Year Released: 1954
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr
(PG, 113 min.)
"To him who is in fear everything rustles" Sophocles
If you think a thriller has to have macho men sporting washboard abs or action filmed in exotic locales awash with bullets and blood, get ready for a shock. With none of the above, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window delivers a surgical strike of suspense not equaled since its release in 1954. Logic and a telephoto lens are his only weapons as injured photographer Jimmy Stewart must expose murder most foul. Rent it and weep for today's paltry imitators.
Jimmy Stewart plays magazine photographer L.B. Jefferies, confined to a wheel chair and his stifling hot, cramped Manhattan apartment the final week before the cast is removed from his broken leg. Only the photographs on his walls reflect the adventurous, nomadic life he lived behind the lens prior to this seven-week hiatus. He is itching (literally) to get out of his cast and back into the action. So much so that he even views Grace Kelly’s exquisite Lisa Fremont as a burden. She’s “too perfect, too talented, too beautiful, and too sophisticated,” he laments to his nurse, Stella, played by the incomparable Thelma Ritter in one of the few roles she is not a dipsomaniac. She gives the shirtless Stewart brisk rubdowns on a chest that is refreshingly skinny and soft by today’s standards.
To while away the long hours, he keeps tabs on his neighbors across the courtyard, who keep the windows to their lives and souls wide open to fend off the soaring heat. Since we the viewers are confined to the muggy apartment as well –almost the entire movie is filmed from within its four walls – we become partners in Jefferies’ more or less innocent voyeurism and watch the soap opera lives of his neighbors play out.
Miss Lonelyheart, a pitiful spinster, entertains an invisible beau over candlelight and wine. Stewart labels the scantily clad “ballerina” Miss Torso as she bumps and grinds her way through breakfast and laundry chores like someone who knows she’s providing free entertainment for her neighbors. A solemn salesman dutifully waits on his nagging invalid wife, and provides fodder for Jefferies’ avowed resistance to matrimony. The couple that tote their mattress to the cool fire escape for some fresh air, the young songwriter who lingers between drunken inspiration and despair, as well as the newlyweds who are the only ones to lower their shades in the oppressive heat, are just an amusing way to chase away the swab of boredom.
But then it gets serious. Lisa, who is every bit as perfect, lovely, and sophisticated as Jefferies says, pulls all the stops to get her man to pop the question. She arrives in a designer gown with a waiter from Twenty-One in tow. The chilled white wine and lobster dinner is perfect, too perfect for Jefferies. He doesn’t want to come into Lisa’s urbane world, and he swears she would not fit in his.
A magazine photographer is, in Lisa’s eyes, after all, is simply “a tourist on endless vacation.” What he really needs to do is to settle down to studio portraits in Manhattan’s east side. When that lovely idea is dismissed with a scornful tilt of his eyebrow, she even considers going off with him on shoots where what you are wearing is your wardrobe, the cuisine has just stopped crawling, and your home is a dusty jeep. The romantic dinner ends not in a proposal but an impasse, and an agitated Jefferies falls fitfully asleep in his wheelchair.
He is dozing when a scream, followed a crash of glass punctuates the night. Rain wakes Jefferies again. He smiles as he watches the couple retrieve their wet mattress from the fire escape, but is surprised to see the salesman leave his apartment in the rain, carrying his metal sample case. The time is 1:55 AM. The salesman returns to go out several more times carrying said suitcase.
Used to seeing life behind telephoto lens, Jefferies uses his to watch more closely the next day. Thorwald, the sinister salesman, played with silent threat by veteran Raymond Burr, certainly acts suspiciously as he carefully wraps a large knife and saw in newspaper, and then sends away a huge trunk tied up in thick rope. A small canine digs determinedly in his zinnias, only to be found dead shortly afterward, “the dog who knew too much,” Lisa suggests with a sly allusion to another Hitchcock/Stewart vehicle.
And as in most of the Hitchcock ventures, the police are of little help. Jefferies’ old war buddy, Detective Lt. Doyle, half-heartedly follows up on Stewart’s suspicions only to report the vanished Mrs. Thorwald happily deposited at a relative’s along with her large truck of clothes. He even produces a postcard saying she has arrived safely.
To prove herself worthy of the adventurous Jefferies, Lisa sets out to prove the case her wheelchair bound beau cannot. She works to win him by making the same foolhardy moves usually limited to love-struck males intent on risking life and limb for ladylove. Jefferies must watch helplessly as she plays a deadly game of cat and mouse with the cold-blooded killer across the courtyard.
In Rear Window Hitchcock takes a lesson from the Greeks to produce his own classic, where underlying sexual tension and graphic horror are not played out on screen but in the more fertile ground of our imaginations. The gauzy pink negligee in Lisa’s overnight bag draws curious glances from Detective Doyle, but it is only, as marriage-focused Lisa says, a preview of coming attractions. Jefferies’ ordinary body, his reduced role as Charlie to Angels Lisa and Stella, make him more real and endearing than the buff heroes who rule the box office today. And finally, the quiet and orderly Thorwald is considerably more frightening than the axe wielding bloody maniacs in what passes for current cinematic thrills.
I’m sure that all you too perfect, too talented, too beautiful, too sophisticated women out there carry a heavy burden. Well, let's make it even heavier and provide you with a perfect recipe for an intimate supper, one worthy of dinner at Twenty-One.
1/2 cup lobster fumet
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup fresh shucked lobster meat
1/4 tsp. Tabasco
1 1/4 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese 1/4
tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. whole butter
2 cups heavy cream
4 each egg yolks
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
3/4 lb. fettucine pasta
Over medium heat, in a medium size sauce pan, melt the whole butter and add the lobster fumet and the heavy cream and turn heat up to medium high.
When cream is hot, just before boiling, add the parmesan cheese and whisk briskly until all the cheese is melted and dissolved into the cream. Add
the Worcestershire, tobasco, black pepper and Dijon and whisk thoroughly again. Reduce heat again to a fast simmer and allow mixture to simmer 20 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta to your preference, drain and set onto plates. Cut the lobster meat into small pieces and add to sauce, add the egg yolks and turn heat to medium high. Sauce should be of medium thickness. Ladle sauce over pasta, sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve.
Recipe Source: Source: Main Lobster and New England Clambakes