A wheelchair bound photographer thinks he witnesses a murder from his apartment window. Gradually he fleshes out the crime, drawing others into his intrigue until the film culminates in a perfect hero / villain showdown.
If Empire had a rating higher than five stars, this is one of very few movies that would earn it.
Made in 1954, this propelled Alfred Hitchcock from everyday master of suspense to a position as titanic public figure, popular entertainer and true artist. He made great films before and after, but Rear Window showed he could take a gimmick premise and transform it into a movie at once accessible to a mass audience and deep enough to be worth dozens of reviewings and critical analyses.
Photographer L. B. Jeffries (Stewart), an action man stuck in his apartment with a broken leg, is being pestered towards commitment by his girlfriend (Kelly) and distracted by the soap-like stories he observes across the courtyard. The vignettes seen from afar are comic, dramatic or touching and, if this were a French film, would be enough alone to sustain a story of a kindly voyeur forced to reflect on his own life.
But it's a Hitch plot, and so L. B. comes, on shaky but accumulating evidence, to suspect that bulky neighbour Lars Thorwald (Burr) has done away with his nagging wife and buried her in the floral border. Slowly, he draws others into his obsession and begins, from his wheelchair, to sleuth out a case against the supposed killer.
Witty, suspenseful, sad, funny and wise, the film confronts an audience with its complicity in the stories they see, but also works up to one of cinema's great hero-and-killer confrontations, memorable for Thorwald's resigned puzzlement that a stranger would even be interested in his life, let alone eager to reveal his secrets. Flawless, essential.
Flawless, essetial viewing that would earn more than it's five stars if only Empire would allow it