Rear Window (1954)


Rear Window

colour, thriller/mystery

released: 1954

rated: PG – “for Some Mild Sensuality and Thematic Elements”

length: 1 hr, 52 min

age: 11 +

interests: mystery, crime, murder, suspensePhotographer L.B. Jefferies is laid up with a broken leg, confined to his apartment with nothing to do but watch his neighbours from his window. One night the strange comings and goings of a mild-mannered insurance salesman across the way lead Jefferies to think the man may have murdered (and dismembered) his wife. His girlfriend Lisa and nurse Stella are drawn into the mystery, though his detective friend Doyle thinks he’s imagining things. Clues begin to pile up and when Lisa and Stella venture out to dig up evidence Jefferies suddenly finds himself face to face with the murderer.

As with all good Hitchcock movies, this is a suspenseful, immaculately crafted mystery with uncomfortable undercurrents. Even while the hero unravels the crime, he and his friends grapple with the ethics of what he’s doing – does he have the right to spy on strangers, and interfere in their lives?

If your preteen is ready for more grownup movies, and is interested in murder mysteries, turning to older classic Hollywood will spare both of you from the sex and violence of today’s movies. And if your preteen is at all interested in the art of moviemaking, there is no better director to learn from than Alfred Hitchcock. His movies are textbooks in efficient storytelling, technical inventiveness, and brilliant psychological manipulation. In particular, for Rear Window:

  1. note the panning shot in Jefferies’ apartment at the beginning – the camera passes over several objects, telling us in a few seconds his profession, how he was injured, and that he has a glamorous fashion-magazine woman in his life. Hitchcock was always fantastic at ‘showing, not telling’.
  2. notice that we NEVER leave Jefferies’ apartment for the entire film!
  3. what details and insights are given about the neighbours, for example, how does the director quickly let us know that the young couple are newlyweds?
  4. can you spot the Hitchcock cameo? He appears for just a brief moment…

The other nice thing about this movie is that everything isn’t spelled out for us, we have to connect a few of the dots ourselves. The dialogue is witty and sharp, and the plot has a few unexpected twists and turns to keep you on your toes. A delight from start to finish.

Questionable Behavior: There is no onscreen violence, save for a suspenseful scuffle at the end. There’s a bit of gruesome talk from Stella as she muses about where a person would cut up a body, but it’s in a comedic vein. There’s a certain amount of implied sexual activity – the newlyweds pull their blinds and aren’t seen for days, and Lisa’s overnight bag elicits raised eyebrows from Doyle. And, it being the 1950s, there are several instances of men – Jefferies included – ogling attractive women, primarily “Miss Torso”, who dances around her apartment in her underwear. There is one scene in which a suitor visits “Miss Lonelyhearts” and tries to force his attentions on her, but she manages to throw him out of her apartment. Very traditional gender roles are in evidence, and it may be interesting to discuss how things have changed since 1954, as well as to note the lack of diversity – this neighbourhood is 100% white. Also, being the 50s, there is a fair amount of drinking and smoking.




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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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