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Rear Window (1954)

Another recommendation courtesy of the blog Mrs. and Mrs. (it’s on the Blog Roll, seriously check it out) and I know I have a few other recommendations but luckily this was on the Encore channel, I needed something to start off my weekend, so I watched it!  I’ve gotten through a fair bit of Hitchcock’s film in my lifetime.  To recap (and I’m not sure I remembered all these when I reviewed Psycho): I’ve seen The Birds, Rebecca (my favorite and I’m dying that Dreamworks plans on remaking it), Psycho, Vertigo (another Stewart/Hitchcock collaboration), Notorious (Cary Grant!), Strangers on a Train, and Suspicion.  In many ways Rear Window is similar to Suspicion in that you have a character who suspects something but their mental state is up for debate.  While Hitchcock fails (in my opinion) on the ending of Suspicion, he goes equally unexpected with this.  I can’t say Rear Window is my favorite Hitchcock but it’s definitely fun in comparison to Suspicion.

Jeff Jefferies (Jimmy Stewart) is a photographer nursing a broken leg after an accident on the job.  His girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) tries to cheer him up but the only solace Jeff finds is in spying on the neighbors in his backyard.  One night he suspects a man named Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) of murdering his wife.  With little proof of it, Jeff must try to convince someone of his hunch before Thorwald splits town or kills someone else…possibly Jeff!

I do want to say this is my first Grace Kelly movie (yes I know for shame!) and goodness was she beautiful!  She had princess written all over her the first time you’re introduced to her!  She’s sweet, personable, and definitely wasting her time with Jeff (I’ll get to it later but in a nutshell I didn’t like his character).  In many ways she’s similar to all of Hitchcock’s blonde beauties but there’s something so elegant about Kelly without being snobby.  The film makes a big deal about her being a rich girl and self-absorbed but I never got that notion, she’s the girl next door all the way for me.

With that, the movie says a lot about the film experience.  I know many books have been written on this subject but when Thelma Ritter’s character Stella says “We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms” she’s referring to the film audience themselves.  The whole concept of a man sitting in a chair with a camera or binoculars watching the lives of these people unknowingly is a direct hit to the movie audiences.  You don’t know anything about these characters Jeff spies on for the majority of the movie, he and the audience make assumptions, and at the end when things are revealed (like the character of Miss. Torso’s boyfriend) the audience is meant to understand the screen only shows you a piece of these people.  The questioning of whether Jeff is just imagining Thorwald’s a murderer is half the fun.

If you haven’t seen Suspicion it tells a similar tale of a young woman played by Joan Fontaine who gets married to a playboy (Cary Grant) who she believes is trying to kill her.  It’s a suspenseful movie right till the end when it’s revealed whether Johnny, the husband, really is a murderer.  There’s many conflicting reasons on why Hitchcock ends the film the way he does but suffice it to say it’s unsatisfying and if you go off a few of these theories, it’s misogynistic.  Either way, Rear Window plays as a companion to Suspicion by telling a similar story of a person seeking excitement and allowing their mind to put things in doubt.

I think what limited my enjoyment is Jimmy Stewart, I’m just not a fan.  His character is a similar obsessive like he was in Vertigo, another movie I couldn’t stand him in.  He’s got this ability to play an ungrateful jerk and yet its charming.  I’ve been in a cast with a broken leg, trust me it’s no picnic, but he never says “please” or “thank you” for anything and he’s got two women at his beck and call.  I just couldn’t understand why these women would go completely with his hunch when he treats them like crap.  I’m sure that was Hitchcock’s decision and not Stewart’s but it really ruined the experience for me.

Overall, Rear Window is a movie I definitely needed to check off my list but I wouldn’t say it’s in my Top 5 of Hitchcock’s work.  Kudos though for the camera flash scene which I’m pretty sure was emulated in Audrey Hepburn’s Wait Until Dark…right?

Grade: C+ (yes I know)

Kristen Lopez View All

A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.

10 thoughts on “Rear Window (1954) Leave a comment

  1. I love this film it’s one of Hitchock’s many greats. The entire thing was shot on one purpose-built set and there is a sense of enforced claustrophobia throughout the whole film. I admit to liking Jimmy Stewart in most things he’s in and Grace Kelly is wonderful the scene where her character, Lisa, is in peril was quite gripping the first time I saw it.
    PS; did you spot the man himself in the obligatory cameo? 😁

  2. Not one of Hitchcock’s best in my opinion. It’s ok but nothing great. I have to say I don’t really care for James Stewart in his later films. As for Hitchcock, Rebecca was his high point for me. Just a pity he didn’t update it like they did with the original Star Wars and replace all those fake looking models of Manderley.

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