Sunday, May 8, 2011

Rear Window

Title: Rear Window
Year: 1954
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Screenplay: John Michael Hayes
Source Material: A short story by Cornell Woolrich (As William Irish) called It Had To Be Murder.
Running Time: 107 minutes

Sunday 8th May, 7:05am
The worst alarm call of them all is the unbearable stench of a hot, runny, fresh cat poo. Yes, Fizzgig delivered "a steamy" in her litter tray first thing this morning which roused me from slumber earlier than I would have perhaps wished. Despite the distance between my bed and the laundry in which her toilet is situated, it still travelled towards my nostrils. Still, it gave me time to watch the latest film in the Hitchcock blog before I head out at lunchtime.

L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies - James Stewart
Lisa Carol Fremont - Grace Kelly
Thomas J. Doyle - Wendell Corey
Stella - Thelma Ritter
Lars Thorwald - Raymond Burr
Miss Lonelyhearts - Judith Evelyn
Composer - Ross Bagdasarian
Miss Torso - Gerogine Darcy
Woman on fire escape - Sara Berner
Man on fire escape - Frank Cady
Miss Hearing Aid - Jesslyn Fax
Honeymooner "Harry" - Rand Harper
Anna Thorwald - Irene Winston
Harry's wife - Havis Davenport

There is a heatwave and photographer, L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries, is trapped in his apartment due to a broken leg which he got whilst taking pictures at a car race. He is one week away from having the cast removed and it's driving him mad.
He is visited daily by a nurse named Stella who has her own views on life and can be very philosophical in her own way.
From his temporary prison, Jeff watches the lives of his neighbours from his window.
There is 'Miss Torso', a dancer who seems to be fond of entertaining but does not seem to have any relationships with any of the men.
There's 'Miss Lonelyhearts' who is desperately lonely and even plays out imaginary dates in her apartment.
There's the composer who is recently single and buries himself in his music.
There's the dog-loving couple who sleep on the fire escape due to the heat of the night.
There's the newly-wed couple who are in for a few romantic nights in their new home.
There's the female sculptor who lives for her art.
Then there's the salesman and his invalid wife...

In the evening, Jeff's girlfriend, Lisa visits. She is a model and absolutely adores Jeff but has become increasingly frustrated with his lack of commitment to their relationship. He is too afraid of marriage and nothing seems to make him change his mind.
Jeff and Lisa argue about their future and his choice of career. They part on a sour note, but she knows she'll be back again tomorrow.
That night, in the early hours of Thursday morning, Jeff hears a woman scream and hears the sound of broken glass. He watches as the salesman leaves his apartment and returns (a couple of times) in the pouring rain...

The couple on the fire escape have a little dog whom they adore. Each day, she puts the dog in the basket and lowers him down to the gardens below via a pulley system. The dog can then play and do his business.
Jeff is worried that the salesman may have murdered his wife and Stella (who is visiting again to give him a massage) is not impressed by Jeff's voyeurism and over-active imagination.
Before Stella leaves again, Jeff asks her to pass him the binoculars so he can see the events across the way better. He also gets his telephoto lens for his camera. He witnesses the salesman wrapping up a machete and a small saw in newspaper.

Lisa does visit again that night and they are back to their affectionate ways but they are soon interrupted when the salesman returns home with rope. Lisa is initially reluctant to believe Jeff's suspicions about the salesman murdering his wife but the more she watches, the more she is coming around to his way of thinking. On her way home, she checks the mailbox to get the name of the suspect - Lars Thorwald. She telephones Jeff to let him know...

Jeff calls his old friend Thomas Doyle who is a detective. Tom says he'll come 'round to visit. Sadly, he does not get there in time to see Thorwald getting rid of a large trunk bound with rope which is picked up by a freight company. Stella tries to get to the truck to get the name of the company but she misses it by seconds.
Doyle arrives and listens to Jeff's story. He says he'll do some poking around.

Outside, the dog is digging around in a flowerbed but Lars shoos the dog away.

Later, Doyle returns to see Jeff. Apparently, Mrs Thorwald left at 6:00am and has gone to the country - according to the superintendent and a couple of witnesses.
A telegram was sent to Lars stating Arrived OK. Already feeling better. Love, Anna.
Doyle thinks there is no case to investigate. Jeff is not so sure.

Lars returns home. He has had some shirts cleaned at the laundry and he is beginning to pack. He has his wife's handbag which contains a load of jewellery. Lisa (who is going to stay over for the night) thinks it is odd that a woman would leave her jewellery behind if she was going on a trip and would leave it all messed up in a handbag!
Doyle returns to ward them both off the track and to convince them to stop meddling.
Meanwhile, Miss Lonelyhearts has gone out for a date. She returns home with a man who is too fresh with her - she slaps him and kicks him out, she weeps alone again.

The evening is disturbed by a cry. The poor little dog is dead. Its neck has been broken. The whole courtyard is alive with neighbours viewing from their windows - the only person who does not watch is Lars Thorwald.

Both Stella and Lisa are with Jeff. They are watching Lars clean his apartment - washing the bathroom walls.
Jeff gets out a slide of a picture he took a few days ago and shows the difference between then and now. The zinnias in the garden have shrunk! Obviously something had been buried out there and the plants replaced.
They write Lars a note saying WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH HER? and Lisa goes to deliver it. Lars seems genuinely perturbed by the note. Lisa wonders if Mrs Thorwald's wedding ring will be in the handbag with her jewellery and they all want to know what is buried underneath the zinnias.
After looking up Lars Thorwald's number in the phone book, they call him and insinuate they know what has happened and tell him to come to the bar at the Albert Hotel.
Lars leaves and this gives Stella and Lisa time to get down to the garden and do some digging - literally. They find nothing in the flowerbed, so Lisa has an idea. She climbs the fire escape and climbs in through Lars' window. She gets to the handbag, but it is empty. She searches further. However, Thorwald has returned! Jeff and Stella can only watch in panic as he discovers her in his rooms. Jeff has called the police and they arrive in time to prevent him from hurting her. She has, however, found the wedding ring and has it on her own finger. Lisa is arrested and Jeff sends Stella along with some money to get her out on bail.
Lars has pieced things together and pays Jeff a visit.
In the darkness of the apartment, Lars approaches Jeff, who is trapped in his wheelchair. Lars wants to know what Jeff wants from him. Jeff sets off flashbulbs to temporarily blind Lars but it does not hold him back for long. Lars attacks Jeff and tries to throw him out of the window. The police arrive and arrest Lars having had the tip off from Lisa. However, they are too late for Jeff, who falls to the courtyard below. He's alive, but pleased it's all over.

Miss Torso's boyfriend arrives home from the army. Miss Lonelyhearts has teamed up with the composer, the fire escape couple have a new dog and the newly-weds are showing signs of strain already. And then there's Jeff, with both legs in plaster and Lisa by his side...


Great Lines
It is a superb script with wonderful lines throughout delivered to perfection by the exquisite cast. Here are some gems:

Gunnison (Jeff's editor) on the phone: "Wives don't nag any more, they 'discuss'!"


Jeff: "Are you interested in solving this case or in making me look foolish?"

Doyle: "Well, if possible, both!"


Doyle: "Look, Miss Fremont, that femine intuition stuff sells magazines but in real life, it's still a fairytale."


When Jeff worries about not having enough money to bail Lisa out of jail:

Stella: "...when the cops see Lisa, they'll even contribute!"

Thelma Ritter is absolutely superb as Stella. Her embodiment of this practical and philosophical character with a gruesome edge is absolutely perfect. Her delivery is magnificent.

The set, as frequently documented elsewhere, was one of the largest built at that time. Incorporating all those individual apartments and making the inner life so believable must have been quite a chore, but - boy! - it works!

This is Grace Kelly's second Hitchcock film and she is as radiant as ever, even if it's a conventional beauty she possesses.

The soundtrack is worth noting because throughout the events, it is scored by the music coming from the apartments - be it the dancer's music or the composer's party tunes or his own compositions. Due to the confined nature of the set, this works so much better than having a background incidental score. We are able to believe in the mini-world created before us.

James Stewart is so utterly watchable in just about everything he does. Here we are inclined to sympathise with him more than ever due to his crippled status. We totally feel his anguish when he is helplessly watching as Lisa is caught in Lars' apartment and again when he is alone and being attacked by the killer.

This is another Hitchcock film which has been remade and 'paid homage to' a great number of times - but why bother watching them when this is so perfect?

My Verdict
Hitchcock has created a brilliant film with a perfect cast and a most astonishing set. Initially, I wasn't going to give it full marks (only a 9 or 9.5), but I couldn't figure out why not, so - 10/10

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