James Stewart and the stunning Grace Kelly star in the next recommended title from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book as I continue my time with Hitchcock’s thrillers.
Voyeurism leads to problems as laid up photographer (is there a more voyeuristic career) L.B. Jefferies (Stewart) believes one of his neighbours, he can see all of them from his window in his apartment complex, has committed a murder.
From his position in his wheelchair, broken leg before him, he watches, spies, on all of the inhabitants, from the lonely folks, to the arguing couples, to the aspiring musicians, to the possible murderer…
As he works at his relationship with Lisa (Kelly), something he can’t seem to get right, he becomes involved with the happenings of the lives around him, as Hitchcock ratchets up the suspense, we find that we become the voyeurs he would have Jefferies be, watching the lives of those in the complex , in itself a gorgeous set.
The music camera movements, and image framing play just as large a part in the film as the performances, music cues (a great score by Franz Waxman) and sneaking cameras serve to augment the tension and the situation as Jefferies finds himself stuck, confined to his chair while Lisa explores for him, putting her in danger, while he can’t do anything.
But Lisa delights in the excitement, she revels in following up the ‘leads’ that Jefferies sends her out to explore. Both of them are caught up in the possibility, the terror and the discovery of the murder. She, like Jefferies, becomes a voyeur, even as they debate the ethics of whether or not what they are doing is right, even if it proves that a murder was committed.
There is some great dialogue, filled with wit and style, written by John Michael Hayes from Cornell Woolrich’s original story. You really don’t hear anything like it anymore, and both Stewart and Kelly are completely at home with it. They exude charm and grace (pun intended?) as they try and gather evidence, outwit the killer and survive to tell the tale.
There has been so much written about this film, that I feel, I know, I can’t have anything new to add to the discussion. I simply know that I love curling up with a movie like this it’s wonderfully crafted, it takes its time to tell its story, involving us with the characters, ratcheting the tension up scene by scene, balancing humour, tension, with a nice touch of romance. The last twenty minutes are nothing short of perfect.
Even now, this film is nothing short of captivating, showing that yes, Hitchcock is the master, and he knew how to tell and pace his story, and how to populate it with just the right actor for the role, as well as how to shoot them.
It’s so hard to pick favourite Hitichock films but this one is definitely in my top ten.