best films: #8: REAR WINDOW (1954)
The list just keeps on winding down – we settle in No. 8 with my all-time favorite Hitchcock flick, Rear Window. It’s officially required viewing for anyone who thinks they know what their all-time favorite thriller or suspense film is. Trust me, this is it. From the signature Hitchcock touch on the camera work (the man had genius cinematographers working for him!) to his superb direction of the era’s glamorous, taking them from red carpet society folk to truly riveting performers, Rear Window is my ultimate example of what the Master of Suspense does best. We find ourselves in the apartment of L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart), a workaholic photographer who’s been laid up with a broken leg. (One of the best features of the film is that we’re trapped along with Stewart in the apartment for the duration of the movie.) His curiosity and boredom peaking, L.B. begins to spy on his neighbors through the able zoom lens of his professional camera equipment. Alongside girlfriend Lisa Carol (Grace Kelly, who’s never looked or performed better) and the unmatchable Thelma Ritter as housekeeper Stella, L.B.’s peeping leads him to find out more than a few secrets about his apartment complex neighbors.
There is a host of features at play here that are working wonders for the movie. One of them is Hitchcock’s great attention to detail with the other tenants (and those memorable nicknames they receive) – we meet a lonely single gal on the first floor (Miss Lonelyheart) who can’t seem to find happiness, an ever-stretching professional dancer (Miss Torso) who never fails to make Kelly’s character feel a little jealous (perish the thought!), and, of course, the disturbingly gruff Mr. Thorwald, who sets a series of events into motion that have truly been copied times over by other thrillers. What may surprise you most about this movie is that, despite its now 57 years of age behind it, it is ridiculously intense. Try watching it (particularly some of the scenes in which Stewart’s camera darts rapidly from window to window) without feeling a little nervous (and probably loudly uttering advice to our heroes on screen). This is a masterpiece of suspense for a reason – it’s taut, effective, subtle, and a perfectly-packaged piece of cinema history.