Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 6, 2021)
Kids tend to play a small factor in film noir entries, if they enter the picture at all. For a shift from that template, we head to 1949’s The Window.
Nine-year-old Tommy Woodry (Bobby Driscoll) enjoys a deserved reputation as a boy who likes to stretch the truth into “tall tales”. These fibs lead to occasional problems, so his parents Ed (Arthur Kennedy) and Mary (Barbara Hale) warn him to knock it off or suffer punishment.
When Tommy witnesses a murder in a neighbor’s apartment, he tells his parents and various authorities but no one believes him. However, the actual killers become aware that he saw them perform the deed and this imperils Tommy.
If that synopsis bears some resemblance to the plot of 1954’s Hitchcock classic Rear Window, there’s a good reason: both adapted separate short stories written by Cornell Woolrich. Plenty of Woolrich’s efforts leapt to the movie screen – and some of these others showed clear similarities as well – but Rear Window remains easily the most prominent flick based on a Woolrich work.
Does The Window deserve to be better remembered than it is? Not really, as this becomes a strangely tension-free thriller.
Actually, I should amend that last statement, as I know exactly why so little suspense arrives with Window. For one, we definitely know the killers committed the crime for which Tommy accuses them.
Whereas a more interesting tale would leave some doubt, that doesn’t occur in Window. We realize that Tommy tells the truth, so we find a black and white story.
In addition, the movie’s biggest twist – the youthful protagonist – neuters the tale. We’re aware that there’s virtually no chance any real harm will come to a nine-year-old, so we never feel any real concern for Tommy’s fate. We know that when the end credits roll, he’ll be fine.
Driscoll offers a fairly competent performance, though he overacts somewhat at times. The adult members of the cast fill out their roles in an adequate manner as well, even if the script doesn’t give them much room for personality or development.
As the film’s opening credits admit, The Window acts as little more than an update on The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Beyond some novelty value, the movie never kicks into gear.