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Rear Window

"Rear Window" on DVD

See Me, Feel Me

Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" is enough to put any would-be peeping Tom's off their food.

It clearly sends the message "Be careful what you wish for" as it outlines the story of photographer J.B. Jeffries (James Stewart) and his bored-but-too-inquisitive mind.

Jeffries has been stuck in his apartment for six weeks, wheelchair bound because of a broken leg, and he'll be there for another week yet as the story opens. There's a heat wave going on, which makes things worse, and his only contact with the outside world is his girlfriend (Grace Kelly), his nurse (Thelma Ritter) and the plethora of neighbors he can see from his rear window.

The neighbors are a varied group, from the ballet dancer who prances around her apartment nearly naked, to the sculptor, the songwriter, the newlyweds, the jewelry salesman. He has nicknames for some of these neighbors, like "Miss Broken Heart" (a middle aged woman who drinks alone each night, fantasizing about romance) that he invents as he peeks into the small part of their lives he can see through their unshuttered windows.

Then one day he thinks one of his neighbors has killed his wife, and the peeping becomes really heartfelt snooping. Jeffries even enlists the help of his policeman friend who, when he looks at and investigates the evidence Jeffries gives him, realizes his friend is really just suffering from an overactive imagination spurred partly, undoubtedly, by his shut in status.

Or is he right?

You'll have to watch the disc to find out.

As with other Hitchcock films, "Rear Window" takes a while to get going, but that doesn't mean it's boring. Far from it; the microcosm of neighbors living their own lives behind closed doors - but open windows - is fascinating and brings out the voyeur in all of us.

Sometimes you want to slap Jeffries for his blatant snooping, but it's just too interesting and, like him, you want to see more.

The second hour of the film is decidedly faster, as the plot thickens and the audience is dragged - not kicking and screaming but with wholehearted approval - along with Jeffries and his friends to an exciting climax in which, until the last few minutes, you're never quite sure what's going on.

James Stewart, usually so likeable on film, is exasperating as Jeffries - and that's exactly how he should be. The guy's smart, successful, and has Grace Kelly in love with him, yet he treats her like dirt while hanging tenaciously onto his irresponsible swinging single life and trying to cut her out of it.

Is this guy some kind of nut. I mean, Grace Kelly!

Still, you don't want to see him get hurt, so you silently root for him - and wish the heck he'd close the drapes before his voyeurism turns around and bites him.

Kelly is wonderfully beautiful and charming - and her character tolerates Jeffries' foibles far more than she should, but what the heck, she loves him!

The DVD is from the restored version of the movie, and is presented in anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible) and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Picture quality is very good through most of the film, though not as good in others. The audio quality is very good (though we'd have preferred Dolby Digital mono, which would have put the dialogue at the center speaker), and does justice to the wonderfully layered and textured sounds of neighborhood life that's always present in the movie.

Extras abound, including a 55 minute (or so) documentary "Rear Window Ethics: Remembering and Restoring a Hitchcock Classic that gives extensive background information into the film and its new presentation. There's also a featurette with screenwriter John Michael Hayes, production photos, trailers (including a re-release trailer narrated by the late James Stewart), production notes, cast/crew info, and DVD ROM features (including the original script).

Rear Window, from Universal Home Video
115 min. widescreen (1:66:1), 16x9 compatible, Dolby Digital 2.0
Starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, with Raymond Burr
Written by John Michael Hayes, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.


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Updated May 5, 2010