Movie 50/50 – Rear Window (1954)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Raymond Burr, Thelma Ritter

This month, Movie 50/50 features the 1954 classic Rear Window, an iconic thriller from the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. This is the first film since starting this feature that I have already seen, however I still decided to rewatch so I could look at it with fresh eyes and my review hat firmly on!

I’m a big fan of Hitchcock’s films, and after rewatching Rear Window again, it has just about edged out Psycho as my favourite of his films. The claustrophobic feel of the small set and the nail-biting conclusion make it not just one of Hitchcock’s best, but one of the finest thrillers ever made.

In this film you’re not going to find the non-stop, action-packed thrill ride of today’s modern thrillers, but what you will find in Rear Window is a masterclass in creating tension that still stands the test of time.

The simplicity of this film is just staggering. The opening slow pan shot establishes the neighbourhood setting and the characters we see in the windows with no exposition or explanatory dialogue. We see things through the eyes of James Stewart’s wheelchair bound LB Jefferies and watch the story unfold just as he does. Hitchcock is known for playing on the voyeuristic tendencies we all exhibit; we’ve probably all peered from behind the curtains at our neighbours before! Rear Window takes this concept and shows us an extreme example of what the “peeping Tom” can lead to.

Jefferies, whilst recovering from an accident, passes the time by watching the eclectic characters through the windows of his neighbouring apartments. One night, he believes he has witnessed the mysterious salesman Mr Thorwald murder his wife. Jefferies observes his behaviour to try and solve the mystery.

LB Jefferies sees the full range of human emotions and behaviours from his window; defeat, betrayal, love, lust, hope and despair. Few films are able to convey this so beautifully, with hardly any dialogue, and shows just what we can see all around us if we only look!

The slow-building tension of Rear Window might not be for all, but you will find yourself unable to look away, particularly in the nerve shredding final half hour. Despite having seen the film before I still audibly gasped when Thorwald returned home to find Lisa (Jefferies girlfriend, played by Grace Kelly) in his apartment. The audience sees the situation playing out just as Jefferies does, and like him, we are powerless to help her, bound by our own metaphorical wheelchairs!

Darkness and silence are masterfully used as Jefferies waits in his apartment for Thorwald; and again the audience is powerless to stop what is happening.

There is very little to fault here; the fade-outs between scenes are a little distracting but were very much a tool of their time, and in this context do the job of showing the passing of time between scenes that would be difficult to convey as the set never changes.

Modern filmgoers might be put off by seeing a film which is over 60 years old, but there is so much to enjoy in this film, and Hitchcock’s unparalleled style of directing is at its finest in Rear Window. I wholeheartedly recommend this film if you haven’t seen it before, and if like me you haven’t watched it in a while, then make it top of your to do list to rewatch!

What do you think of Rear Window? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

The coin has been flipped, the number generated and next month I will be watching Pulp Fi… oh wait, it was a tails so I will be watching number 143 on the IMDB bottom 250, the Pulp Fiction parody Plump Fiction. Lord help us all! Don’t forget you can get involved and watch as well, using the hashtag #Movie5050. There are new posts every Monday and Wednesday, and Movie 50/50 will be back on the 7th December!

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