Made in 1954, Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window has indeed stood the test of time. It's one of the great and grand treasures of film and it is as much of a romance as it is a brilliant exercise in suspense. Considered to be one of the all time greatest films, Rear Window really pulls you in, bringing out all our voyeuristic instincts.
Jimmy Stewart stars as Jeff Jeffreys, a magazine photographer laid up with a broken leg. Irritable and bored, he suffers through recovery stuck in a wheelchair in his Greenwich Village apartment with little to do but complain to his nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter), avoid discussing marriage with his girlfriend, society belle Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly), and stare out the window into the apartments of his neighbors.
It is not yet 8 A.M., but the temperature is already in the 90's and across the court, and a couple sleeping on the fire escape stirs. We watch, along with Jeff, while other anonymous heat-exhausted city dwellers come to sluggishly to life.
There's Miss Lonely Hearts (Judith Evelyn) in a downstairs apartment dreaming of romance, and the vivacious and sexy Miss Torso (Georgine Darcy) upstairs shooing men away. The Composer (Ross Bagdasarian) makes beautiful music but lives the life of a frustrated artist, while a hearing-impaired sculptor (Jesslyn Fax) works day and night, and two newlyweds (Rand Harper and Havis Davenport) spend there days entwined in passionate ecstasy.
The suspense comes when Jeff grows suspicious of Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), a jewelry salesman, who lives right across the court. Lars has been doing strange things with rope, some carving knives, and a clothes trunk. And what has happened to Lar's wife? As Jeff becomes increasingly suspicious that Lars has committed murder, he gets Lisa to act has his accomplice.
Lisa shows that, when the chips are down, she's as capable of breaking-and-entering a possible murderer's apartment, scaling a wall to do so, as she is of wearing couture gowns. Rear Window grabs the viewer in the same way Thorwald grabs the photographer's eye. Once the hook is in place, there's no way out of the intricate spiral of suspense, and the film is just as much an incisive study of human nature as it is a thriller.
One of the best attributes of the movie is the huge set, designed by Hal Pereira and built at the Paramount studio. It represents the best of studio artifice, being a unit that includes the rear of Jeff's apartment as well as his view of the garden court and buildings that enclose the court. As lighted and photographed by Robert Burks, this set is as much a character as any of the actors in the film.
But at the heart of the film are the grand performances of Stewart, who captures perfectly Jeff's mixture of fascination and abhorrence at the glimpses of life outside his window, and the beautiful Miss Kelly, who, after receiving star billing in three previous films, showed that she was entitled to it in Rear Window. After all these years, the enormous glamour of these two personalities remains fresh and attractive, and even as contemporary as ever. Mike Leonard September 05.