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"Turn Out The Light ... He's Seen Us!"
on May 18, 2004
Show of hands please --- Who here loves anything with Jimmy Stewart in it? How about the lovely Grace Kelly?
Results --- ** Entire world placing hands skyward. ** :)
Well that's not surprising. Put Jimmy and Grace together (in an Alfred Hitchcock flick no less!), and you can't help but to have a classic piece of motion picture entertainment.
One of the all-time great suspense films, "Rear Window" (1954) places us (the viewer) squarely in the shoes of L.B. Jefferies (Stewart), as he peers out his "rear window" at his courtyard neighbors. (BTW -- My spelling of "Jefferies" in this review IS correct. I've noticed "Jefferies" almost always being misspelled "Jeffries" (lacking an "E"). The spelling of Jeff's last name can easily be verified at the beginning of the movie, when the camera pans across his leg cast, revealing the words: "Here lie the broken bones of L.B. Jefferies". I assume that the filmmakers didn't deliberately have Jeff's last name misspelled on the cast. Of course, I suppose that's always *possible*; but I fail to see a reason WHY they'd do it.) :-)
Hitchcock lets the plot of the movie unfold in sections, building the suspense and drama with his usual superb efficiency and skill. But "Rear Window", when you stop and think about it for a minute, doesn't really follow the same "format" as many (or most) other Hitchcock pictures -- in that we (the audience) are just as much in the dark about this possible "murder" across the courtyard as L.B. Jefferies is. In many of the director's films, "Hitch" lets his viewing audience know, right up front, that there's a "bomb under the table" (to use Hitchcock's own example from his interviews). But in "Window", Mr. H. doesn't give us much up front, and lets us discover things as they happen, right along with Jefferies.
There is one particular part of this movie that has always left me scratching my head, wondering why nothing was done about it during the course of the film. .... Near the beginning of the picture, just after Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) leaves Jeff's apartment, Mr. Jefferies hears a woman scream and hears glass breaking right after the scream. Now -- my question is: WHY didn't Jeff tell his detective friend (Thomas J. Doyle) about having heard this "scream and breaking glass" when he called Doyle into the "case" a short time later? Such evidence would surely have gone a long way toward convincing Jeff's skeptical pal that something HAD indeed occurred across the yard. But this "scream" is never once mentioned in the movie.
But, even with this little "hole" in the plot (IMO), "Rear Window" remains near the top of my list of "Best Hitchcock Films". Everything about it is impressive --- The small courtyard (which was actually custom-built right on the movie-studio's soundstage!); the kooky neighbors; the tension-filled storyline; Hitchcock's cameo in the "songwriter's" apartment; the radio playing in the background; the "street sounds"; "Miss Torso"; Jimmy Stewart's performance; Thelma Ritter as the sassy nurse; Grace Kelly for just being there; the mysterious trips with the suitcase; etc., etc.
This DVD comes under Universal's "Collector's Edition" label, and is packed with many first-rate extra features. Let's probe these, shall we? ..........
>> "Rear Window Ethics" is a 55-minute original documentary detailing the making of this Hitchcock classic and the restoration process undertaken to bring the film back to visual perfection for this first-ever DVD release. Very good documentary.
>> There is also a second featurette about the film, entitled "Screenwriter John Michael Hayes On Rear Window". This bonus lasts 13:10.
>> Photo Gallery. -- This gallery of production photos and advertising materials runs all by itself on its own timed track. Music from the film plays as you watch the images go by. The gallery CAN be paused for longer looks at each image. Running time (without pausing) is 3:07.
>> Original Theatrical Trailer.
>> Re-release Trailers for 5 different Hitchcock films. -- Narrated by James Stewart. Length: 6:15.
>> Text features with "Production Notes" and some biography pieces on the Cast & Crew.
Another small "mini-bonus" I kind of like is a video montage of Hitchcock movie clips when "Play" is selected from the Main Menu. This, however, can easily be bypassed quickly with an additional remote key stroke.
Video and Audio Specifications:
This color film is presented in an Anamorphic Widescreen format, and looks mighty fine thanks to the restoration efforts. The image is as clear and clean as we've ever seen it. The 2-channel Mono Dolby Digital soundtrack serves the material on screen adequately.
There is some confusion as to the film's aspect ratio. The packaging shows the ratio on this DVD is supposed to be 1.66:1. And evidently it IS that ratio. But, due to something inherent to the "anamorphic" transfer process with regard to this particular ratio (1.66:1), this DVD will display the image on your TV in a wider-looking ratio (closer to 1.85:1). That is, if your TV is a "standard" set (with a 4x3 shaped screen). If you're watching this DVD on a "Widescreen 16x9" set, then the image should fill the entire screen (except for small "pillarboxed" bars on the left and right sides of the screen). But on some 16x9 TVs, these "side bars" aren't visible due to the "overscan".
In any event, the anamorphic image on this disc looks quite good, no matter how it's ultimately formatted onto your screen.
A four-page booklet is included inside this DVD package, with a chapter listing on the back, plus some Production Notes and reproductions of five "Rear Window" lobby cards/posters.
Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" has stood the test of time for many decades, and will no doubt stand erect for many more to come. If you like this movie, there's no better way to re-visit it than by indulging in this picture-perfect "Collector's Edition" DVD.