Rear Window (1954) / Mystery-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG for themes and mild peril
Running Time: 112 min.
Cast: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr, Wendell Corey, Alfred Hitchcock (cameo)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay: John Michael Hayes (very loosely based on the short story by Cornell Woolrich)
In my humble opinion, Rear Window is one of the true masterpieces of cinema. To this day, I can't find one aspect of this film that doesn't inspire a feeling of awe, from Hitchcock's (Strangers on a Train, Under Capricorn) genius in cinematic technique, to the outstanding ensemble of actors, to the lovely side stories and great music. If there were a movie in which I would cite worthlessness of all opinion on film if someone were to say they didn't like this movie, Rear Window would be the litmus test I use.
The plot is quite simple: a professional photographer (Stewart, Vertigo) is wheelchair-ridden after an accident leaves him with a broken leg. He spends most of his idle time entertaining himself by watching the lives of others in a building across the way from his Soho apartment window. One day he notices a bedridden woman in one of the apartments is no longer there, and in his fanciful musings, he suspects her husband (Burr, Airplane II) may have murdered her. Enlisting the aid of his model girlfriend (Kelly, Dial M for Murder), nurse (Ritter, Birdman of Alcatraz) and policeman friend (Corey, Sorry Wrong Number), it seems the more he digs into his theory the more farfetched it becomes, but he is convinced he is right.
Nothing less than genius can describe Alfred Hitchcock at this moment of his remarkable career. Rear Window is truly a breathtaking feat of conception and absolutely riveting, and even without the use of external music, it's still an edge-of-your-seat suspenser of dramatic proportions. Yet, it's even more than that, being in addition a great romance and a hilarious comedy as well.
Rear Window is thoroughly entertaining from first frame to last, and one of those rare films that has only one disappointment: it eventually ends. Without a doubt, a true work of art.
-- Remade in China in 1955 as Hou Chiang. Also remade as a made-for-TV movie in 1998.
©1999 Vince Leo