Some years ago when I did a brief stint as a reviewer of movie books, I was handed a fairly weighty tome that proposed to prove that Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) was a “perfect film.” That’s a pretty large claim—especially in my mind, since I’ve always found Hitch’s much-praised 1950s output overrated—but damned if by the end of the book, I couldn’t see the writer’s point. At the very least, I’d concede that Rear Window is as close to “perfect” as a film is likely to get. This slightly claustrophobic tale—a photographer (James Stewart) confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg takes to spying on his neighbors through his apartment window—afforded Hitchcock the ideal chance to make a completely controlled film. It was similar to the confined single location of Rope (1948), but the elaborate studio set allowed for more movement and variety.
Naturally, being a Hitchcock film, our voyeuristic hero is going to see more than he should. Actually, he witnesses a murder—or what he thinks is a murder—and the more deeply he becomes involved in finding the truth, the more dangerous the game becomes. The structure and approach to it all really is awfully close to flawless. It doesn’t hurt that the film is also very entertaining, very Hollywood glamorous and, yes, ultimately very suspenseful.