Rear Window: "like to watch?"
By
Phil Davetas
9/24/2002 9:02:22 AM

Wendell Corey turns to James Stewart, "That's a secret private world you're looking into out there. People do a lot of things in private that they couldn't possibly explain in public." Welcome to the 21st Century.

Rear Window is one of the few flicks that actually celebrates voyeurism, laziness and an over-active imagination—all the same things that asphyxiate the greater part of the Internet--the bastard child of television, mutant basement stepchild of movies and your parents' sworn nemesis. Rear Window was filmed in 1954, back when television was just invented and putting a dent in the movie-going ticket sales--take heed there is no TV in James Stewart's apartment. The quality of film had to ante up with cinemascope, rich color and stereophonic sound--which the tube didn't have. To occupy his time, Stewart watches his neighbors from the rear window of his pad with a telephoto lens.

One of the best things about Rear Window is that foxy babe, Grace Kelly, that brings out the alpha male inside of this writer and makes me want to reach back into celluloid time and slap her right on the ass [male speaking]. She meanders around Stewart's apartment looking to solidify her relationship with her man, with the back-burner question of marriage on her mind. She's the perfect chick, and yet he's so dopey as to not appreciate it until she's about to die. But what would a movie be without conflict?

This is one of those flicks where people like to hang out and shuffle around in their brains to try and find a deeper meaning. And in that hokey, 1950s way, it’s not too difficult to figure out, either. Whatever overhanging metaphors or hidden truths your Film professor came up with are now about as dead as this flick’s cast and crew. Enjoy it for the show that it is. Sometimes a movie can be downgraded in half-baked analysis and over-hyped critiques like Citizen Kane, the number one favorite for the baby boomer critics. (Just remember, baby boomers gave Titanic the best picture Oscar, and they even gave Angelina Jolie the Oscar for playing herself). So, try not to get too caught up in the scholastic part of Rear Window and just dig on it for what it is. Fun.

"Rear Window Ethics: Remembering and Restoring a Hitchcock Classic."
NR, 2000, 55 mins., Universal Studios Home Video.

Interesting thing about the movie is that everyone in the cast and Hitchcock himself, are now dead. Most of the film is remembered through today's filmmakers Curtis Hanson and Peter Bogdanovich, film historians, publicists, family members, and film restorers. "Rear Window Ethics" is a great documentary on the creation and restoration of this film and film in general. Today we don't have the same issues as the studios did on preserving such films. Interesting yet, flicks like XXX are in a better state of digital preservation than any Hitchcock movie. Makes ya feel warm and tingly that the next generation will have a legacy of Stallone flicks to remember us by.

"Rear Window Featurette: A Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes."
NR, 2000, 12 mins., Universal Studios Home Video

This is a little featurette dedicated to the writer. Writers are usually under-appreciated in the film industry and with good reason, judging on a legacy of bad Hollywood and independent flicks of today and then. It's often said that writers are expendable, considering the fact that the script is often changed and ad-libbed and cut around workable and non-workable narrative and dialogue. It's never a finished work, as opposed to novels, poetry or other literary mediums. What's tricky about screenwriting is that it looks and feels completely different on-screen than on paper. Something may sound great on paper, yet wind up incoherently portrayed on film and vice-versa.

Other Bonus Features:
Slide Show, Theatrical and re-release Trailers, Production Notes, Cast and Filmmaker Bios, DVD-ROM features such as Script-to-Screen.

Oh, there's just one more thing. The PG rating of Rear Window. The Production Code ruled over the Hollywood industry between the 30s and late 60s when movies like Midnight Cowboy and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? pushed it into the alphabet soup rating system we have today. The Production Code was simply a device designed to self-govern the industry's movies, preventing government control. Pre-1969 movies had to be presented with a seal of approval for mass consumption. Today, the rating system is failing on many levels because the standards of the audience are changing, altering the rating stability. What was rated R in the 70s could be a PG-13 rated film today. Many films with these ratings are used as marketing tools rather than informing the parents of what type of material their children are watching. Sometimes a movie like Army of Darkness would get an R rating because of its previous track record of un-rated releases and bouts with the MPAA to appease the cult following of the original Evil Dead films. Today we're stuck with the living dead himself, Jack Valenti. I'm sure he's done some good for the filmmakers of this industry, but I'm having trouble coming up with something off the cuff. So I don't see any reason to go back to 1954 and re-rate Rear Window if it's already been approved so many decades before. Maybe Valenti realizes that the industry is ready to update its standards. Yeah, maybe.

Rear Window (Collector's Edition)
4 out of Four.
PG, 1954, 115 mins., Universal Studios Home Video.

James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr. Music by Franz Waxman, Based on the short story by Cornell Woolrich, Screenplay by John Michael Hayes, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

 

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