I've always been aware of director Alfred Hitchcock with his movies and TV show. I've always known he's respected as one of the best directors of Hollywood's Golden Age and beyond. But even knowing that, I never really sought his movies out even though I've really enjoyed the ones I've seen, North By Northwest and Vertigo especially. So when Rear Window was on TCM this past weekend I thought I'd give it a try.
Through the first half hour or so, I thought maybe I was missing something. Jimmy Stewart is L.B. Jefferies, an out of work photographer who's been hobbled for weeks with a heavy cast on his left leg. In his small two-room apartment, Jefferies gazes out the window and keeps tabs on his neighbors because he's got nothing else to do. One night, unable to sleep but dozing off here and there, he sees a neighbor in the apartment across the courtyard, Lars Thorwald, leave and return three times with a large metal suitcase. After that, Jefferies doesn't see Thorwald's wife anymore.
Could he have murdered her and disposed of the body by cutting it up and hiding the body parts all over New York? The clues seem to point to that, and soon Jefferies has his girlfriend/fiance, Lisa, and nurse Stella, believing his wild theories too. The movie's pace picks up by the 30-minute mark and doesn't really slow down at any point. The pace hits breakneck speed in the last half hour as the trio decide to "go on the offensive" and find out what really happened.
Just like 12 Angry Men, Rear Window uses just one set for the whole movie, specifically Jefferies' little apartment and then the whole apartment complex around him. As a viewer, the whole movie is told from the perspective of the apartment with a hobbled Jefferies, sometimes from his exact POV whether it be a long-lens camera or a pair of binoculars.
So many Hitchcock thrillers are known and respected for their twist endings, but Rear Window goes down the opposite road. Are we supposed to believe Jefferies as the amateur detective? Did Thorwald actually kill his wife? The ending is good regardless, you should get butterflies during the Thorwald apartment showdown, and the same when Thorwald realizes he's being watched.
Besides Jimmy Stewart, the cast is strong all around, especially Raymond Burr in a pre-Perry Mason part as Thorwald. He's one of cinema's creepiest villains, and he doesn't even have a close-up until the last 10 or 15 minutes of the movie. I've never understood Grace Kelly's appeal when it comes to the acting department, her looks were never in question, but the future Princess of Monaco is excellent here. She starts off as the basic upper-class girlfriend, perfect in every way, but rises above the stereotypical part when she sides with Jefferies in his detective work. Character actor Thelma Ritter is great, providing some of the movie's funnier lines, as Stella, Jefferies' nurse.
So as I try to watch more Hitchcock movies, I'll admit Rear Window isn't quite what I thought it'd be, but it is an excellent movie, especially the finale. I will definitely be looking for more of Hitchcock's movies in the past. And just in case anyone was wondering, I didn't spot the director's cameo this time around.