Not only is Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window one of his best pictures, it’s one of the best films ever made altogether.
The master craftsmanship on display (placing virtually the entire film within the confines of the apartment of hobbled photographer L.B. Jeffries — the inimitable James Stewart — referred to as “J.B. Jeffries” on the back of the DVD case) has few parallels in modern cinema. The story by John Michael Hayes is one of Hitch’s simplest yet most gripping: Jeffries spies the cleanup of a supposed murder across the way from his Manhattan apartment — a sinister Raymond Burr cleaning knives and what not. He tells his girlfriend (Grace Kelly) and she laughs. His nurse (the unforgettable Thelma Ritter) mocks him also, urging him to marry instead of peeping out the window at strangers. But slowly, the truth is revealed, and even his most ardent naysayers join in the plot to uncover the reality of what happened in the apartment across the way. By the end of the picture, Kelly is prepared to break into Burr’s apartment via fire escape because she’s certain of what has happened inside.
The many nuances of Stewart’s character, his opposites-attract love affair with Kelly, and the dozen other denizens of the apartment complex make Rear Window much more than a small tale of voyeurism, but it is that motif which will be most remembered by history. Hitchcock himself was a man on the sidelines, content to watch and stay out of the action, and the film is one that’s truly from his soul. Decades before The Real World and Survivor made voyeurs out of all of us, Rear Window identified that most curious trend in the American psyche.
Gloriously and painstakingly restored for this DVD release, the red on Kelly’s lips has never looked more brilliant and inviting. The extras on the disc include a somewhat interesting hour-long interview montage with the restoration crew and Hitchcock buffs, but a separate, brief conversation with writer Hayes is actually the most entertaining part of the bonus material.
Any film buff will want to own this precious title, and any Hitch fan should be shot if he doesn’t line up for it on the day it’s released. A must-have.
He liked to watch.
© 2004 filmcritic.com