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Alfred Hitchcock
James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr, Judith Evelyn, Ross Bagdasarian, Georgine Darcy
Writing Credits:
Cornell Woolrich (short story), John Michael Hayes

The most unusual and intimate journey into human emotions ever filmed!

None of Hitchcock's films has ever given a clearer view of his genius for suspense than Rear Window. When professional photographer J.B "Jeff" Jeffries (James Stewart) is confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg, he becomes obsessed with watching the private dramas of his neighbors play out across the courtyard. When he suspects a salesman may have murdered his nagging wife, Jeffries enlists the help of his glamorous socialite girlfriend (Grace Kelly) to investigate the highly suspicious chain of events ... Events that ultimately lead to one of the most memorable and gripping endings in all of film history.

Box Office:
$1.0 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Spanish DTS Monaural
French DTS Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 115 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 5/6/2014

• Audio Commentary with Film Historian John Fawell
• "Rear Window Ethics" Documentary
• “A Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes” Featurette
• “Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of the Master” Featurette
• “Breaking Barriers: The Sound of Hitchcock” Featurette
• “Masters of Cinema” Documentary
• Production Photographs
• Theatrical Trailer
• Re-Release Trailer Narrated by James Stewart
• Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Rear Window [Blu-Ray] (1954)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 22, 2014)

Much of the beauty of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 classic Rear Window stems from its simplicity. All of the film’s action revolves around on small apartment, as our protagonist - daredevil photographer LB Jefferies (James Stewart) - spies upon the world around him. Jefferies is laid up due to a broken leg, and he has nothing better to do than snoop on his neighbors.

As such, the entire movie is told subjectively from his viewpoint, and the camera never shows anything that can’t be seen from his point of view. Many other participants become involved. These include Jefferies’ high society girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly), his physical therapist Stella (Thelma Ritter), and policeman friend Lieutenant Doyle (Wendell Corey).

However, almost nothing occurs that isn’t shown from Jefferies’ vantage point; it’s a tremendously subjective film that only occasionally gives us information not available to the protagonist, and even then stays with the views that he could have seen.

As the story unfolds, we get into the lives of his neighbors, at least as interpreted by Jefferies. He has to guess about a lot of their specifics, so we learn about the others mainly through his ideas. All of it seems pretty banal until the invalid wife of neighbor Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) disappears and Thorwald behaves in a suspicious manner.

Jefferies believes Thorwald dispatched the Mrs. to the great beyond, and the majority of the movie involves his amateur, from-a-distance investigation of the events. Doyle remains skeptical, but Lisa and Stella are more than happy to get wrapped up in the apparent intrigue.

So am I, as Rear Window provides a slow-boiling but compelling piece. Some will clearly find the pacing to move without enough rapidity, as Window wasn’t made with modern attention spans in mind. However, the pace creates richness that otherwise wouldn’t exist. I never felt impatient or desperate for action, as the nuances of the characters created a life and vividness that was more than satisfying.

It helps if you don’t know how the movie ends, but even when one is aware of the conclusion, the sublime execution of the film makes it a worthwhile experience. Actually, the calm tone of the program lends an even more compelling tone to it, because the whole thing seems so believable. Hitchcock never resorts to any contrived plot twists to amp up the action. Instead, the whole thing unfolds in an intriguingly realistic manner, and we can easily envision ourselves becoming part of this world.

Stewart’s “everyman” tone serves him well in the role, and his presence helps ground a character who otherwise could have become a creepy voyeur. Though some of Jefferies’ activities may be slightly unsavory, we rarely question him because of Stewart’s general earnestness. He also makes believable an attitude that many will not readily accept: he’s a man who doesn’t seem captivated by the legendary beauty of Grace Kelly.

Frankly, I understand Jefferies’ lack of affection toward Lisa because she really is too perfect. She seems like the sort who would never let a hair go out of place, and I can identify with Jefferies’ obvious glee when Lisa gets wrapped up in the deepening mystery.

It helps that Kelly creates a natural arc within the character. Lisa doesn’t go from prissy fashion plate to rugged adventurer overnight, and Kelly allows for both sides of the role to come through clearly. It’s a nicely subtle and understated performance that works well for the film.

In addition, Ritter provides solid but not gratuitous comic relief, and Corey provides the necessary skepticism that keeps the piece from becoming excessively fantastic. We have to be reminded that all of Jefferies’ thoughts have been inferred and that no evidence exists, and Doyle gives us that component neatly.

While Rear Window is a very well-acted piece, and the script provides a tight framework, the ultimate success still rests on Hitchcock’s shoulders. Frankly, I find the horror antics of later films Psycho and The Birds to be more enjoyable, but Hitchcock never provided a more capable directorial tone than he did during Window.

It all goes back to the simplicity, as Hitchcock communicates so much with so little effort. From the opening shots of Jefferies and his apartment - which tell us more about the character in a few seconds of footage than could have been achieved with 1000 words of exposition - to the short, concise glimpses of the neighbors, Window represents visual filmmaking at its finest. It may not be my absolute favorite Hitchcock flick, but Rear Window definitely shows the director at the top of his game.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Rear Window appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie displayed some problems that seemed to be inherent to the source, but it looked better than I’ve seen.

Sharpness generally presented a fairly well-focused and accurate picture, but this lapsed on some occasions. At times the movie appeared a little soft and fuzzy, but it remained pretty accurate the majority of the time. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no concerns, and I noticed no mild edge enhancement. In terns of print flaws, I saw occasional specks but nothing significant.

Colors tended to look pretty good. Due to the film stock, they could tend toward a brownish feel, but they usually appeared fairly full, and they could really pop at times, too. Blacks were reasonably dense and dark, and shadows offered fairly nice clarity. Even with the image’s inconsistencies, this was the best representation of the film I’ve seen and I felt pleased with it.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack, it held up well after almost 60 years. Speech seemed solid, as the lines were relatively natural given their age. Effects were a little thin, but these seemed typical of the period and presented no significant problems.

Music was appropriately distant. Since almost none of this took the form of a proper score, music really acted like another effect, and these parts sounded accurately thin and detached. Ultimately, the soundtrack seemed more than adequate for its age and ambitions.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the last DVD from 2008? Audio was warmer and more accurate, while visuals seemed tighter, cleaner and more dynamic. This was a good improvement over the prior release.

The Blu-ray includes most of the 2008 DVD’s components, and we open with an audio commentary from film historian John Fawell. He provides a running, screen-specific chat that looks at cinematic techniques, the complex set, cast and performances, themes and interpretation, music and story.

How much you like this commentary will depend on what you want from it. If you desire good introspection about the story and characters along with plenty of themes and interpretation, then you’ll enjoy the track. If you want concrete information about the flick, you’ll not go home happy.

Honestly, I’d have preferred more details about the movie’s creation, especially since Fawell’s effort sags at times and the piece suffers from too much dead air. He does give us some nice insights, but I’d like better balance between interpretation and information.

Some Production Photographs appear in a separate section. These stills are presented as a running video montage. Backed by Franz Waxman’s score, the images mix advertisements with shots from the set, and the entire package lasts three minutes and seven seconds. I like the video presentation and think this program offers a nice compendium of pictures.

Two trailers appear on the disc, both of which come from reissues of Rear Window. The first arrived in a post-Psycho re-release, while the other arrived in the mid-Eighties and also promotes the re-appearance of four other Hitchcock films.

Next comes a documentary called Rear Window Ethics. This 55-minute and 10-second program combines modern interviews with filmmakers Curtis Hanson and Peter Bogdanovich, author Robin Wood, Hitchcock’s daughter Pat, Paramount publicity director Herb Steinberg, assistant director Herbert Coleman, and actress Georgine “Miss Torso” Darcy, plus restoration supervisors Robert Harris and James Katz. Their statements are interspersed with film clips and photos from the set, and we also hear a few sound bites from an old Bogdanovich interview with Hitchcock.

All in all, this is a solid look at the creation of the film. We find a lot of good information about the production and the various participants, and we also learn about the history of the restoration. The “before and after” shots shown are questionable as the two mainly look different based on brightness, but I still enjoyed this view of the classic film and its legacy.

A Conversation With Screenwriter John Michael Hayes offers exactly what the title states: an interview with the writer of the script. This 13-minute and 10-second piece uses the same format found during “Ethics”: an interview combined with film clips and production photos. The only difference is that we only find one participant: Hayes.

I’d assume that he gets his own featurette because his material is so good it deserved to stand on its own rather than get mixed in with the others. We get a terrific discussion of the history of the film plus a lot of great anecdotes about working with Hitchcock and the others. It’s a solid little piece that added a lot to my appreciation of the movie.

Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of the Master goes for 25 minutes, 12 seconds and features Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto, film critic David Sterritt, and filmmakers Martin Scorsese, William Friedkin, John Carpenter, Randy Thom, Guillermo del Toro, Gary Rydstrom, Bill Pankow, Craig McKay, Mark Goldblatt, Eli Roth, and Joe Carnahan. “Eyes” looks at all the visual techniques Hitchcock used throughout his movies. The various filmmakers and others offer a fine appreciation for the work. We get a very nice dissection of the different methods and learn a lot about how Hitchcock worked his magic.

Next we locate the 23-minute and 31-second Breaking Barriers: The Sound of Hitchcock. It provides notes from Goldblatt, Friedkin, Sterritt, Thom, Rydstrom, Pankow, Hitchcock’s Music author Jack Sullivan, and filmmaker Mark Stoechinger. As implied by the title, “Barriers” offers an auditory counterpoint to “Eyes”. It digs into Hitchcock’s use of sound and music throughout his flicks. The program creates a nice complement to “Eyes” and works equally as well.

Masters of Cinema delivers a 33-minute, 39-second 1972 TV program. We see Hitchcock interviewed (separately) by Ingrid Bergman’s daughter Pia Lindstrom and film historian William K. Everson. Hitchcock chats about why he likes to make scary movies, working with actors, themes in his films, aspects of his early career, and some other thoughts connected to his work. Hitchcock was always a delightful, insightful subject, and this turns into an enjoyable program.

For a chat between legendary directors, we go to the 16-minute and 14-second Hitchcock/Truffaut. This provides an audio excerpt of Francois Truffaut’s extensive 1962 interviews with Hitchcock. They discuss the adaptation of the short story, aspects of how Hitchcock tells the tale visually, characters and their behavior, and a few other elements of the production.

Due to all the translation time, these Truffaut interviews tend to move slowly, and they’re not always packed with insight. Still, it’s great to hear from Hitchcock himself instead of from surrogates, and there’s enough good material to make the chat worth a listen.

1954’s Rear Window stands with the best of Alfred Hitchcock’s material. The film moves at a slow but compelling pace and uses simple methods to ensnare the viewer. The Blu-ray offers inconsistent but usually positive visuals along with positive audio and a fairly nice set of supplements. This easily becomes the best home video version of Rear Window.

To rate this film, visit the Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection review of REAR WINDOW

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main