Mr. Thorwald confesses to the crime, and Jeff is proven to have been right all along. Lisa has impressed him with her willingness to trespass, and although he now has two broken legs from being thrown out of a window, he has successfully solved a murder. It was a fun hour and 45 minutes.
After I finished watching, I did my regular quick research reading some of what critics thought at the time and behind the scenes rumors (apparently Grace Kelly had a big crush
on James Stewart) and I was a little surprised by how great the reviews were. I admit, it was a fun movie, and Hithcock lives up to his nickname: the Master of Suspense. But 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and one of the best movies of all time?
It's tough, though, because I'm watching this in 2020, and I'm assuming there are countless movies that I enjoy that have been inspired by Rear Window (Michelle Pfeiffer's What Lies Beneath being one of them). So, suffice to say, I don't know enough about this history of film to argue that this isn't one of the best of all time. But, now that I have two Hitchcock movies under my belt, I can say I'm becoming a fan.
Read this article on Rear Window for an awesome analysis of what it really means to have voyeuristic tendencies.
Next up: Taxi Driver