20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
The Woman in the Window has an ending almost guaranteed to infuriate you the first time you see the movie, and, the second time, to leave you with an immensely satisfied smile.
"The man who kills in self defense, for instance, must not be judged by the same standards applied to a man who kills for gain." So says middle-aged and happily married Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson), professor of criminal psychology, to his class at Gotham College. Wanley is about to put his dictum to the test. When his wife and their two young children leave for a brief vacation, he dines at his club with two old friends, one a doctor and the other, Frank Lalor (Raymond Massey), the district attorney. Wanley bemoans his increasingly middle-aged life. "I hate this solidity," he says with a rueful smile, "this stodginess I'm beginning to feel. To me, it's the end of the brightness of life, the end of spirit and adventure." His two friends leave and he settles in, before returning to his empty home, with one last brandy and The Song of Songs. When he leaves the club late in the evening he stops, as he often has, and gazes at the portrait in the window of the gallery next door. The woman is lovely...beautiful, with a challenge in her eyes and a gaze that looks right at you. When a voice asks him for a light for her cigarette, the professor turns and is stunned to see that the voice belongs to the woman who posed for the portrait. Alice Reed (Joan Bennett) sometimes stops by the gallery to see the reaction of men when they look at her portrait. The two somehow wind up at a quiet bar, talk and then the professor escorts her to her apartment in a taxi. She invites him up and shows him sketches the artist made of her before painting her portrait. She seems genuinely friendly and honest and the professor apparently has no intention of becoming an adulterer. But when an angry man breaks into her apartment, slaps Alice Reed and attacks Professor Wanley, it's only a matter of seconds before the man is dead, stabbed by Wanley in the back with a pair of scissors handed him by Alice. Professor Wanley's life now begins to spin out of his control.
He decides to say nothing to the police. He leaves Alice and returns with his car. With her help he gets the body into the back seat and drives it to a deserted parkway, where he disposes of it in the underbrush. The man turns out to be a powerful businessman who had been seeing Alice regularly two or three times a week. The Professor's friend Lalor takes charge of the investigation and invites Wanley to accompany him, thinking the professor of criminology will be interested in how the case is slowly being built up to identify the murderer. Wanley keeps making little errors and mistakes...a ripped coat, a scratched wrist, a tire track in the mud, a slip of the tongue that seems to say Wanley knows more than he should. Lalor begins to look curiously at his old friend. And then the bodyguard (Dan Duryea) of the dead man turns up. He blackmails Alice, who must ask Wanley for help. This time Wanley reluctantly begins to think of murder.
The Woman in the Window is a fine noir. Some may think it's just the opening act for Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street, filmed the following year with the same three stars, Robinson, Bennett and Duryea. Scarlet Street is a classic, drenched in casual cruelty, loneliness and sadness. The Woman in the Window starts out as a classic noir. Professor Wanley is a man of good intentions whom we like and who finds himself moving in situations well beyond his capability. Joan Bennett's Alice Reed, however, is no Kitty March. Alice may be a kept woman, but she wants to do the right thing as long as she doesn't get in trouble. And she seems genuinely to like and even respect the Professor. Dan Duryea, of course, is a rotter, but he's at least straight forward here. He wants money; he doesn't seem to delight in hitting women. It makes for a movie which puts a premium on the skill of the actors to bring us along with them as events conspire against them. Few were better at this than Edward G. Robinson and, in my opinion, the under-appreciated Joan Bennett.
So we have a first class noir...and then Fritz Lang pulls the rug out from under us. To fully appreciate The Woman in the Window -- trust me -- you'll need to see it a second time. How about making that second time a double feature? Have some friends over and play Scarlet Street first, then The Woman in the Window. Keep them in that order. You'll have a great main course, and then a great dessert.
The DVD transfer of this black-and-white film is first-rate. There are no extras.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2009
This highly recommended film noir from 1944 by Fritz Lang is a persuasive study of a respectable, professional man (Edward G Robinson) caught up in an unforeseen situation - the involuntary killing of an assailant - that rapidly assumes the qualities of a nightmare which, as nightmares are apt to do, spirals out of control.
From the moment of the initial chance spotting of a portrait of a young woman (Joan Bennett) in the window of a gallery (shades of another film noir, Laura, also from 1944), Lang shows two people under great stress and called upon to take increasingly frantic action to try to ward off disclosure and disaster. I felt that there was a slight loss of momentum in the middle section as Robinson is involved in a prolonged, didactic discussion with a couple of friends, but otherwise the atmosphere of tension is maintained unerringly, and in the latter stages Dan Duryea lends his considerable presence as a cold-hearted villain. He stands at one end of the scale of respectabilty, a man of violence and malevolence, whose other end is occupied by Robinson, a man trying to reason his way out of a chaotic situation. The enigmatic Joan Bennett, whose background is unclear, spans the two worlds.
Without disclosing the details, the film has a famous ending which turns all that has gone before on its head. Every viewer will make up his mind about its merits, but those who dislike it will find that the film is not thereby ruined.
Robinson and Bennett make a great couple, and worked together on several films. He is especially good, playing here against type, and it's ironic that his versatility in playing a good man is one of the unusual aspects of the normally hard-boiled film noir genre.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 19 October 2009
Fritz Lang, with his early films such as Metropolis and M has been established as one of the finest German directors of his generation. But, just as many of his contemporaries, his true genius and craft shines through in his Hollywood films. Because of the restrictions of Hollywood at the times and the conventions that had to be followed to make a successful film, directors such as Fritz Lang, Max Ophüls and Douglas Sirk had to find new and innovative ways to convey meaning.
This is quite apparent in Woman in the Window, where the subtle and elegant cinematography tell a whole story almost on its own. Feeling almost surreal at times, touching the points between dreamscape and realism, the clever framing and composition of Lang's images show itself as one of the finest of the Hollywood era. Personally, I sometimes sat completely absorbed by the beautiful and intricate cinematography which the film builds itself around.
The film also works very well with tension, often leaving the viewer at the edge of their seats, up till the very end. The way the narrative incorporates the different characters is excellent, giving us just enough information, but also withholding some crucial bits which leave us guessing what's going to happen next. This is helped by the good pairing of Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett.
I have found Fritz Lang's Hollywood films very illuminating, and while his early German efforts are very good in themselves, the true wealth and value that he presents comes from his exquisite American films, which shows true mastery of form and subtlety.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Woman in the Window is directed by Fritz Lang and adapted by Nunnally Johnson from the novel "Once off Guard" written by J.H. Wallis. It stars Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey & Dan Duryea. Music is by Arthur Lange and Milton R. Krasner is the cinematographer.
After admiring a portrait of Alice Reed (Bennett) in the storefront window of the shop next to his Gentleman's Club, Professor Richard Wanley (Robinson) is shocked to actually meet her in person on the street. It's a meeting that leads to a killing, recrimination and blackmail.
Time has shown The Woman in the Window to be one of the most significant movies in the film noir cycle. It was part of the original group identified by Cahiers du Cinéma that formed the cornerstone of film noir (the others were The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, Laura and Murder My Sweet). Its reputation set in stone, it's a film that boasts many of the key noir ingredients: man meets woman and finds his life flipped upside down, shifty characters, a killing, shadows and low lights, and of course an atmosphere thick with suspense. Yet the ending to this day is divisive and, depending what side of the camp you side with, it makes the film either a high rank classic noir or a nearly high rank classic noir. Personally it bothers me does the finale, it comes off as something that Rod Serling could have used on The Twilight Zone but decided to discard. No doubt to my mind that had Lang put in the ending from the source, this would be a 10/10 movie, for everything else in it is top draw stuff.
At its core the film is about the dangers of stepping out of the normal, a peril of wish fulfilment in middle age, with Lang gleefully smothering the themes with the onset of a devilish fate and the stark warning that being caught just "once off guard" can doom you to the unthinkable. There's even the odd Freudian interpretation to sample. All of which is aided by the excellent work of Krasner, who along with his director paints a shadowy world consisting of mirrors, clocks and Venetian blinds. The cast are very strong, strong enough in fact for Robinson, Bennett and Duryea to re-team with Lang the following year for the similar, but better, Scarlet Street, while Lang's direction doesn't miss a beat.
A great film regardless of the Production Code appeasing ending, with its importance in the pantheon of film noir well deserved. But you sense that watching it as a companion piece to Scarlet Street, that Lang finally made the film that this sort of story deserved. The Woman in the Window: essential but not essentially the best of its type. 8/10
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2010
Richard Wanley is an assistant professor of psychology. One evening,after leaving his club, he stands in front of a big portrait of a woman in an art gallery. He sees the reflection of a woman on the portrait.It is the same woman on the portrait.She strikes up a conversation with him,invites him to her appartment. While he is there,another man called Frank,possibly a date of the woman,appears on the scene. In a fit of jealousy he physically assaults the professor. In the ensuing scuffle,Wanley kills Frank with a pair of scissors in self-defence. He disposes of the body in agreement with the woman(her name not known yet). A boy scout finds the body. The dead man turns out to be a well-known financier called Claude Mazard. The police is after the clues for solving the mystery of the dead man. They are looking for a man who was hired as a detective by Mazard to follow him wherever he goes. This detective turns out to be an ex-cop and a blackmailer. He, meanwhile gets hold of Ms.Reed( we know by now the name of the woman in the picture)and starts blackmailing her for large sums of money. He knows that the murder took place in her apartment. After a while the blackmailer dies in a shoot-out with the police in front of Ms Reed's apartment. That is the story line.
In fact, the first seven minutes of the film already gives you the clue of what is going to come.
Fritz Lang,the great German film director has turned this story into a masterpiece of suspense.
The atmospherics of the film are great. Practically the whole action takes place at night. The interplay of light and shadow, the rains, camera moving through the glass doors and reflections in the mirror, all contribute towards creating great visual effects. Two scenes I remember very well: one,when Wanley comes first time to the apartment of Ms.Reed. The whole scene is almost three-dimensional. Another scene: when Wanley leans over the dead Mazard. Suddenly you see Wanley and Reed twice, in reality and in the reflection of two different mirrors.
The film is also an excellent study of a human being plagued by guilt.
There is still a final twist to the story. You have to see the film for it. I cannot give it away.
The screenplay by Nunnally Johnson does not allow any slack moments. It is a good example of textbook screenplay for a suspense film.
Edward G.Robinson(Wanley),Joan Bennett(Ms.Reed) and Dan Duryea( the blackmailer) are at their usual best.
The DVD transfers are excellent.What now remains to be done is watching and enjoying the film.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This 1944 film noir directed by Fritz Lang, with a razor sharp script by Nunnally Johnson, is a dark, claustrophobic study (very Hitchcock-like at times) of an (essentially) innocent man's entrapment and guilt, and showcasing a brilliant central performance by Edward G Robinson. The impressively atmospheric look and feel of Lang's film is cemented by Milton Krasner's astute and evocative black-and-white cinematography (in particular some superb night-time sequences) and Arthur Lange's alternately sweeping and ominous (string-driven) soundtrack.
Lang's film also plays on some darkly comic themes as Robinson's middle-aged, 'self-satisfied' psychology professor Richard Wanley, jokes with friends, Raymond Massey's District Attorney Frank Lalor and Edmund Breon's doctor, Michael Barkstane, bemoaning their lot of being 'middle-aged crocks', whose romantic pursuits are surely a thing of the past. Wanley is however, tempted (against his better instincts) to flirt with Joan Bennett's 'woman in the window', Alice Reed, leading to his ensnarement as the perpetrator in a murder mystery, as the dark forces of fate begin to close in. Robinson and Bennett make for an impressive 'innocent couple', he the upstanding, but increasingly insecure, 'respectable gentleman', she, the softly spoken (but increasingly desperate) 'femme fatale'. For me, it is the film's middle third where it particularly excels as the professor begins to feel the (inevitable) noose tightening as he attempts to cover up his 'misdeed' (Lang ratcheting up the tension by having Wanley successively stopped by the cops for leaving his car lights off, quizzed by a toll gate man, surprised by another cop at the red lights, etc).
Even Lang's attempt to continue the vein of dark humour (as Wanley continues to incriminate himself via his 'coerced' visit with Massey's DA to the crime scene) cannot really lighten his protagonist's mood of oppressive paranoia (marked by the powerful scenes of Wanley staring into the middle distance). Dan Duryea also turns up with a nice little cameo as the snooping, slimey ex-cop, Heidt, who tries to blackmail Alice on the basis of his suspicions of her involvement in these nefarious goings-on. Inadvertently, Duryea also provides the basis for the first of the film's two brilliant plot twists at its denouement, as, in the space of barely a couple of minutes of compelling cinema, Lang cleverly elicits a 180-degree turnaround in audience perception.
For me, a film with barely a moment wasted, much like other classics of the genre such as The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity, and, whilst not quite on a par with Huston and Wilder's films, nevertheless still a great example of the noir genre.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Woman in the Window is a noir released in 1944, starring Edward G. Robinson and directed by German master Fritz Lang. It tells the tale of one Richard Wanley, a sedentary professor of criminal psychology who fears that his life is getting boring and he might never regain the vital spark. One night he stops to look at a painting of a beautiful woman in a gallery window, and to his surprise the model for the painting appears behind him and engages in conversation. Soon he is back at her flat, her jealous lover storms in and blood is spilled. Wanley is forced to dispose of the body, but no matter how carefully he thinks things through there seems to be an infinite number of loose ends that keep coming back to haunt him, not least of which is a blackmailer who has worked out what is going on. Finally Wanley finds himself contemplating murder rather than killing in self defence. His plans go even more wrong, and as Wanley feels the walls closing in on him we are led to an ending that left me gasping with surprise.
This is the idea role for Robinson. He made his name some 13 years earlier as the psychotic Little Caesar, but the nasty gangster image was as far from the real Robinson as it was possible to get, The mild mannered Wanley is a character that fits Robinson like a glove, he understands the man and gives a calm, controlled performance with a lot of depth. I was even more impressed with Fritz Lang's directing. More familiar with hi pre war visionary epics such as Metropolis, it was fascinating to watch him work on a much smaller canvas, telling a more intimate story of a small number of people. Lang's style works just as effectively here. The film is full of his trademark attention to forensic detail (here are shades of M in the depiction of the police investigation), carefully composed shots and choreographed performances. The shot composition is remarkable, with rooms and props carefully arranged in the view of the camera to give tantalising hints and suggestions as to what is to come.
The DVD print is excellent, with a clear sharp picture that shows the agonies on Robinson's face in almost painful detail. The sound is also sharp and clear, all round this is an excellent presentation of a deservedly highly regarded noir classic. Recommended to anyone with an interest in the genre.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 January 2013
With the 7.7/10 in IMDB this film is underrated. The best thing about this film is that it altogether is exceptionally convincing, although the situation, where everything got started, as innocent as it was, may not be of the sort, that pops up to all of us. I really, really enjoyed this piece. It's pacing was just right, never being too slow or too fast. There are no useless details, everything has its place in the entity.
What can I say, a highly recommended film.
Sadly, it seems, that also somewhat overlooked masterpiece of cinematography - at least to all you fans of classy thrillers and suspense. This is the kind of film, which shows how monotonous they make many films these days: too much violence, the same worn-out harsh language lines, too small wardrobe (i.e. too much sex). To have a great film experience, what is needed is an excellent plot, some great acting from actors who fit their roles and some fine dialogue. This piece has them all.
It's ironic, that all the today's technical improvements - together with the sky-high budgets in movie industry - films like The Woman in the Window still stand very high.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
When I first saw this movie I was riveted! It's one of those that is full of nerve-tingling suspense!
It is often said that only Hitchcock can do best with these types of films, but it's always apparent to me that others can be just as adept in this field. There is a nerve-edge to this at every turn as to the outcome of various scenes. This is also a great example of human nature, about how two people (virtual strangers in this case) and even of the opposite sex can become extremely 'close' without sexual intimacy having had to take place, when something else so serious and so worrying can bring them together.
The only problem I have with films that involve dreams, is that one knows that in any dream, one is always present, if not participating, therefore scenes where the 'dreamer' is not present is quite illogical... However, does that matter in this case? Certainly not!
This is a great movie that can be watched over and over again and still manages to create the same tension.
Great vintage viewing!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2012
A masterpiece by Fritz Lang, from the year 1944. It's films like this which make one hanker for the good old days of Hollywood, the 1930s, 40s and 50s..... You won't rest easy at any point as this gripping tale unfolds, and you'll feel able to empathise with each and every one of the main characters, good and bad, such is their ability to come across as fallible human beings. I was unfamiliar with Edward G. Robinson until seeing him here, but now I relish seeing more of his films, not least "Scarlett Street", from the same year, and with the same director !
This is such a well-crafted film, delightful in the way the end takes us back to the beginning, rounding the tale off exquisitely.