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Rear Window
Crime, Thriller, Mystery, Romance
IMDB rating:
Alfred Hitchcock
James Stewart as L. B. 'Jeff' Jefferies
Grace Kelly as Lisa Carol Fremont
Wendell Corey as Det. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle
Thelma Ritter as Stella
Raymond Burr as Lars Thorwald
Judith Evelyn as Miss Lonelyhearts
Ross Bagdasarian as Songwriter
Georgine Darcy as Miss Torso
Sara Berner as Wife living above Thorwalds
Frank Cady as Husband living above Thorwalds
Jesslyn Fax as Sculpting neighbor with hearing aid
Rand Harper as Newlywed man
Irene Winston as Mrs. Anna Thorwald
Havis Davenport as Newlywed woman
Storyline: Professional photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries breaks his leg while getting an action shot at an auto race. Confined to his New York apartment, he spends his time looking out of the rear window observing the neighbors. He begins to suspect that a man across the courtyard may have murdered his wife. Jeff enlists the help of his high society fashion-consultant girlfriend Lisa Freemont and his visiting nurse Stella to investigate.
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Tell me what you saw and what you think it means
What makes Rear Window a masterpiece? Well, it's got one of the best directors of all time, one of the most likable leads, one of the most beautiful ladies... but even these first-rate ingredients don't always result in greatness, so there must be more. I would say it's about *richness*: there is a lot going on beneath the surface.

Still, the surface itself is flawless. The mystery plot about Jeff (James Stewart), photographer with a broken leg who spies a murderous neighbor, can't be improved upon. The script is a masterclass in visual storytelling, set-ups and pay-offs; see how Jeff's profession provides the reason of his condition, a tool to investigate the case and a defense during the climax.

Even potentially slow moments crackle. The back-story between Jeff and his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) is delivered with acerbic wit in a conversation with nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter). The "why don't they just go to the police" moment, which Hitchcock usually dreaded (he famously told Truffaut his characters don't go to the police because "it's dull"), flows by thanks to the quirky banter between Jeff and his detective friend Doyle (Wendell Corey).

Beneath this, there are several layers of subtext. The first is about marriage. Lisa wants to marry Jeff, but he is reluctant, regarding her as too snobbish and sophisticated. Everything Jeff sees from his window is about relationships (or lack thereof): the attractive ballerina with her suitors; the older, lonely woman; the bachelor struggling with his work; the newlyweds who spend all their time in bed; the mature couple with a dog as surrogate son. And, of course, Thorwald (Raymond Burr) killing his wife, which acts as a double catalyst: at first, it taps into Jeff's unconscious fears about failed relationships; then, it becomes a reason of bonding between him and Lisa, as she proves surprisingly good at boys' games. How does she finally entice Jeff? She sneaks into Thorwald's apartment and retrieves a piece of evidence... a wedding ring.

Rear Window is known to be about voyeurism, but I would say it's also about *spectatorship*. Stuck in his chair, Jeff follows from his window the unfolding events, much like us viewers staring at the screen. He is unable to interact directly with the "outside world", so he sends others (Stella, Doyle, but mostly Lisa) to do the dirty work; however, he is nearly powerless to defend them... and himself, when threat creeps into his own secluded universe.

10/10 for one of cinema's greatest classics.
Minimalist Suspense at its Best
The night is dark, quiet. But at peace? No. Jimmy Stewart, playing a gritty photographer, sleeps in his wheel-chair, the victim of some car racing accident, the result of his attempting to obtain an extraordinary picture. Now he's fettered by a cast as the result of this daring attempt. A shadow moves over his sleeping body. Is it malevolent? A rival come to enact revenge? Or the grim reaper come to take Stewart's soul? NO! It is none other than the 1950's goddess of cinema, Grace Kelly replete with white gown, scarf and gloves. She moves over the drowsy photographer and plants a kiss on his lips. The shadow is not a monster at all but an angel from Hollywood Heaven. Stewart has died and gone to eternal Paradise where he will love and worship Princess Grace for eternity! But for most of the movie he doesn't quite realize that Kelly is a beautiful gift, even beautifully wrapped!

There are films, both old and new, which boast a "cast of thousands" and shot in 5 different continents. Well, there are few feature-length films that were shot only on one sound state. And maybe none that I know of whose primary shots are essentially a handful of camera angles from a single vantage point on that one sound stage. Yet this is what Hitchcock does to tell a very compelling story. And the viewpoint is a laid-up photographer played brilliantly by Jimmy Stewart who has nothing better to do than watch people through his rear window.

The focus is Stewart's suspicion of criminal acts by one of his neighbors who he can see across the way with either his binoculars or his camera with zoom lens. His suspicion is aroused through his habit of innocently spying on the the inhabitants of the buildings on his block. What's interesting is the amount of mileage Hitchcock attains from telling a story from this peculiar vantage point in the form of other sub-stories. There is the woman on the bottom-floor of the apartment across the way who can't seem to find the right man, dubbed "Miss Lonely Heart". There is another younger woman, a dancer, who can't seem to keep men away from her. She is named "Miss Torso." A songwriter and/or composer lives in another apartment. A newlywed couple move in to another apartment. As the story unfolds, the other stories unfold as well in different ways. And in addition to the main story, most of the other stories have some sort of resolution by the end of the film.

This cinematic concept is one of the most innovative techniques ever backed by a major film studio. Stewart is perfectly cast as the husky photographer turned amateur sleuth. Grace Kelly who only seems to get better with each viewing, plays Stewart's desperate girlfriend who is involved in the fashion industry on Madison Avenue. The characters seem made for each other like Dracula and sunlight. She loves the glitz and glamorous life of the sophisticated fashion crowd on Madison Avenue while he seems more at home crawling in the mud of another country to get the photograph of a lifetime. Thelma Ritter keeps Stewart in check as the reluctant nurse who tries to get him to take the plunge with Kelly and also gets caught up in the mystery. And Raymond Burr plays the man across the way to whom Stewart focuses his attention. His unsmiling haunting expressions are enough to portray his secretive character.

This is an absolute masterpiece of film-making. The dialog is fun, witty, sarcastic, with constant innuendos about love and marriage. Kelly plays the "straight-man" while Stewart get's away with lines that he'd be lynched for today by women's groups. The only thing that doesn't make sense: why is Stewart so reluctant to tie the knot with Kelly? Grace Kelly was probably the Cary Grant of actresses in the 1950's with millions of males looking on with absolute jealousy of her leading men. (I'm sure many men's heart went bust when she became Princess Grace) Of course, Stewart sees her as "too perfect", "too beautiful", and "too smart" for him. Ironically, the more he pushes her away the more she wants to come back to him. Which does point to one of the strangest foibles of the human psyche: when someone can't quite have something that he or she wants, the more he or she wants it!
Our Obsession with Voyeurism
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.
It didn't work for me, the suspense was missing. Great direction and acting.
I am aware that many people like this film a lot, and after many years it has indeed become a classic, and that's why I saw it for the first time yesterday. And I found it updated which is not very strange since we are talking about a film made in the early fifties. There is not much suspense in the plot mostly because as the story goes by, it is very obvious who the murderer is. The definition of suspense is: that the spectator should be guessing who the guilty person is, or even better: guessing who the bad guy is. In this film, we do know who the bad guy is, but we don't know if he really did it or not. Real suspense would have been that the guy that everyone thought that did it, in fact didn't did it at all, and that the one that looks innocent had done it. Now that would've been a twist! There are a couple of other things that killed the suspense in me. Why a man that is a photographer and tries to convince a policeman that his neighbor killed his wife and has no evidence and is looking through the window with a telephoto camera, doesn't take pictures of the scene of crime and use them as evidence. And how come that a man that is going to murder his wife and cut her in small pieces doesn't draw down the window blinds so no one can see what he is doing and testify against him. But I have to admit, Hitchcock gets away with it anyway, because he makes you see things that only a great director like him can. He will make you believe that Jeff and Lisa are right and everyone else is wrong just by watching this couple's attitude, created through their acting. And there is the strength of these actors; they are extremely reassuring in their personalities that as such, it impregnates the whole film. Just by the way they pose and sit and look you can almost smell that whatever they do is right. On the contrary, Thorwald hasn't a chance because from the very first scene he is doomed; he is the bad guy even before the film has started! And I intuitively guessed it and killed the suspense, sorry. I liked "Vertigo" even if some scenes are a little bit slow and long and I liked "Psycho", that's a masterpiece. But "Rear Window" it's just too obvious.
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.
So brilliant and yet not...
I'm quite frustrated having watched this one. I'll get to that later...

Rear Window is about Jeffries, a photographer for a magazine in a kind of half-way house (Or maybe it's his own place) after an accident broke his leg. With nothing to do all day he stares out the window onto the courtyard and watches his neighbours' various lives. However, after a while one of them seems to go missing and her husband seems suspicious in his behaviour, so Jeffries decides he must have killed her. The rest of the movie sees Jeffries bringing his girlfriend and nurse in on the paranoia, as well as a detective friend he has.

The acting is terrific, no 2 ways about it. Superb, witty dialogue which exudes intelligence handled charismatically by all players. They truly suck us into their world, as the incredibly claustrophobic direction does. The cinematography is amazingly effective given the movie is set in one room, and makes the viewer as involved in the story as any movie I've seen. Hitchcock does a fine job here.

Moreover the plot itself is utterly gripping, and, not surprisingly, suspenseful, and all 3 factors combine to give it all a level of charm which really smarts.


The film just 'ends'. There's no twist, no plot, no explanation, nothing. What they suspected was the truth. The end. And this is what frustrates me about the movie.


It's a fine piece of cinema, but ultimately because of the reason I state in the spoiler, it's a bit hollow.
Alfred Hitchcock top-notch suspense/thriller embroils a magazine photographer confined to wheelchair in killing
Alfred Hitchcock awesome intrigue/comedy in which a magazine photographer seeks diversion in watching his neighbors , often with a telephoto lens and binoculars , discovering a possible murder . Thrilling flick with funny moments , nice acting , adequate settings and funny dialogue . The tale is ordinary Hitchcock fare that plays and preys the senses . It involves a bewildered as well as hapless wheelchair bound photographer (James Stewart) because of a broken leg who spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them (Raymond Burr) has committed murder his spouse and dismembered the body . The photographer soon enlists the help of his high society fashion-consultant sweetheart named Lisa Freemont (Grace Kelly), his visiting nurse called Stella (Thelma Ritter) and a Detective (Wendell Corey) to investigate the weird deeds .

This agreeable and often hilarious picture from master of suspense has a memorable scene after another and was one of the main Alfred Hitchcock films made for Paramount . In fact , at the time the set was the largest indoor set built at Paramount Studios . The entire picture was shot on one set, which required months of planning and construction . The film was shot quickly on the heels of Dial M for murder (1954), November 27 1953-February 26 1954 . Alfred Hitchcock's movies have become famous for a number of elements and special iconography : vertiginous height , blonde bombshells , voyeurism , long non-dialogue sequences , a matter of mistaken identity etc . This charming as well as inventive mystery movie has these particularities ; furthermore contains a fun intrigue , amusing situations and keeps the action at feverish pitch . The first part of this production is slow and artificial ; however , the rest of this suspense picture takes off at high speed . Interesting and intriguing screenplay adapted by John Michael Hayes based on a story by Cornell Woolrich . Screenwriter John Michael Hayes based Lisa on his own wife, who'd been a professional fashion model when they married . The original story by Cornell Woolrich had no love story and no additional neighbors for L.B. Jeffries to spy on, and those elements were created by Alfred Hitchcock and John Michael Hayes . Alfred Hitchcock's movies were known for featuring famous landmarks and he also was known for making his actors follow the script to the word, and in this movie the characters use their dialogue taken from an engaging as well as fun script . Very good acting by the great James Stewart as as a photographer who soon becomes convinced that one neighbor has killed his wife and Grace Kelly as gorgeous and elegant girlfriend , both of them make a marvelous duo . Grace Kelly made three of her eleven films with Hitchcock; this film, as well as Catch to a thief (1955) and Dial M for murder (1954), but Rear window film was thought of as the best . Excellent support cast such as Thelma Ritter , Wendell Corey , Kathryn Grant , Frank Cady and Raymond Burr . And of course , Hitch cameo , about a half hour into the film, winding the clock in the songwriter's apartment. Colorful and glimmer cinematography in Vistavision by Robert Burks , Alfred's ordinary cameraman , showing nice images from studio . The film negative was considerably damaged as a result of color dye fading as early as the 1960s , nearly all of the yellow image dyes had faded out. Despite fears that the film had been irrevocably damaged, preservation experts were able to restore the film nearly to its original coloration . Rousing as well as atmospheric score by the classic composer Franz Waxman .

The motion picture was stunningly directed by maestro of thriller Alfred Hitchcock . The film was unavailable for decades because its rights were bought back by Alfred Hitchcock and left as part of his legacy to his daughter. They've been known for long as the infamous "Five Lost Hitchcocks" among film buffs, and were re-released in theatres around 1984 after a 30-year absence. The others are The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The rope (1948), trouble with Harry (1955), and Vértigo (1958). This essential and fundamental Hitchcock will keep fascinated and thrilling right up until the edge-of-your-seat climax . And the American Film Institute ranked this as the #48 Greatest Movie of All Time and ranked #3 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Mystery" in June 2008.
Quite puzzled as to how it got in to IMDb top 20
This movie being in IMDb top 20 puzzles me somewhat. I have seen most of the IMDb top 20 movies and they lived up to my expectations or exceeded expectations apart from perhaps The Dark Knight, Star Wars, and Lord of the ring. Those movies are up there understandably due the votes of the huge fan base. But how did Rear Window got up there? Due to the fan base of Hitchcock? Probably... and my be also due to the fact this is a pioneering movie of its genre. I can try and agree with reasons given by reviewers who has given very high rating for this movie. However, the whole package is bit disappointing, specially when you put this movie in current context. I cannot agree that this is a timeless classic. Anyway, you have to put my rating of 5 in context as well. I am rating it for the entertainment value forgetting about the fact that Hitchcock did this movie in 1954 and he was a pioneer of the genre.
Maybe in the 1950s?
I'm a big Hitchcock fan and hadn't seen Rear Window since I was a child, so I was surprised when I sat down again recently to watch it and found the movie to be quite bad. Obviously this is one of Hitchcock's most famous movies and is considered a classic, but on re-examination one wonders if aside from the novelty of the concept of the film and it's reputation if it is really a very good movie after all.

I won't go into the details of the plot too much, because it is unlikely you are reading reviews of this famous movie to find out what it is about. And if you are then there are hundreds of other reviews here that already give a rough outline of the plot. The core concept in Rear Window of having a story that plays out from events witnessed while looking in the neighbors' windows in a building across a courtyard or alleyway from one's own apartment is a great concept and that is really the best thing about this film. The sound and music are also quite good, especially impressive is the way we get just snippets of (often ambiguous) sound drifting in from the apartments across the way as we see what is happening inside them.

Anyway, aside from the novel concept and some of the nice technical aspects of the film making, what are the problems with this movie? First of all, there is not really any reason to be suspicious about the murderer. Jimmy Stewart is convinced that the man murdered his wife, but he doesn't have any reason to believe anything like that happened and neither do we the audience. And this is true well over an hour into the movie, so it is just boring. Then in the end his theory turns out to have been magically true... so what? It was still boring, and all that happened was it stopped making sense when the man turned out to have murdered his wife even though there was no evidence or reason for any suspicion whatsoever that he had done so.

One thing that doesn't help the movie is that Jimmy Stewart was extremely poorly cast. He is about ten years too old for the relationship with Grace Kelly to play out the way it should, and he hardly fits the bill of a globe trotting adventure photographer. I love Jimmy Stewart, but this role needed an actor who was younger and less pedestrian in personality.

Well, those two things pretty much ruin the movie. The plot is implausible at best and having an implausible lead actor doesn't make it any better. Perhaps in the 1950s audiences were naive enough to get in on the idea of 'suspicion' about this man who murdered his wife, but when you look at the movie today he is just a man living his life there is no reason to believe he did anything wrong at all and that ruins the suspense of the movie and makes it pretty strange to watch for the first eighty or ninety minutes. The characters don't make any sense, because you can't understand why they are buying into this idea that the guy 'over there' murdered his wife when there is literally no reason whatsoever to have any suspicion (that they know of or that we the audience know of) until the movie is already almost over. Personally, as a viewer, I could not get into a 'suspension of disbelief' for this plot and that made the viewing extremely tedious.

Like I said, I love Hitchcock and had considered this to be a classic movie from what I remembered when I saw it as a child, but it hasn't aged well.
Tepid stuff indeed.
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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