REAR WINDOW

From the Oct. 23, 1983, Deseret News

REAR WINDOW — James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr; directed by Alfred Hitchcock; rated PG (violence).

When people say about movies, "They don't make ‘em like that anymore," they mean movies like "Rear Window."

One of the New York critics has called this 1954 picture the best film of 1983. And I know exactly what he means. After viewing "Rear Window" Friday for the first time in some 15 years or so, I came away wondering why movies this good seem so rare.

"Rear Window" deserves its place as a classic, one of the all-time great films. This movie has it all – fully developed characters, a unique point of view, humor , intelligent dialogue and it builds to a tremendously exciting climax that will have you clenching your teeth and clutching your chair.

James Stewart stars, of course, as the incapacitated L.B. Jeffries, a photojournalist who is in his seventh week of recovering from an accident that left him in a wheelchair with one leg in a cast. He sits in his two-room apartment in a tenement building in New York, observing through his window those who live around him, giving some of them names to match their actions. Miss Torso is an aspiring ballet dancer who works out in her underwear, Miss Lonelyhearts sets a place for two and fantasizes that she has a dinner guest, etc.

Stewart's personal nurse/physical therapist (Thelma Ritter) comes in daily to give him rubdowns and lots of advice that he ignores, and his girlfriend, a rich socialite (Grace Kelly), tries to get him to compromise his globetrotting occupation and settle down long enough to marry.

This is all set-up material of course but Hitchcock makes even the seemingly mundane beginnings enormously attractive. The film opens with a panning shot of the various people whom Stewart will later observe, then gives us a silent tour of his own apartment. In that silent minute or two, we learn more about Stewart's character than many films give us in two hours.

Ultimately, when Stewart observes the suspicious actions of a neighbor across the way, and suspects him of murder, the suspense and terror begins to build to a riveting climax.

"Rear Window" is loaded with scenes that bear the distinctive Hitchcock touch, from camera angles that enhance the tension of a scene — whether that tension is frightening or erotic — to touches of black humor that undercut suspenseful moments. And despite the film taking place almost entirely in Stewart's small apartment, never does it feel confining or static. Only Hitchcock could have made that work this well – just as he had several years earlier with the similarly confined "Lifeboat."

The acting is uniformly correct, with Stewart conveying perfectly the eerie combination of fascination and repulsion that come with voyeurism, and since nearly all of the film is from his point of view we share in that experience. Couple that with the fact that moviegoing itself is an act of voyeurism, and Hitchcock has more than made his point.

I had forgotten just how stunningly beautiful Grace Kelly was, and she's great as the spoiled rich woman who gets a thrill out of playing amateur detective for Stewart. Ritter is wonderful, as she always was in the "typical Thelma Ritter role," wisecracking . . . and wise. Raymond Burr is also very good as the murderer, a role that is especially difficult since it is almost entirely silent and seen from a distance. As Stewart's disbelieving detective buddy, Wendell Corey is also fine.

Rated PG for some mild violence and sexual innuendo, "Rear Window" holds up extremely well. And it really whets the appetite for the four films to come in this series of five weeklong runs at the Plitt Utah 1 theater downtown. Next Friday is "Vertigo." I can hardly wait.