The Hitchcock Conversations is an ongoing project between me and James W. Powell, in which we study Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography in chronological order. I’ll be publishing one conversation per week.
(By necessity, spoilers ahead!)
Synopsis: Professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries has broken his leg. Confined to his New York apartment, he spends his time looking out of his rear window observing his neighbors. He begins to suspect that a man across the courtyard may have murdered his wife. Jeff enlists the help of his high society fashion-consultant girlfriend Lisa Freemont and his visiting nurse Stella to investigate.
Jason: We’ve both seen Rear Window a few times. What struck me this time, beyond the simple premise of a wheelchair-bound man—L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart)—spying on his apartment neighbors and potentially witnessing a murder—is that this film is obsessed with marriage and love and relationships, more so than I ever noticed before. In particular, Jeff seems consumed by uncertainty in his relationship with the fabulous Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly), and this obsession seems to permeate the entire film—even the murder plot.
James: I’ve never really focused on the importance of love and relationships in this film. But how could I have missed it? It’s everywhere. I mean, every neighbor that Jeff spies on has some sort of relationship issue. Not only that, but by the end of the movie, all the individual relationship stories out there beyond his window get some sort of wrap-up. It’s as if Hitch has gone so far as to give each little window drama its own ending. How perfect is that?
Jason: The film’s relationship aspects just really clicked for me this time. I found myself letting the top “thriller” aspects of the film move to the side and really taking a look at the Jeff character and what he sees and thinks. You’re right, every neighbor is going through some stage of a relationship or is experiencing some matter of the heart.
James: It’s as if we watched this movie with the same brain. I also tried to look beyond the surface plot this time around. Like most Hitchcock films, it’s all about the relationships. I think Jeff’s nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter), says it best: “What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change.” Through the whole film, Jeff looks out and places so much emphasis on the world around him instead of looking at his own relationship with the ravishing, perfect-in-every-damn-way Lisa.
Jason: I know! I was constantly wondering what Jeff’s problem was. “If only she was normal,” he says to Stella. “She’s too perfect, she’s too talented, she’s too beautiful, she’s too sophisticated, she’s too everything but what I want.” He’s got this terrible fear of commitment, and it sounds as if he wants nothing to do with this perfect woman who loves him. She’s obviously devoted to him. I guess I can understand the fear of getting involved with someone so high-maintenance, but damn, man, I would fall for Lisa like a ton of bricks.
James: Man, you’re right. Hell, I fell for Lisa like a bag of bricks and I’m not even in the movie.
Jason: But back to the story: Perhaps Jeff sees in each window one possible future for him and Lisa. It’s almost as if we’re seeing into his mind by looking at those windows. As if we really are “looking in,” as Stella says.
James: You know, I had the touch of that thought too—about seeing stages of his own relationship in the windows he’s peering into. But the thought was fleeting because nothing really snagged me into it and made me think about each window that way. The young married couple is an obvious connection, as is Miss Torso: Lisa could similarly find herself in a room full of men staring at her. But what about Miss Lonely Hearts? Does she represent Lisa without Jeff by her side, or does she represent Jeff without Lisa? I think there’s something to this line of thinking . . .
Jason: Okay, let’s dig into it a little deeper. Yeah, the married couple is obvious, showing the first moments of wedded bliss and all the can’t-get-enough sex. Miss Torso is clear too: She’s a high-society babe who can get any man she wants, but we find that she’s saving herself for her true love, some ordinary guy (revealed at the end), just as Lisa is “saving herself” for Jeff. I think Miss Lonely Hearts does represent Lisa as denied by Jeff, or at least how Jeff sees her future without him. (Maybe a little fantasizing there, based on the guilt of potentially dumping her.) There’s also the old married couple sleeping on the balcony in the heat of the summer, representing just the boring comfort of marriage. And don’t forget the obvious one: Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), the potential murderer himself, along with his invalid wife. Perhaps there’s a little murderous fantasy there, of the husband growing so fed up with his needy wife that he ends up offing her.
James: Ah, the invalid would equal Lisa’s high-maintenance inability to do anything besides shop and wear the latest new dresses. She’s someone who probably wouldn’t be able to live like Jeff does, existing out of one suitcase on his adventures. And he’d feel frustrated by that. Hmmm.
Jason: Fascinating parallels, yeah.
James: Okay, but just what the hell is that sculptor woman making out of clay?
Jason: I think it was some kind of abstract figure with a hole in it. Doesn’t she call it “Hunger”? Maybe that equates to sexual hunger, yet another aspect of Jeff and Lisa’s relationship . . . ?
James: See how this project has made this film so much better? I mean, Rear Window has always been one of my favorites, but man, now it’s even better.
Jason: Yeah, these films are so much richer. I’m loving it. Another interesting way to look at it: Each person in the apartments across the way is in his or her own “prison,” behind window bars and enclosed within a small space. Does Jeff view those potential futures as prisons?
James: Interesting idea. Everyone is in his or her own space and, if I remember right, they’re all struggling with something too. Just like Jeff. But I rather like the way we’ve laid it out, that each apartment houses a relationship that could echo Jeff and Lisa’s.
Jason: I think the two ideas can go hand in hand. Yes, the plots in the various windows represent possible futures for Jeff and Lisa, but in his mind, those futures are also prisons.
James: I like the way the relationship between Jeff and Lisa plays out. It’s not until she finally becomes involved in the murder mystery—as when she slips the note under Thorwald’s door or helps dig up the mysterious flowers in the garden—that Jeff realizes she’s great for him. But you know what makes it work? Jeff doesn’t say this stuff outright. We just see him think. Just as in I Confess, with all its “pictures of people thinking,” Hitch shows us Jeff’s thoughts simply through Stewart’s acting. I can’t remember a better “thinking” scene than the one in which Jeff looks at Lisa longingly as she returns from her adventure across the way. He’s suddenly like a puppy dog. It’s perfect.
Jason: That shot of Jeff looking at Lisa is fabulous. He finally sees her as what she is: brave, smart, active. She’ll do anything for him, and she has a love for mystery and adventure. It’s a wonderful moment.
James: So, given that Rear Window is really about Jeff’s relationship with Lisa, the murder must be the MacGuffin. But this one is a bit different because throughout the whole film, the MacGuffin plot is parallel to the real story.
Jason: You make a great point. You’re right, it doesn’t adhere to the classic definition because it doesn’t fade away into insignificance, but it’s the thing that gets the story moving, and in the end, we care more about Jeff coming to his senses and loving Lisa.
James: One thread feeds off the other in perfect harmony. By the way, I wasn’t surprised at all to read that Hitchcock added the romance aspects to the source story. Sounds like the essence of the murder plot was in the original short story, but Hitchcock added everything that we really liked about the film.
Jason: I guess it was Hitch who instructed the writer to add the female character and the romantic threads, but it was the writer—John Michael Hayes—who actually wrote the Lisa Fremont role into the treatment of the Cornell Woolrich source story It Had to Be Murder. But yes, it makes complete sense that Hitch would demand that addition.
James: It truly enriches the thriller elements and the characters.
Jason: So even though we’ve decided that the Thorwald murder is the film’s MacGuffin, what did you think of the whole mystery of it? I liked Jeff’s growing suspicion, and I even laughed a little when Thorwald is seen wrapping those huge knives in newspaper. Part of you thinks, Why doesn’t anybody—especially this guy—close their damn curtains? But that’s part of the fun of it.
James: Why doesn’t he close the curtains? Of course, it’s super hot out, so maybe he has to keep the windows wide open to air out the house, both for coolness and to get rid of the smell? Who knows? But I thought the murder itself was brutal, even if it was all off camera. There’s a lot of talk about cutting Mrs. Thorwald up and blood and splashing and all that. Fairly gruesome stuff.
Jason: There is a lot of gruesome talk in this film, and a lot of it is played for laughs. I thought Stella had some of the best lines in this regard, talking about cleaning up the blood in the bathroom. “It must have made quite a mess!” And Jeff himself later says, “Just how would you start to cut up a human body?”
James: I loved Stella in this movie because of her blunt language. She just puts it all out there in a gruesome way. It’s perfect. But what’s the deal with the way she looks at Lt. Doyle (Wendell Corey) at the end? You know, when he asks her if she wants to see what’s in the hatbox in Thorwald’s apartment (and we know full well it’s Mrs. Thorwald’s head). I didn’t understand her look. I have ideas about what she’s thinking, but none of them sound right.
Jason: I had to think about that one, too. Stella answers, “No thanks, I want no part of it,” and gives him that double-take look. I think it’s just because she’s realizing the bad pun she’s made: Mrs. Thorwald herself is in “parts.”
James: If that’s what her double take meant, I think it’s a lousy way to send her off. It’s too subtle and not concise enough to really work.
Jason: Hmmm, I didn’t mind that line. It seems to tie in well with the humor of her character. Although, like I said, it’s not entirely clear at first.
James: I just loved the fact that Doyle made the offer. Even if he’s joking, it’s a telling moment for his character . . . that he’s a bit more fun than we were led to believe. Then again, he does stare at Miss Torso, and he does take several glances at Lisa’s nightgown. Maybe he’s quite the pig, who knows?
Jason: The Doyle character is a nice foil for Jeff. I wouldn’t call him a dumb cop, but he’s not as sharp as the cops in the last couple films. He’s one step behind the film’s true detectives, Jeff and Lisa. And he does succeed in coming to the rescue at the end. Still, not much to the character.
James: I liked Doyle’s line about the hambone toward the end. Jeff is talking to Doyle about his suspicions, saying that Thorwald killed that dog because it was scratching around the garden. “You know why? Because Thorwald buried something in that garden that the dog scented.” Doyle says, “Like an old hambone?” And Jeff says, “I don’t know what pet names Thorwald had for his wife.”
Jason: Here’s a creepy moment I loved: when Thorwald is calmly smoking a cigarette in his dark apartment, right after the frenzy of the discovery of the dead dog, which he has apparently strangled because it was close to digging up his wife’s head. (“Maybe the dog knew too much,” Lisa says in a nice reference to The Man Who Knew Too Much.)
James: Great moment. Definitely one of the best shots in the film. Ominous. Dark. Perfect.
Jason: Adding to all this creepiness is the way Hitch shot the film. I noticed, as in John Carpenter’s The Thing, that there are a lot of quiet fadeouts. Just little shots, fading in and out, that give us nightmare-like glimpses of developments, and all this adds to the idea that what Jeff is seeing is being manufactured by his fevered brain.
James: The only problem I had with the fades was the convenience of Jeff waking just when he needs to in order to see something in Thorwald’s apartment.
Jason: Good point.
James: Sure, it doesn’t happen perfectly every time, but it’s still a bit convenient for him to be asleep while that mystery woman is leaving Thorwald’s apartment, or to wake up just when Thorwald comes back from his body-dumping trip.
Jason: That reminds me, did you think it was a cheat for Hitch to show that mystery woman leaving the Thorwald apartment while Jeff is asleep? I mean, throughout this movie, we’re seeing things only from Jeff’s perspective. The movie is strictly his point of view. It just seemed jarring to me to show something happening while he can’t witness it.
James: It’s a complete cheat. I was like, Wait a second! It serves the plot better for us to see her leave and not Jeff, but it’s such a cheat, it definitely stuck out as wrong. However, in the documentary, someone maintains that the cheat works, that it’s classic Hitch suspense to know something the lead character doesn’t. I think that technique truly made Dial M for Murder suspenseful, but here, it seems like a cheat because it happens so far into the story and because it’s the only instance. Not only that, but it’s almost insignificant. I mean, when Jeff finds out that witnesses saw Thorwald with “his wife,” Jeff just brushes it off. I’ll admit that the cheat scene itself is nicely done—the way Jeff nods off and the camera slowly looks out the window. But is the shot really necessary? Does it add that much to the story?
Jason: Debatable. And, hey, who is that mystery woman? You say it’s Thorwald’s mistress, but is that clear in the film? Did you get a firm idea that Thorwald killed his wife because he was having an affair, and maybe the mistress was involved?
James: The woman was definitely Thorwald’s mistress. Early in the film, Thorwald gets a phone call and his wife laughs at him. It’s never stated who the person on the other end of the line is, obviously, but there’s something about that scene. Thorwald is clearly trying to hide something from his wife, and he gets furious when she laughs, which leads to the murder.
Jason: Hmmm, I guess I would have liked one more clue. Unless I wasn’t paying enough attention to the early Thorwald scenes, that shot with Thorwald and the woman leaving the apartment led me to believe the wife was still alive. It turned my thinking in the direction of Jeff being mistaken about the murder he suspects. I saw that glimpse of the woman and thought, “Okay, she’s actually alive. So, Jeff is wrong. Now what’s he going to get himself into?”
James: See, that’s why Hitch threw that in there. To trick the viewer and Jeff into believing the wife is still alive. Sure, there’s doubt, but that’s what makes the film fun.
Jason: Yeah, I guess you’re right. I think it’s just the combination of the viewpoint “cheat” we talked about and the fact that we never really see or hear anything else about this mystery woman that makes it feel a little lazy.
James: I think it’s well done. For me, I just never had a doubt. I was with Jeff every step of the way.
Jason: Let’s talk more about the film’s subjective viewpoint: Throughout this film, Jeff sees something, we see it, then Jeff reacts. In Hitchcock/Truffaut, Hitch makes a big deal about this point of view, that it’s the purest expression of the cinematic idea. However, the film steps away from the subjective viewpoint in one major scene, and that’s the death of the dog. We suddenly go outside the apartment and see the apartment dwellers as human beings, in close-up. I’m still wondering why Hitch departed from the viewpoint there.
James: I’m not sure why Hitchcock departed from the subjective viewpoint in that scene. It felt right, though. In that one scene, we needed to get everyone’s reaction, not just Jeff’s. By seeing how they react, we get a better idea of who they really are, not just how Jeff sees them all.
Jason: The dog scene does have the effect of opening up the reality and emotion of the film, making many of those window characters real. Maybe without the scene, the characters would have remained too distant, too cardboard.
James: But what was the deal with that party in the pianist’s place? Did you notice that there were really old women there? It was odd. At one point, it was so crowded that these old women looked like they were smashed up against the window. But I loved how the partygoers just returned to the party after the dog fiasco got boring for them.
Jason: I didn’t think much of the party, except that it was the culmination of the musician’s plot. He’s finally perfected the piece of music he’s been working on, and it won’t be long before Miss Lonely Hearts hears it and is saved by it.
James: I can see that.
Jason: Anyway, I think this subjective viewpoint is the masterstroke of this film. Jeff’s eyes are our eyes, and Hitch is deliberately forcing us to be just as voyeuristic as Jeff. Think about it: Jeff is a voyeur, filmed by a voyeur director, and watched by a voyeur audience. That’s brilliant, and so appropriate from the Hitch we know and love.
James: I believe Rear Window is Hitch’s ultimate statement on voyeurism. The whole film, every aspect, seems to be about that. I think he’s essentially saying we’re all voyeurs. Hitch actually puts us in a peeping tom’s shoes.
Jason: How about the idea of Jeff as a surrogate for Hitchcock himself? Both are chair-bound, using a camera, viewing “plots” through rectangular windows, giving people names (Miss Torso) and telling stories about them, even “directing” a crew that he sends onto a “set.”
James: Eh, I can see this “surrogate Hitch” idea, but that’s stretching it a bit for me.
Jason: Okay, I’m going to bring up the single most disturbing shot of the entire film now, and that’s after Lisa has entered Thorwald’s apartment and found Mrs. Thorwald’s wedding ring. She slips it on her finger, and is about to leave when Thorwald returns. It looks as if Lisa is doomed (and Jeff can only watch, impotent), but the police show up. As Jeff watches helplessly through his camera lens, Lisa points to the ring, as if to say, “I found it!” But Thorwald catches the gesture and looks across the courtyard, straight at Jeff, straight at us! What a fantastic moment. Thorwald has suddenly broken that barrier between the screen and the audience, and the effect is magnificent.
James: I too liked this scene, but I felt that Stewart’s acting was a bit flawed. I’m not sure how it should’ve been handled, but I didn’t like his squirming. Didn’t seem real. He never really grabs Stella, nor does he tell her to go save her, nor does he try to really get out of the chair he’s in.
Jason: You thought Stewart’s performance was lacking in the big discovery scene? Wow, I thought he perfectly conveyed the helplessness of his situation. Don’t forget, that cast went up past his hip. He couldn’t even stand. I even felt the tension ratchet up just because of his expressions.
James: Sure, I felt the tension, but mostly because I thought about what it’d be like for me, not because he acted particularly well.
James: Don’t get me wrong, I think Stewart did a terrific job in this film. He’s perfect for the role and really made it come to life. Even in the absence of dialog, I always knew what he was thinking. My only problem was that one scene, and that only felt slightly off . . . hardly worth noticing almost.
Jason: You know, when Lisa slips on Mrs. Thorwald’s ring and points it out to Jeff, it’s almost as if she’s proposing to him. I mean, the clue that she’s been desperately seeking symbolizes the marital commitment she yearns for from Jeff.
James: Great thinking about the ring. That’s very true. It’s roughly at that time, too, that Jeff is beginning to think Lisa is worthy of marriage anyway, so it’s a great symbol. Amazing. Actually, the more I think about that aspect, the more perfect it is.
Jason: Yep, it’s a perfect symbol in every way. When it occurred to Hitch, he must have gotten a twinkle in his mischievous eye.
James: What did you think of the effect of the flashbulb at the end, when Jeff is flashing his camera at Thorwald to ward off an attack? I liked it in essence, but I’m not sold that it’s as magnificent as some of the crew thought it was. It works and gets the point across, but it’s not perfect.
Jason: The flashbulb effect worked for me, but I thought it was used maybe once too often. You’d think Thorwald would learn after the first two times and shield his eyes or something. I did really like the fight sequence that follows, how Hitch shot it in brutal close-ups and edited it in a quick, tense montage. It adds to the subjective viewpoint idea and feels like a real tussle.
James: The fight scene at the end is very nicely done. I’ll have to watch it again some time. It felt real because of the close-ups. Felt hectic and not choreographed, which was perfect. Did Jeff’s fall from his window remind you of the final scene in Saboteur, when Frank Fry (Norman Lloyd) falls from the Statue of Liberty? I think it’s a very similar camera angle.
Jason: Nice catch! I wonder if it was the same type of effect.
James: And is it just me, or does Thorwald cave a bit too easily after he’s found out? Sure, the ending at that point doesn’t really matter . . . the story is over. But still, when the cop shouts, “Thorwald is ready to take us on a tour of the East River,” I thought it was a bit too easy. But that’s Hitch, I guess.
Jason: The ease with which Thorwald folds when he’s caught felt realistic to me. At the very end, in the confrontation with Jeff, he suddenly becomes a human being, with dialog, as opposed to “the monster across the way.” In an interesting way, he’s suddenly a sympathetic character, saying that he doesn’t have any money and asking calmly for the return of the ring. He’s definitely no longer completely evil, and you start to think, well, maybe he had a good reason for killing his wife. So it felt true that he would give up easily and accept his fate.
James: I didn’t think Thorwald was nearly as sympathetic as you make him sound. Yeah, he feels more human when he says he has no money and you can feel for him when you hear the desperation in his voice to get that ring back. But let’s face it, he’s a killer who wants to run off with his mistress.
Jason: Now, I don’t mean to imply that Thorwald is suddenly a good guy. I’m just saying he’s suddenly human, as you said. We can finally see him as a person rather than a monster. And speaking of “monster,” I loved learning that Hitch silvered Burr’s hair and gave him glasses so that he resembled David O. Selznick. That’s hilarious.
James: You know, Burr did look like Selznick. I didn’t make that connection. Great!
Jason: Going back a little, I loved the sequence with the note that Jeff scrawls for Thorwald: “What have you done with her?” And the suspense of Lisa slipping it under Thorwald’s door and getting out of sight just as Thorwald throws open the door.
James: I liked the note sequence too, but I also liked the phone call and how Jeff tells Thorwald to meet him in the hotel lounge. Very well played, especially since you can hear Thorwald lie at first, then see him actually give in and leave to meet Jeff. I found that very interesting. Had we not seen Thorwald leave, we could still theoretically think that he’s innocent, based on what he says on the phone.
Jason: Oh yes, the phone sequence. These are all scenes in the last act, when Rear Window’s thriller aspects really take flight. Well done, all around.
James: When I first started watching the film this time, I thought I was a bit tired of Hitchcock’s tendency to keep the setting to one room, using claustrophobia to help make the story more tense and dramatic, as in Rope and Dial M for Murder. But Rear Window turns out to be so much better than the others. Yes, it’s still centrally located, but there’s something that makes this one more open. Maybe it’s the number of other characters, or the fact that the courtyard is more open. Maybe it’s the fact that this is more of a mystery that needs to be solved, not a bunch of talk about what did or could happen.
Jason: Yes, this is the best single-setting film Hitch ever did, because it really isn’t a single-setting film and doesn’t have that claustrophobia. There’s more going on here than in many of his multiple-setting films, except that you get the extra suspense of our protagonist being entirely helpless when his girl is in danger and when the killer ultimately comes for him. It’s an incredibly active film for being set in one place, isn’t it? There’s a lot going on everywhere.
James: This is more of an active movie than it appears, you’re right. But the setting is still confined . . . it’s just opened to the courtyard, which relieves us of some of that claustrophobia.
Jason: How about the Greenwich Village apartment-complex set that was constructed for this film? I thought it was pretty amazing.
James: Yeah, that set was magnificent—the fact that they burrowed out the floor of an existing soundstage, and that the rooms were actually livable rooms, to some degree. Very realistic.
Jason: Speaking of this, one of the things I really admire about Rear Window is that the soundtrack is composed almost completely of incidental, on-set sound. The music is really coming from the respective apartments, for example, so you really get that sense of hollowness and distance and echo. It all adds to the sense of space in that apartment complex.
James: I too found the soundtrack to be very interesting. I liked the opening jazzy tune, but the rest was all on the set. Helped ground us in the reality of the courtyard.
Jason: And on top of that aspect, the film has many long moments of silence, in which action plays out with no dialog, and I love that. It’s a throwback to Hitch’s silent days, and it reminds you yet again what a great storyteller he is, that he can do so much with just the camera.
James: Did you notice the birds? They were pigeons, eating on the roof above Miss Torso’s apartment.
Jason: I didn’t notice the birds. They must not have been prominent. What could be their symbolic significance above Miss Torso’s place? Hmmm. I did notice a very prominent but mostly unused stairwell in the middle of the courtyard . . .
James: No, the birds didn’t seem to be symbolic in nature. I didn’t even notice them until I watched the featurette. It’s possible we see them right before the murder or when Jeff begins to suspect something, but I doubt it. Then again, it was an indoor set, so maybe Hitchcock did have a reason for those birds.
Jason: There’s a lot of bawdy humor running through this film. I liked the shot of the nude sunbathers on top of the building, and the helicopter hovering over them, getting a thrill. It was a nice reminder of the voyeurism of the main plot.
James: The early scene of the helicopter is great, even though the copter itself looks terrible.
Jason: Overall, there’s some really confident filmmaking in this movie. I really admired how the stage is set in that one brilliant opening shot. We glide into the apartment to see Jeff’s broken leg, his camera (indicating his profession as a freelance photographer), the photograph of the incident that injured him, and the apartment setting to which we’ll be confined for 2 hours.
James: I’ve always loved that opening shot. It tells so much about the setting and the main character, all in mere moments. No need to waste dialog. We know all we need to know in that one shot.
Jason: Does Jeff deserve his fate? In the end, he’s attacked and ends up with another broken leg. Through the whole film, he’s been sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.
James: I don’t think he simply gets another broken leg. If I remember right, he has two new broken legs. The left cast is new, too. I’m not sure I’d say he “deserves” his fate, but at the same time, it feels right that he’s in worse shape after everything that happens. Then again, he gets Lisa, so who can say he’s worse off?
James: Tell me, can you name a more perfect actress? Grace Kelly had it all. When Lisa crawled into Thorwald’s window, weren’t you like, “Man, she’s the perfect woman”? What a great moment. She’s in this $1000 dress, and she’s crawling into a potential murderer’s window.
Jason: I’m in love with Grace Kelly. Compare this performance with the one in Dial M for Murder. She is absolutely luminescent here. I mean, damn. And Lisa is a perfect woman, as you said.
James: What did you think of the shot in which we’re introduced to Lisa? It’s a slow-motion kiss, very romantic. Softly lit.
Jason: Such a great introduction not only to Lisa but to Grace Kelly, who really took off after this film.
James: Without the Lisa character, Rear Window wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.
Jason: Have we finally found the quintessential Hitch babe?
James: Kelly is definitely the culmination of the search for the perfect blonde Hitchcock babe. However, I still really like Joan Fontaine. Her acting was superb and slightly different than the average role of the blonde in Hitch’s films. There’s no match for Kelly, but Fontaine made Rebecca. You can’t say that about any other actress in any other Hitchcock film. But Grace Kelly is amazing. Man oh man. There’s something about the way Lisa says her full name while turning on the lights. Her voice, her mannerisms . . . whatever it was, but that was perhaps the sexiest introduction I’ve ever seen. I mean, seriously. Damn!
Jason: Yep, her whole character is just brimming with a real sense of warmth and perfection, as if the character is perfectly matched with Kelly’s personality. I just nodded my head when the writer spoke in the documentary about hanging out with her on the Dial M for Murder set and fashioning the Lisa Fremont character according to the real Kelly.
James: Was Rear Window the first Hitchcock film shown in widescreen?
Jason: Yes, I made a note that this is Hitch’s first widescreen film, at 1.66:1. And I guess that aspect ratio is appropriate, since the windows that Jeff is constantly peering into are all in a “widescreen” format.
James: What did you think of the DVD’s restoration featurette?
Jason: The main thing I took away from the restoration featurette is that I finally know what Robert Harris looks like. He’s one of the film preservationists and is active in the home-theater community. He’s also the coauthor of one of the Hitch books I’m reading. But although I was impressed by some of the side-by-side shots of the restoration bits of that documentary, I wasn’t overly impressed with the transfer itself. It frequently looked soft and muddy. I think it could have had a lot more clarity. Just wait till we get to North by Northwest, which is a revelation compared to this one.
James: I didn’t think the transfer was that bad. It’s an older film that looked okay to me. My TV is only 27 inches, however, so that should be noted.
Jason: I’ll tell you, buddy, this very thorough discussion about Rear Window makes me want to watch the movie all over again. Like, right now. That’s only happened with three or four of the movies for me.
James: I completely agree.