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  Directed by
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  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.66:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
  • German: Dolby Digital Mono
  Subtitles
    English, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Booklet
  • Awards/Nominations

Rear Window

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 109 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Good eeeeeeeeeeeeeevening…

This week we enter the life and the apartment of successful, globetrotting photographer L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart), who is going slightly stir crazy after being confined to a wheelchair for six weeks with a broken leg - the leg-acy (sorry) of getting just a little to close to a flying racing car wheel in order to grab that perfect shot. To keep himself amused he has engrossed himself in the everyday goings-on of the inhabitants within the microcosmic apartment complex across the courtyard outside his rear window, from the heartrending "Miss Lonely Hearts", to "Miss Torso" the ballet dancer, to the newlyweds, the songwriter and the salesman and his invalid wife.

Aah, the salesman and his wife. Whilst most all of the apartment block's inhabitants simply go about their everyday lives, L.B. starts to suspect something just a tad on the sinister side is going on with these two. Initially his socialite girlfriend Lisa (the stunning I-wish-I-was-her Grace Kelly) is sceptical, and quite frankly too busy trying to mend his jet-setting happy-to-be-a-bachelor ways, and his rather sage-like insurance company nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) has her hands full just trying to keep her charge in check, however gradually his relentlessly fertile imaginings of foul play bring them (and indeed us) around until they too are just as fascinated as to what may have happened as him. Has his incapacitation-induced captivity led his mind to wander beyond reality, or indeed has something incredibly sinister occurred?

"We've become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change..."

If you consider the plot outline above, there doesn’t seem to be much to sustain an almost two-hour long film. However, add to the mix Alfred Hitchcock's simply unmatched creativity, his under-credited slightly twisted sense of humour, often downright evil and manipulative mind and penchant for being able to make even the most innocent of events appear somehow creepy, and you're left with a gradually building and simply riveting story that slowly engrosses the viewer until before you know it you're just as much the voyeur as the inhabitants of the flat. The fact that save for one brief instance the entire film is shot from L.B.'s apartment, giving us the same point of visual reference as L.B. and company, adds to the drama immeasurably, and a certain cinematic quality is retained that in a lesser director's hands could simply have made it all seem like a stage play. This of course is helped no end by the simply marvellous set, so large in fact that a floor had to be knocked out of the building it was constructed in to fit the height of the apartment complex - one doubts that they would have gone to such lengths for just any old director.

  Video
Contract

When approaching any film from the early '50s it isn’t unreasonable to expect some visual nasties. In saying this naturally Rear Window has its fair share of them, however it could have been so much worse. The main issues are with white flecks riddled throughout as well as occasional scratches, which admittedly can be distracting at times. However, and it's a very big however, if you consider the shape this film was in before the restoration team got their clever little mitts on it, only the biggest of grumblebums couldn’t help but be forgiving.

The original camera negative was in less than stellar shape, having had 389 prints struck from it. According to the restoration team the yellow layer was virtually completely destroyed, and the sight of a rather verdantly-faced Grace Kelly looking much like the Incredible Hulk's pretty little sister in the feature on the restoration included on the disc (but more on that later) gives an example of how utterly unwatchable this could have been. The colour treatment still has that faithful Technicolor type look to it, where things don’t quite look completely real, but do so in a filmic context. Saturation is generally surprisingly good, and detail certainly cannot be faulted. Things can be a little grainy at times and the contrast and black levels aren’t always spot on, but once again when you consider the fact that some of the original negative was virtually completely destroyed, what we get here is simply quite a marvellous labour of love.

Pleasingly Rear Window's transition to DVD has seen it presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, and it has even been anamorphically enhanced. The biggest fault comes with something that has nothing to do with the film itself, and that's the hideous layer change. Whilst happening at the end of a scene, it is yet another that seemingly didn’t take the soundtrack into account so it's irritatingly jarring.

Still, in all wonders have been performed here, for which I for one am eternally grateful.

  Audio
Contract

Well, this hasn’t exactly been given the full-on treatment that Vertigo or North by Northwest received in the audio department, and is simply presented in mono. In all it is quite an acceptable mix though, I noticed no issues with audio synch, and dialogue levels are never a problem, except perhaps if you're straining to hear some of the more incidental conversations from the other apartments, as the sound all comes to us from the perspective of being in the apartment along with L.B. Needless to say the surround speakers get some time off to kick back and relax during this film.

The soundtrack from Franz Waxman is reasonably effective, if not a little dull, ranging between jaunty jazzy numbers and softer piano-based tunes - the latter being a part of the story. As is the case with most of Hitchcock's work there are large lapses into musical silence, just another one of the large artillery of suspense tricks he possessed and seemingly understood infinitely better than most any director before his time or since.

  Extras
Contract

A static menu featuring a still from the film introduces us to the disc, complete with that wonderful Alfred Hitchcock Presents ba-dump-ba-da-da-da-bump-ba-dump theme music. In all it isn't a particularly great effort, however at least it isn't silent. It also has that horrible habit of lobbing you straight into the film after a couple of minutes, which I wish would be outlawed.

Making of - Rear Window Ethics – Remembering and Restoring a Hitchcock Classic: Made as recently as 2000, available with or without subtitles and with varying visual quality depending upon what we’re shown at any given time, this is a fabulous 55-minute long feature that goes into much depth in regards to both the film and the restoration work done to give us what has now ended up on this disc. There are interviews with a veritable plethora of people involved with the film, from Paramount promotions people to the art director, from actors in the film to audio excerpts of the great man Hitch himself, to those involved with the incredible restoration work bestowed upon the feature. Featuring many amusing anecdotes from the making of the film and about Hitchcock himself, any fan of the director should simply lap this up.

Featurette:: Also available avec or sans subtitles, this feature runs for just over 13 minutes, and is basically a rather too-short interview with screenwriter John Michael Hayes on his work for Rear Window. Featuring many behind the scenes stills and some culls from the actual film, it is fascinating to hear tales of his first meeting/audition for the writing job with Hitchcock (over dinner), and how the topic of Rear Window wasn’t even brought up! Apparently he thought the dinner didn’t go so well, and was convinced that he wouldn’t get the job – however as we now know the rest is history. Video quality is generally good, however once again this features some stuff from the ‘50s, so perfection is an unrealistic expectation.

Art Gallery: 46 stills in all, including promos, shots from the film, movie posters from around the world in all sorts of languages, and even lobby cards – a seemingly dead artform nowadays. Quality does vary, often seemingly due to the source material, and some of them do appear a little bent or over-cropped on screen. In all this is still well worthy of a look for any fan.

Trailer compilation: Another feature with the option of subtitles, this six-and-a-bit minute long presentation is narrated by Jimmy Stewart, and was made in the ‘80s when five films from “Hitchcock’s private collection” (Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rope, The Trouble With Harry and, of course, Rear Window) were made available for release after around 30 years sequestered away from the public's view. With film footage of varying quality given to us in the correct cinematic ratios, this is another great extra for any Hitch buff to take in, with reasonable video quality.

Theatrical trailer: Hmm… It’s definitely a trailer, it’s almost three minutes in duration, and has a certain charm that is undeniable – complete with special footage of Jimmy Stewart introducing his neighbours from the film. However it is a rather scratchy re-release trailer from the early '60s, so in all I felt a little disappointed that the original release version wasn’t sourced for this release.

4-page booklet with production notes: The packaging states that one of these is included, sadly though I cannot comment on it as one was not supplied with this review copy.

  Overall  
Contract

Sneakily manipulative in the finest Hitchcock style, and managing to present us with an entire gamut of human emotions and inherent foibles all from the vantage point of just the one room, there is good reason that Rear Window is regarded as a classic film. With a near perfectly chosen cast (no, not the one on L.B.'s leg!), a brilliant script courtesy of John Michael Hayes that builds nicely until you suddenly realise that you're completely engrossed in this cinematic universe and a man who was probably the most creative director to have ever lived at the helm of the ship it simply lacks nothing.

Disc-wise we get a pretty sweet deal. The restoration work done on the film is quite remarkable, and whilst the extras department isn’t exactly bursting with things to play with, the documentaries are often fascinating and always entertaining. The only slight letdown is the sound; however once again considering the nature of the entire film its slightly claustrophobic nature is extremely apt.

So it's not perfect visually and sonically, but remember we're dealing with a film that's almost fifty years old, and due to a great lack of care, and indeed respect, was almost lost to future generations as well as ours. If you claim to be a fan of the art of cinema then let there be no doubt, this film is simply an absolute must-see.


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  •  DVD NET Gold Review List 
      And I quote...
    "If you claim to be a fan of the art of cinema then let there be no doubt, this film is simply an absolute must-see..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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