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Our Obsession with Voyeurism
dxia8 April 2004
After viewing 'Rear Window' again, I've come to realize that Alfred Hitchcock was not only a great moviemaker but also a great moviewatcher. In the making of 'Rear Window,' he knew exactly what it is about movies that makes them so captivating. It is the illusion of voyeurism that holds our attention just as it held Hitchcock's. The ability to see without being seen has a spellbinding effect. Why else is it so uncommon to have characters in movies look directly into the camera? It just isn't as fun to watch someone when they know you're there. When we watch movies, we are participating in looking into another world and seeing the images of which we have no right to see and listening to the conversations that we should not hear. 'Rear Window' and Powell's 'Peeping Tom' are some of the best movies that aren't afraid to admit this human trait. We are all voyeurs.

When watching 'Rear Window,' it is better to imagine Alfred Hitchcock sitting in that wheelchair rather than Jimmy Stewart. When the camera is using longshots to watch the neighborhood, it is really Hitchcock watching, not Stewart. Hitchcock's love of voyeurism is at the center of this movie, along with his fascination with crime and his adoration of the Madonna ideal.

In many of Hitchcock's movies, 'Rear Window,' 'Vertigo,' 'Psycho,' 'The Birds,' etc, the blonde actresses are objects. Notice how rarely they get close with the male leads. In 'Vertigo,' Stewart's character falls in love with the image of Madeleine; in 'Psycho,' we see the voyeur in Hitchcock peeking out of Norman Bates at Marion; and in 'Rear Window,' Jeff would rather stare out of his window than to hold the beautiful Lisa by his side. For Hitchcock, these women are ideals that should be admired rather than touched.

However, the story of 'Rear Window' isn't about the image of women, as it is in 'Vertigo.' 'Rear Window' focuses more on seduction of crime, not in committing it but in the act of discovering it. At one point in the story, Jeff's friend convinces him that there was no murder, and Jeff is disappointed, not because someone wasn't dead but because he could no longer indulge into his fantasy that someone was. Think how popular crime shows are on television, and noir films at the movies. People do not want to commit crimes; they want to see other people commit them.

'Rear Window' is one of the most retrospective movies I've ever seen. In a span of two hours, it examines some of the most recurrent themes in film. When we watch 'Rear Window,' it is really us watching someone watch someone else. And all the while, Hitchcock is sitting on the balcony and seeing our reaction. It is an act of voyeurism layered on top of itself, and it allows us to examine our own behavior as we are spellbound in Hitchcock's world. The only thing that I feel is missing in the movie is a scene of Jeff using his binoculars and seeing himself in a mirror. Why did Hitchcock leave it out? Maybe because it would have been too obvious what he was doing. Or maybe he was afraid that the audience would see themselves in the reflection of the lens.
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A Deep & Entertaining Classic
Snow Leopard20 June 2001
One of Hitchcock's greatest masterpieces, "Rear Window" is a deep and entertaining classic with many strengths, and a little bit of everything. A fine suspense story is combined with romantic tension in the main plot, and there are numerous sub-plots, some humorous and some moving, all with many psychological overtones. The main characters are wonderfully portrayed and full of life. The apparently simple setting in an apartment complex is developed into a world filled with intriguing and sometimes unsettling possibilities, and this apparently average neighborhood comes to life with a wealth of lavish visual detail and interesting minor characters. It is the kind of film-making that (like many of Hitchcock's greatest movies) is very flattering to the viewer. The director assumes that his audience will pay close enough attention to appreciate the many subtleties with which he has filled the movie. It rewards both careful attention and repeated viewings, since there is much more here than merely a suspense plot, as good as that story is in itself.

For the first 30 minutes or so, we simply get to know the characters. Jimmy Stewart gives one of his best performances as a photographer recuperating from an injury, forced to spend several weeks staring out his apartment window at the minor dramas in the lives of his neighbors. Grace Kelly is ideal in the role of his perfect girlfriend, who can never find a way to break down Stewart's reserve. The study of their relationship would have made a good movie by itself. Almost every action and every word between them is filled with meaning, and what they see in the lives of others is an interesting reflection of the tensions and possibilities in their own present and future. Thelma Ritter is wonderful as a colorful, no-nonsense nurse who constantly sheds some light - sometimes unwanted - on what is happening between them. The action and suspense that occur later serves in large part as a catalyst that resolves some of the important issues between the two.

After we get to know the characters and their world, things start to happen, as Stewart becomes engrossed in some of the things he has seen. The ethical and moral concerns of meddling in others' affairs become intertwined with more urgent questions about what may have happened in those other apartments, and from then on the tension builds steadily. It leads up to a riveting climactic sequence filled with suspense, and made even more meaningful by our awareness of its deeper significance to the main characters.

There is much more that could be said, but you should see this for yourself. It is a classic that will be enjoyed not only by thriller fans, but by anyone who appreciates carefully crafted movies with a lot of depth.
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Another Hitchcock masterpiece
FlickJunkie-210 April 2001
Alfred Hitchcock is considered by most to be the master of suspense. I believe he was also a master of understanding human nature. He intuitively understood that human beings are voyeurs by nature, not in the perverted sense, but in the curious sense. We are a species that slows down to look at accident scenes and steals furtive glances at lovers in the park who are oblivious to everything but each other. A major appeal of cinema and television is that they offer us an opportunity for guilt free voyeurism. When we watch a film, aren't we in essence looking through a window and watching people who behave as if they don't realize we are there?

Hitchcock realized this and took voyeurism to the next level, allowing us to watch a voyeur as he watched others. While `Rear Window' as a whole is probably not quite at a level with `Vertigo' (which was far more suspenseful and mysterious with a powerful musical score) as a cinematic accomplishment, it is more seductive because it strikes closer to our human obsessions. Hitchcock's mastery is most evident in his subtle use of reaction scenes by the various characters. We watch an event that Jeff (James Stewart) is watching and then Hitchcock immediately cuts to his reaction. This is done repeatedly in various layers even with the other tenants as they interact with one another. For instance, in the scene with Miss Lonelyheart (Judith Evelyn), we see her throw out the man who made a pass at her and then we see her reaction after she slams the door, followed by the reaction of Jeff and Lisa (Grace Kelly). In another scene, Detective Doyle (Wendell Corey) sees Lisa's nightclothes and presumes she will be staying the night. Hitchcock shows the suitcase, then Doyle's reaction, and then he goes to Jeff who points his finger at him and says `Be Careful, Tom'. This elegant scene takes a few seconds and speaks volumes with little dialogue. Such technique gets the viewer fully involved, because if we were there this is exactly what we would be doing, watching the unfolding events and then seeing how others around us responded. In essence, it puts us in the room with them.

Hitchcock was a stickler for detail. For instance, he aimed the open windows so they would show subtle reflections of places in the apartment we couldn't see directly. However, there were certain details included or excluded that were inexplicable. Would Thorwold really be scrubbing the walls with the blinds open? Would Lisa be conspicuously waving at Jeff while Stella (Thelma Ritter) was digging up the garden? Moreover, wouldn't Lisa have taken off her high heels before climbing a wall and then a fire escape? This film had numerous small incongruities that are normally absent from Hitchcock films. Though these are picayune criticisms, they are painfully obvious in the film of a director known to be a compulsive perfectionist.

The acting is superb in this film. Jimmy Stewart is unabashedly obsessed as the lead character. Photographers have an innate visual perceptiveness and the ability to tell a story with an image and Stewart adopts this mindset perfectly. Grace Kelly has often been accused of being the `Ice Maiden' in her films, yet in this film she is assertive and even reckless. Though cool at times, she is often playful and rambunctious. I always enjoy Thelma Ritter's performances for their honesty and earthiness and this is another example of a character actor at her best. Raymond Burr often doesn't get the recognition he deserves for this role, which is mostly shot at a distance with very few lines. Yet, he imbues Thurwold with a looming nefariousness using predominantly physical acting.

This film was rated number 42 on AFI's top 100 of the century sandwiched between `Psycho' (#18) and `Vertigo' (#61). I personally think more highly of `Vertigo' but it is a minor distinction, because I rated them both 10/10. `Rear Window' is a classic, a masterpiece of filmmaking technique from a director who was a true pioneer of suspense.
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Well of course when you've got nothing better to do with a broken leg you will accuse your neighbor of murder!
Kristine3 December 2005
Finally, I watched "Rear Window" by famous Alfred Hitchcock. First off, I saw this movie on the top 250, and it's #14 on top of that! I mean, it's gotta be great or a classic, right? Also, I'm a fan of the Simpsons, and I got the 6th season where Bart breaks his leg and has to watch the kids outside and accuses Flanders of murdering his wife, Maude. I watched it with commentary and the writers said this was taken from the movie "Rear Window", I had to see this movie! I know it sounds silly that I was more inspired by a show, but it's a good reference if it's from The Simpsons.

"Rear Window" is an excellent movie and a great classic that should never be forgotten! After 51 years, this is still a well talked about movie and I can see why. Jimmy Stewart, he's just so great as L.B., I loved his madness and his dark comical role. He doesn't even try, but you can't help but laugh at a lot of his lines, the way he looks, and the way he presents every scene. He didn't have a lot of movement, he is confined to a wheel chair, but he is so effective and perfect. No one could have replaced him as L.B., he's a terrific actor! Grace Kelly, what a beauty! Beauty and talent, what a great combination and she had it. Playing Liza, I loved her character so much. She started out as this extremely feminine lovely woman who is struggling with L.B., because he is having doubts about marrying her, and you can tell she loves him so much and is willing to do anything for him and to make their lives work, despite his adventurous side as a photographer and her being an indoor kitten. When L.B. talks of the murder to Liza, she is doubtful but never dismisses that it could be a possibility, and stays with him into the end. She finally goes into danger and grabs it by the you know what and wins L.B.'s heart.

I loved the ending, to me it was just one more good laugh with L.B. and Liza. I won't tell, you'll just have to trust me, it was a brilliant way to breath and smile again after all the suspense and drama. "Rear Window" is a true classic and I'm extremely grateful to the reviewers of IMDb who saw this movie and gave it great reviews, and the writers of The Simpsons! If it were not for you guys, I nor other members of my generation would probably not view it! Let's keep this classic alive!

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Reading from Top to Bottom...Hitchcock's Sophisticated Masterpiece
Not only does REAR WINDOW (RW) have Alfred Hitchcock's trademark wit, suspense, and romance (with a touch of friction) in spades, but it's one of his most well-crafted, cleverly-staged movies; in fact, even though RW is based on a Cornell Woolrich story, I can't imagine this story being told as effectively in any medium other than cinema. However, the technical accomplishments (explained most entertainingly in the DVD's documentaries) would be nothing without the engaging characters. James Stewart's neighbors are interesting enough to warrant their own movies, and in addition to providing a wry microcosm of New York City life (the only dated thing about it is the lack of air conditioning), they all reflect possible outcomes for the somewhat stormy romance between laid-up shutterbug Stewart and the luminous Grace Kelly as his upscale fashion maven inamorata. As Brent Spiner said while hosting a showing of RW on TNT, the real perversion of the film is Stewart's reluctance to commit to the irresistible Kelly! In fact, one of the things I like about the movie is the way it shows these two very different people gradually learning to compromise and work together. The piquant final shot shows that a woman can have a happy relationship with a man without submerging her own personality -- refreshing for the 1950s! Great supporting cast, too, including Wendell Corey, Raymond Burr in one of his last bad-guy roles before PERRY MASON, and the scene-stealing Thelma Ritter. Incidentally, the restored special edition RW DVD was put together just in time to include Georgine Darcy ("Miss Torso"), then one of the last surviving cast members. Darcy died earlier this year; she will be missed.
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Excellent. Sharp, clever, funny, inventive, with great values all round.
Aidan McGuinness12 November 2002
Ah it's a movie that's in IMDB's Top 20, and it has good reason to be. For starter's let's look at the simple premise - James Stewart is L. B. Jeffries, a photographer who is currently recovering from an injury on assignment. With his broken leg he's stuck in his apartment, with nothing better to do than spy on his neighbours and be visited by his girlfriend, Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly), his officer friend Wendell, and his nurse, Stella. Jeffries observes the coming and goings of the various apartments he can observe (from his rear apartment window) and it is one of these - a Raymond Burr - who draws his attention because. could it be that the man has committed some heinous crime? Let's find out.

One of the beautiful things about the movie is its superb use of location. The whole movie, bar a couple of brief scenes, is set in the apartment. This would seem claustrophobic but Hitchcock never inhibits us like this - he lets us escape through Jeffries binoculars and camera lenses, and his roving camera swoops down to let us see what the characters see (but never, thankfully, anything more than that - this is how you do suspense!). The set design is wonderful - the apartment is just the right size and is nicely laid out. However the real praise is for all the other apartments visible to Jeffries - an actual habitable set with multiple stories where characters can be observed only as they pass by their own windows (yeah, they don't care much for curtains). There's a sense of individuality gone in to each home, despite the fact we can only see barely elements of each. This is helped by a nice, differing range of characters inhabiting each and going about their daily lives - there's a mini soap-opera contained in the movie, all observed at a distance. Excellent stuff.

Acting? It's great here. There's some nice depth to the characters here, with them feeling like actual real people rather than slick one-dimensional tags. Stewart is very proficient in this type of role - he was born to it - and Kelly proves she is more than just a pretty face, managing to effuse her character with both grace (*groan*) and steel. Even supporting characters like Stella are good (she has a wickedly black sense of thinking that's hilarious). What's so incredible is that the characters we observe from a distance in the other apartments (and with whom we never actually interact with) have as much depth as most main characters in movies nowadays. Excellent script and acting in this movie.

I've already praised Hitchcock's set location and camera work, so I won't prattle on about him much more. He does a stellar job here and, in my opinion, this is the best piece of work he's done (that I've seen). It's virtually flawless and you're never let down (or bored). Well done. It's a shame he lost out on an Oscar (although he did have tough competition that year with `On the Waterfront').

`Rear Window' is a great example of how you can successfully have sharp acting, script, and directing and not feel the need for a slew of swear words and gratuitous violence. Regarded as a classic, and deservedly so. 9.1/10
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In the mid-fifties, Hitchcock brought remarkable suspense by reverting to the logic of a silent film (with an observer behind the lens as the hero)
MisterWhiplash15 January 2004
Many reviewers and critics have commented on Alfred Hitchcock's theme of the voyeur in Rear Window (the mere thought of a voyeur in a suspense film conjures up images from other classic Hitchcock films), and I felt that voyeuristic bug as well. But I realized something that I hadn't thought of as I watched it for the first time- this is a return for Hitchcock to his skills as a master of silent-film chills. As L.B. Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart in one of his most infamous performances) is in his wheelchair viewing out one perspective to other inhabitants in the apartment, the audience views right along-side him. So, for more or less 50 percent of the film, the only sounds we hear are the sounds of mere realism, as Hitch's camera keeps a close eye on things.

As the thrills build in the second hour of the film there is considerably more dialog than the first hour. This could, and occasionally does, present a challenge for the audience member that could either be accepted & payed off or resented- can one sit back and just watch things unfold as in a film from the 20's? Personally, the experience of seeing these events unfold and increase was near electrifying. Along with Stewart's performance, which ranges from amusing to terrified, compelling to frightened (i.e. Hitch's 'everyday man'), there's Grace Kelly as Lisa, who carries her own beauty & inner conflicts, and Raymond Burr as Thorvold, who could have things going a little better with his wife.

If we empathize with Jeff, it's because we become as much apart of his mind-set/POV as he already is, and that's the ticket to the film's true success. Not only is there a magnetic kind of skill to which Hitchcock (and cinematographer Robert Burks) presents us with the apartments' supporting and minor characters and how their fates are played out against the enclosed backdrop, but the psychology of Jeff becomes parallel, or against, to the audience's. This is the story of one man's temptation and compulsion to be involved with those he can see (much like movie-goers have with any given film), and how perception of the realities around him become ours. Rear Window may have become dated for some movie-goers, particularly since the theme has been played on by other movies and TV shows (like The Simpsons for example). Yet there is a certain effectiveness to it all, even in the earlier scenes, that holds an edge over imitators. A+
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"Rear Window" describes Hitchcock at his best...
Nazi_Fighter_David23 June 2000
Warning: Spoilers
"Rear Window" comes very close to be the perfect Hitchcock film that illustrates nearly all his great abilities...

Hitchcock demonstrates in "Rear Window" that he is a great voyeur, that he loves to spy on his characters making each viewer into a voyeur, forcing audience to see everything from his hero's point of view... James Stewart is hold up in his Manhattan two rooms apartment with a broken leg... He passes his time spying on his neighbors through back window in an orgy of voyeurism...

Speaking of technical challenge, "Rear Window" is Hitchcock prototype... Most of the film is shot from one confined set... It is also notably theatrical since it takes place in one room...

Hitchcock forces limitations on himself, as he did in "Lifeboat" when he shot entirely on a restricted set, in only one boat... And in "Rope" (his first Technicolor film) where the single setting for the production had only walls and furniture...

Having restricted his movements, Hitchcock is demanded to be ingenious in order to keep curiosity alive... He builds a realistic courtyard of apartments with inhabitants in it, and the restriction becomes a potency and the technique a fascinating example of what he chooses to call "pure cinema."

Hitchcock's camera tracks out through the windows... It never goes inside the apartments... We never see close-ups of the characters... We can only see what Stewart sees... We feel like we are watching people through a window instead of in a movie...

Hitchcock doesn't use any kind of music... We hear natural sounds, occasional live music played in the surrounding apartment...

"Rear Window" describes Hitchcock at his best for the way it works on several levels, yet hides its own complexity... Stewart, tied in too by pressure from his high society girl who loves him and wants to marry him... Everything he sees out is related to this problem... He avoids to discuss marriage with her, though he himself does not seem to realize it...

All the while, the people in the 31 apartments that he can see live out their little lives… The tormented middle-aged bachelor, composer/songwriter; the couple who beats the heat by sleeping on a fire escape; the newlyweds and lovers; the tragic "Miss Lonelyhearts" and her fantasies of entertaining gentlemen callers; the hearing-impaired sculptor working day and night; the vivacious and sexy blonde dancer "Miss Torso" who does suggestive routines in bikini tops and, most important, the hysterical "nagging wife" - lying in bed - and her grouchy fed-up husband, a jewelry salesman...

One 'great shot' reveals just how involved Stewart has become in their lives when Miss Lovelyheart - in her romantic dinner for two - raises her glass in a toast to her imaginary lover and Stewart raises his glass as well...

The urban backyard setting is the night city terrain of "Rear Window," a night city shattered by the sharp sound of a loud female scream and the sound of breaking glass...

Hitchcok presents Stewart who sees (or think he sees) what he is powerless to stop... The insidious salesman strangely attracts Stewart's attention... His Passtime becomes an obsession after he suspects that he has murdered his ailing wife and specially when he notices that she is missing... His ravishing fiancée (Grace Kelly) and his nurse (Thelma Ritter) warn him that voyeurism is a crime and is dangerous... But Stewart persists, eventually he was turned on ... This explain perfectly his specific use of a huge zoom lens to do his peeping as he monitors the murderer's activities... The murderer and his wife became subject of Stewart's parody with the "too perfect, too talented, too sophisticated," Grace Kelly...

"Rear Window" is visually very strong... Hitchcock designs the film in such a way so that his view is our view... He manipulates our emotions because he knows perfectly his work... He has the film synchronized in his mind... Shooting and editing are, for him, a simple mechanical phase... The creativity has all taken place before...

The first shot of "Rear Window" is a perfect example of this reality - as his many typical first shots - for the way it visually transmits the whole complex to the audience...

Hitchcock is a master at using his camera to create suspense... Like Stewart, we are restricted in movements, paralyzed inside the apartment, immobile, trapped in a room where we are anxious and uncertain... There is no way we can warn the outcome... This is what 'suspense' is all about—not surprise... An effect of intense and prolonged expectancy, lacking all help in the state of knowing that we possess but the characters do not... And, of course, all this great suspense is created by only 'visual' means...

Stewart gives the performance of his life behaving at ease... He was the perfect Hitchcock character: a voyeur by profession, an unpretentious photo journalist who becomes caught in a terrifying event...

When you see the film, feel the menacing 'look' of the murderer staring those evil eyes at you... And don't forget to catch Alfred Hitchcok in his customary cameo appearance, this time repairing a clock... Enjoy!
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Tremendous thriller. Classic Hitchcock.
Michael O'Keefe18 June 2000
In '54, I was seven years old and this is one of the first 'grown up' movies I remember seeing. I have seen it at least ten times since and realize seeing something different each time.

James Stewart is a photographer in a wheelchair recovering from an accident. He passes the time by watching his neighbors out his apartment window. He thinks that he witnessed a murder and has trouble convincing his girlfriend, Grace Kelly, to help prove a crime was committed.

Three scenes that always stuck with me:(1) Stewart fighting off his attacker with flashbulbs (2) the smoldering kiss (3) the glowing cigarette in the dark apartment.

Every bit a classic. I think this is THE BEST Hitchcock movie. No offense intended toward PSYCHO, but this movie has the more human aspects of fear and terror. This super cast includes Raymond Burr, Thelma Ritter and Wendell Corey.
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Midcentury voyeurism
Dennis Littrell16 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
This is the quintessential Hitchcock flick, easy to understand, addictively interesting, featuring great stars (Grace Kelly and James Stewart), familiar bit players (Thelma Ritter in one of her best roles as Stewart's talkative nurse), and a kind of almost imperceptible satire on the human animal. In this case, Hitchcock has glorious fun displaying a whole range of human behaviors through the device of watching them through a Greenwich Village rear window before the age of air conditioners when everyone had to leave their windows open (and some even slept on the fire escape–I've done that) to cope with the appalling heat and humidity during an eastern seaboard heatwave.

James Stewart stars as L.B. Jeffries, an adventurerous photographer who has a broken leg and is confined to his apartment in a cast while it heals. Bored beyond belief, he becomes a voyeur of his neighbors. Meanwhile there is his girlfriend, none other than Grace Kelly playing a "too perfect" socialite intent on winning his heart and soul. Trouble is Jeff worries that it won't work out, that they are essentially incompatible, she a socialite, who always goes first class, he a roughing it man of the world comfortable with second class accommodations. Naturally the audience (me!) finds it incredible that he isn't madly in love with her.

Raymond Burr (long TV's Perry Mason) in gray hair and specks has an interesting role as Lars Thorwald, seen almost entirely from a distance across the courtyard doing very suspicious things with knives and suitcases and mysterious comings and goings in the middle of the night. Bored voyeurs wonder what is going on. There is some light romantic play between Stewart and Kelly, but it is decidedly secondary to the voyeuristic adventures seen through the rear window: the saga of Miss Lonelyhearts, the ardor of the newlyweds, the angst of the songwriter, the exhibitionism of the dancing beauty, the pampered dog in a basket, and Thorwald and his invalid and then missing wife. Hitchcock's America at midcentury. Each of the little stories within the story has a plot and a resolution: Miss Lonelyhearts finds her man. The songwriter finds somebody who appreciates his work. Dancing beauty's man (looking from a distance a little like Woody Allen in an army uniform) returns. The groom seeks a break from his exhaustive marital duties, etc. Hitchcock's sense of satire has the softest touch, which is why, I think, he is so beloved. In the final scene Grace Kelly, finding her man asleep, puts down the adventure book she is reading (for his benefit) and picks up Harper's Bazaar to check the fashions. One gets the sense of future marital bliss and especially, marital reality.

There is some tension and some mystery, but nothing too strenuous for little old ladies from Pasadena, and nothing to offend anybody and nothing too graphic. You can see this with the kids and your maiden aunt and all will find it interesting. See it for Thelma Ritter, the sadonic character actress of many films, most notably this and All About Eve (1950).

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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The Master In Control
telegonus8 April 2001
Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, wittily written by John Michael Hayes, is one of his many films I think of as much of a technical exercise as anything else. It is in this sense like his silent The Lodger, the static, confined Lifeboat, and the cut-less, one set Rope. Considered in this light it is a cold masterpiece, playing more with the audience's thoughts and fears than with its softer, more personal emotions. As such, it is a very cerebral and satisfying piece of work. The plot is deceptively simple: a photographer (James Stewart) is stuck indoors with his leg in a cast during a hot New York summer. His socialite girl-friend (Grace Kelly) is eager to marry him but Stewart has his doubts, since he lives a wandering life and is from a different social class. He spends most of his time idling about and playing with his camera. In time he becomes a voyeur (which he probably already is, to a degree) and begins to observe his neighbors' private lives, as he views them through his lens in the courtyard. He develops attitudes toward each of them, ranging from mild amusement to empathy to sexual interest, depending on who he's looking at. Without realizing it he is really looking at different aspects of either himself or his relationship with Kelly. The courtyard is a kind of mirror of his soul. These people and their predicaments represent different sides of his (and to a lesser extent Miss Kelly's) personality, offering glimpses of potential past, present and future selves; and it is not always a flattering picture. The newlyweds are continually having sex; Miss Torso is a beautiful young woman who entertains many suitors; there is a childless, somewhat pathetic-seeming middle-aged couple who dote over a pet dog; Miss Lonelyhearts is a depressed, aging spinster with no apparent friends; and the young, bachelor song-writer, when he isn't trying to compose songs, is either throwing parties or fits. Then there are the Thorwalds, a squabbling couple across the way. Stewart is at first only slightly interested in them until Mrs. Thorwald disappears and her husband starts going out at night carrying paper parcels that look like they came from a butcher shop. Soon Stewart is, understandably, suspicious. He convinces Kelly that something is amiss, but has trouble with his detective friend. His nurse Stella agrees that something is wrong across the courtyard, and the threesome become amateur detectives. Rear Window is great fun. It's a thriller, a romance, a mystery, and at times a comedy of manners. The actors all give superb, unflashy performances. Hitchcock had been making movies for three decades by the time he undertook this one, and he knew exactly what he was doing; everything happens as it should, on time, with no fuss or bother. The courtyard set is magnificently designed and photographed; it looks both artificial and realistic, and seems almost to change at times, as circumstances dictate. This is, after Dial M For Murder, Hitchcock's first truly 'fifties' film, which is to say it is a far cry from the genteel romances and spy stuff he'd been doing before. There's less use of atmosphere here, as a new, more independent director was emerging, decidedly post-Selznick, often using color. Hitchcock is playing a sort game of cinematic chess, moving people and things around here and there, changing camera angles slyly, never showing his hand. The film lacks only warmth. All sorts of learned books and articles have been written about this picture, some of them quite silly; all at least partly right. This is at times a profound film, but it also aims to entertain, it has a light touch, and it can be scary, it's romantic about couples and cynical about people. There's a little bit of everything in it,--it's a work of art.
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It really blows me away...
moviebuf-2428 January 1999
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw Rear Window about 4 years ago in a video/film program that I was attending. At that time I was simply blown away by it.

For starters, I was simply impressed w/ the set. The fact that you can see out of Jeffries' apartment window, across the courtyard and into the other tenant's apartments to see their goings on is incredible. The music used is a musician tenant creating a piece. The fact that it ebbs and flows w/ the action, until the very end when you actualy hear the finished piece committed to vinyl is really cool.

I liked the fact that you only see what Jeffries sees and therefore have to try and guess what actually happened.

While the movie, in a way is actualy about nothing, yet it is about voyeurism and to a lesser degree about love between two apparently different people. However, that is a side line to the actual plot.

for Hitchock, this film uses suspense, rather than gross thriller, such as Psycho or the Birds did to draw you into the film. I've seen it many times and always get something out of it every time. I own a non restored copy on tape and watch it at least twice a year-or more.

It's simply one of the best movies ever made that I've seen and one of my all time favorites. A near perfect movie if I say so myself.

Hitchcock realy paid attention to detail in this movie. The fact that you see "miss Lonely Hearts" actions, Even Lars Thorwald's action is incredible. The attention to detail is simply incredible.
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Copernican Cinema
tedg23 April 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

I just don't like Hitchcock. I admit that he `delivered value' in his day, but as I review his films today, I find them trite, badly dated. The style of acting he used now looks `actorly.' His camera framing is well considered but unimaginative by today's standards. The stories are not engaging (to me).

But this film really is a classic. Not because of the acting or the dialog, but because it was so cleverly conceived. And because the execution is so purely cinematic.

The first problem a writer/director faces is what stance the camera takes. Is it a fairly static `audience' as if you were watching a play? Is it godlike in always seeing things from the best perspective, though sometimes humanly impossible? Is it a character? Or does it follow a character sometime showing their point of view, sometimes their reaction? Does it act?

Do we admit the camera exists -- by introducing jiggle, or showing operator's functions like focusing, developing? Do we dissolve the camera's perspective by juggling time or perspectives? Do we try a `100 simultaneous cameras' approach?

Hitchcock usually uses the static theatrical approach -- way too much for modern tastes. He punctuates this by sometimes doing a character focused shot, and sometimes a spectacular-for-the-time godshot -- as in the `Psycho' shower scene.

But this film is more purely conceived for the camera. There are no godshots. Nearly all the camerawork is from Jeff's eye, or of Jeff's apartment, with a few notable exceptions. What is novel is why this works -- the set and entire story were composed backwards. That is, instead of having some slice of life that the camera discovers, this reality exists as if it were created by the camera before the action starts. Everything that is required to motivate the world is comprehensible from that apartment -- the entire physics of this world is based on its center.

In other words, Hitchcock's achievement here is not how he accommodates the camera to the world, but the world to the camera.

Pure genius.
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Disappointed - AGAIN!
p_j_taylor200323 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Alfred Hitchcock......Oh dear, I'm going to upset a lot of people here. But he doesn't quite do it for me. So far I've sat through the 39 steps, North by northwest, Rear window and Psycho and so far only the latter has really entertained me. The premise of the film is great one....A guy laid up in bed, believes he witnesses a murder from his bedroom window, and goes about proving it. I like the idea, but Stewart's inkling and further surmises are so fat outweighed by the evidence brought to his bedside, that he'd be registered mentally ill if he'd continued with his allegations in real life...He is of course proved right! It reminds me a lot of 12 angry men, of which I have the exact same criticism. WHERE'S YOUR GODDAM EVIDENCE!!!!

So what is my problem with Hithcock? Well I guess I'm of an age where thrillers have been made as being a lot more gritty...see Se7en, French connection and I suppose I'm basing my reaction to any other thriller upon what I've been brought up with. To me, there is a whole heap of plot-holes and lack of realism, that I just feel the audience of the day must have been very naive. But that isn't the case as films such as 'M' and Casablanca to name but two have proved.

OK, so I understand that a film doesn't have to be realistic to be entertaining....Was the Wizard of Oz realistic...I don't think so, and to be fair I did find this film relatively entertaining, but I kept thinking it was supposed to be a thriller and those annoyances kept annoying me!!!!

Maybe, one day I will get it...Maybe one day I'll be watching this again and saying to my grandkids how great a film it is.....But I think it'll more likely be se7en or 'M'! May your thunder begin!
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Tepid stuff indeed.
jimkis-118 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I'm glad to see I'm not the only person who thought this movie was a stinker. How Hitchcock maintained his title of "master of suspense" after making this is beyond my comprehension. There is NO suspense in the movie. Jeffries suspects his neighbor is a killer, and, golly-gee-willikers, his neighbor IS a killer. Wow, what a twist. I haven't been so underwhelmed since I saw "The Burbs" (which is a far better movie and much more entertaining), and "Disturbia" at least delivers some true action.

"Rear Window" is so tepid you wonder if audiences of 1954 did not have a pulse. If they found this suspenseful, they must have been hypnotized.

Aside from the boring, uneventful plot, there are other serious issues with this movie. Stewart's relationship with Grace Kelly is totally unbelievable. He is 20 years older than she is. He should be flirting with someone his own age – namely Thelma Ritter who was about the same age as he. But Hollywood – even today – is always pairing old dudes with young women, as if that happens every day in real life. (Grace seems to have made a career of slobbering on old men – Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, etc. What did people see in her anyhow?)

If Stewart really is a rough-and-tumble photojournalist, you'd think he'd have a better physique. His nude chest is embarrassing to look at – the only thing more embarrassing is when he locks lips with Grace Kelly.

One also wonders if Stewart's character was an idiot. He can't occupy himself any other way than spying on his neighbors? He doesn't know how to read? He doesn't have a TV? He can't listen to the radio? He IS in a wheelchair; I thought the reason for a wheelchair was so the person could be mobile; he is not bedridden.

This movie might have had some success if it had been shot in black-and-white. Then there could have been a "noir" thing going. But there is so much talk, talk, and more talk that I doubt even that could save it.

Critics have also made a big deal of the "voyeurism" theme of this film, as if that is truly shocking somehow. Again, maybe that was a big deal in 1954, but in our day and age it is just yet another tired example of motion picture psychobabble.

I admire Jimmy Stewart in Westerns – he was generally good in them. But every movie he made for Hitchock was embarrassing (yes, I include that turkey "Vertigo" in the group); while this one is not quite as bad as "The Man Who Knew Too Much" it comes close. I hope I never have to sit through this again as long as I live!
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Voyeurism, Murder, Stewart and Kelly Make for a Hitch High
Ed Uyeshima5 March 2006
It doesn't have the psychological complexity or panoramic sweep of his later films, but 1954's "Rear Window" is arguably his most fun film to watch. An entire Greenwich Village apartment complex and courtyard was built inside a Paramount studio building to create Hitchcock's unforgiving microcosm of lonely souls that stretches the ethical envelope of voyeurism. James Stewart plays L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies, an adventure photographer, wheelchair-bound with a week left in his cast for a broken leg. He is itching for some excitement and not even the devoted attention of an impossibly beautiful Grace Kelly as Lisa, a Park Avenue fashion model is enough for him. Stuck in his apartment all day, he sees the comings and goings of his neighbors, all strangers to him, and pieces together their lives and gives them pseudonyms like "Miss Torso" and "Miss Lonelyhearts". But his attention focuses on a suspicious, white-haired man named Thorwald. Jeff becomes increasingly intrigued by his neighbor's odd behavior and the sudden disappearance of his nagging, bedridden wife. Jeff suspects a murder plot, which seems far-fetched at first, but becomes gradually more evident as his obsession infects Lisa, his masseuse Stella and his detective buddy Tom.

Hitchcock was indeed the master of suspense, but the movie is suffused with an unexpectedly light sense of humor that touches rather candidly on sex and relationships thanks to John Michael Hayes' sharp script. Lisa's entanglement with Thorwald is played out well, especially as Jeff looks on helplessly from his apartment. Stewart is wonderfully sly throughout, giving hints of the inner torment he displays later in "Vertigo" but still likable even as he tries to reject his glamorous, sheltered girlfriend. Kelly seems merely decorative at first, but she sharpens as her character gains a fearless sense of intrigue that Jeff finds alluring. Thelma Ritter plays a smarter and warmer variation of her typical wisecracker as Stella, while Wendell Corey is his usual nondescript stalwart self as Tom. Raymond Burr, pre-Perry Mason, shows up as Thorwald and lends interesting ambiguity to his menacing character. Robert Burks' probing camera-work makes the perfect complement to Hitchcock's trademark film-making style, and special mention needs to be given to Robert A. Harris's splendid 1998 work in restoring the film's original splendor, even the slow-motion first kiss between Stewart and Kelly. The DVD has a couple of nice extras, an hour-long documentary that focuses on the ethics behind the story and the restoration effort, and a brief interview with screenwriter Hayes. One of Hitchcock's best in an impressive canon of work.
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But did you believe it?
johnclark-128 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Never saw the whole thing through until tonight, on TCM. And I must say, I again got impatient with Hitchcock's penchant for manipulating reality, as if it didn't matter, in setting up his character conflicts towards suspenseful endings. It's all to do with believing what you see. One should not take for granted any audiences, all of whom are familiar with real life.

The film begins with a long long establishing panning shot of the location and ends up in tight close-up of our hero at the window, which was fine, but why was the camera movement so shaky? Surely smooth pans were achievable back in 1954, weren't they?

Then silly little things annoyed me. Like, did New Yorkers ever leave their front doors unlocked? When I lived there in the early sixties, we installed police locks, because regular locks were deemed too easy for intruders to break in. And what was with the SLR camera and its huge long lens that Stewart kept peering through? He wasn't taking pictures, he seemed to be using it as a telescope in preference to his powerful binoculars.

Dramatic writing skill consists largely of giving information necessary to the plot in well disguised ways. When we first meet Grace Kelly, the method used to reveal her character's name was by her pointing out bits of furniture after herself - embarrassing. And one could not believe her sudden conversion from scorn to belief in Stewart's suspicions, nor her journey to dig up the murderer's garden while wearing the long flowing "new look" fashion, nor her break-in climbing ladders to get into his apartment.

What I'm saying is that paying attention to real-life situations to serve the setting up of dramatic conflict has always been a challenge for film-makers, and if done successfully can only serve to make the finished product much more acceptable - suspension of disbelief being key. Hitchcock too often reveals a contempt for this, preferring to manipulate the small details of real life, in order to serve what he sees as his higher purpose.
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Terrible Ending
Duncan Gosseyn25 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one disappointed by the ending.

If this movie had ended with L. B. Jefferies realizing that Lars Thorwald was innocent, it would have been great. But no, it turns out that Thorwald actually did kill his wife. If ever there was a movie that needed a twist ending, it was Rear Window.

And I'll admit that I thought the camera never leaving the room seemed gimmicky. And didn't people use blinds in New York in the 1950s? And if Jefferies has no problem seeing his neighbors, why doesn't any one of them see him, especially with that huge camera lens he's holding. (Well, Thorwald sees him in the end, but why did it take him that long? Jefferies had his camera lens pointed at his room for more than half the movie.)

And even after I accepted the fact that the twist ending I had hoped for wasn't going to happen, I couldn't get past how stupid the climax was. Really? The villain is stopped by camera flashbulbs? That's something I'd expect to work only in a cartoon.

I've seen two other Hitchcock movies and I didn't like them either. Vertigo was just boring. The villain in that movie just came up with the most convoluted plan to get rid of his wife. And North by Northwest wasn't that great either. Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Goldfinger (the first three James Bond movies) were all more exciting and all of them had a lower budget than North by Northwest. But Rear Window is definitely the worst of the three.
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An Open And Trusting World?
ccthemovieman-19 December 2005
As far as I know, this is a huge favorite with older folks. Kids of today would be bored to death with this famous Alfred Hitchcock film.

I went on a bit of a roller-coaster ride myself regarding how I viewed this movie. When I first saw it on the big screen as a kid, I was fascinated and almost terrified at the end. Years later, watching it twice within five years on VHS, I found it boring with Grace Kelly's dialog annoyingly corny and dated. Recently I viewed it again - a fourth try - and absolutely loved it. Next to Psycho, it's now my favorite Hitchcock film.

Yeah, it's still dated quite a bit, and, in future viewings, I might fast-forward through a couple of talky parts with Kelly or Thelma Ritter. I would prefer to stick with the focus of the story, namely Stewart's voyeurism and suspicions of what is going on in Raymond Burr's apartment. That storyline is entertaining and builds tremendous suspense. Stewart is usually fun to listen to, anyway. Kelly is there for looks.

Speaking of dated, can you imagine all the people in the apartments keeping their blinds open all the time, and Stewart keeping his door unlocked all the time as well, and people entering without bothering to knock first? True, it was more trusting and safer world back then, but it couldn't have been THAT transparent and trusting. Give me a break!

Yet, credibility aside, it's so involving and fun to watch that who cares if doesn't make a lot of sense?
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Hated the ending
mfmoore-131 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers

This movie could have been about a 9 but they built it all up to the most stupid and predictable ending ever!

Where was the twist?

What was the message? Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean your neighbors aren't trying to kill you...? Really disappointing.

Hitchcock had it primed to deliver a powerful ending with Stewart's paranoia either destroying his own life (getting his girlfriend jailed, his best friend fired, and losing his own mind) and/or destroying his neighbor's life for no reason (getting him arrested for murder even though his wife was still alive, or killing him/suicide out of fear).

The era this film was made demanded a much more wholesome ending. As a result we were forced to accept that despite all logic and evidence to the contrary, the paranoid crackpot murder theory of a shut-in depressed photographer was dead right from the beginning.

This film should be remade with a much more intelligent and thought provoking ending.
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A true classic. This film is... (yawn) ...sorry, what was I talking about?
jeida5 December 2000
This movie was a very influential piece by a very influential man. They tell me this flick changed the way some things were done in the movie business. I am told by others that this one is one of the truly best of Hitchcock's, well worth checking out. I, nevertheless walked into this movie with an open mind. A mind that quickly got bored.

I did like the caught-up-in-the-mystery feeling that flashed through a few scenes. I did like the famous drawl of James Stewart, and his character's wit throughout. And I am now interested in reading some of Cornel Woolrich's short stories, from which this screenplay was created. But still, I was bored.

Leaving behind the "importance" of this movie and only commenting on how it affected me, I only give it a four out of ten. On my personal rating scale that's counted as "not great, not horrible, don't bother." See it if you must. It is, after all, one of the talked about films in certain circles. If you have not seen it and end up in one of those circles, rest assured that the person extolling it's genius is most likely paraphrasing a magazine article he or she read last night and is not too sure what they are supposed to think about this one.
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The Peeping Tom Movie
Lechuguilla21 February 2006
When the issue is a fifty year old "classic" that others rave over, the easiest thing in the world is to go along with the crowd, and proclaim the film a "masterpiece". You've got lots of protective cover.

But I, for one, do not like this film, and I don't mind saying so. First, the film's theme is unethical. Many people equate Jefferies' voyeurism to an audience watching a movie. Such a comparison ostensibly makes the voyeuristic theme harmless. But filmmakers make movies specifically to be watched. By contrast, most people at home value their privacy, and would not like some neighbor from across the street spying on them through binoculars. In this film, Hitchcock gets away with it because the guy doing the spying is played by a famous, and beloved, actor named James Stewart.

The second problem is the film's contrived plot. The timing of Thorwald's activities with Jefferies' spying is way too coincidental, for my taste. And without Thorwald's activities, you don't have a story. Further, Thorwald conveniently leaves his windows open to view, behavior that is not believable. For that matter, how believable is it that any of those neighbors would leave their windows open to view, in such a tight, claustrophobic setting? And without those open windows, you don't have a story.

My third objection is the film's lack of suspense and lack of plot twists. I do not consider this film to be a thriller at all. It's more of a social commentary on nosy neighbors.

Most viewers would pounce on a film whose theme is unethical, or would jump all over a film that has obvious contrivances, or lacks suspense or plot twists. In the case of "Rear Window", however, viewers ignore the film's flaws, because the film has Hitchcock's name attached to it. And so, we have a double standard. The standards are fairly low for films directed by Hitchcock. A much tougher set of standards apply to films made by other directors.
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Did I miss something?
toberwino15 February 2011
I had heard a lot about this film so was really looking forward to seeing it. I watched it in the company of my wife and her sister and at the end all three of us felt the same about it as my review below. I found it a huge disappointment - it trundled along at a slow pace and I kept waiting for something to happen which would be thrilling or suspenseful etc - typically Hitchcock. I am still waiting. I kept wondering, if someone is a professional photographer with a massive telephoto lens at his disposal, why did he not take any photographs. Isn't that what voyeurs do? Also, could someone tell me the purpose of the back massages - I am no masseuse but there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to them. This movie was a horrible waste of my time.
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Doesn't Stand the Test of Time Well
Nexus_VI5 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Though I've enjoyed a couple other Hitchcock movies, this one is incredibly boring for 95+ percent of the viewing time. There are whole chunks of time wasted as the main characters debate about marriage and relationships that I thought we're going to somehow pay off but never do. What some people think is genius--the confinement of the action to Jimmy Stewart's apartment--is actually a severe handicap, as no energy is generated by interesting new locations or discoveries of place. The stagnant setting just intensifies the story's infectious feeling of malaise. There also should have been more of a mystery to it, to keep you guessing and interested. Instead, you pretty much know Thorvald is guilty right from the beginning, so there's not twist or surprise to help make things exciting. Again--extremely boring, the kiss of death for a "thriller." Skip this and watch North by Northwest instead.
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