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Strangers on a Train (1951) Dial M For Murder (1954)
Rear Window (1954) - Selected Alfred Hitchcock
429    Dibyendu Banerjee    19/11/2023

Rear Window (1954), a mystery thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, depicts the story of L B Jeffries, a professional photographer, who is confined to a wheelchair in his second floor apartment in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, with his leg in a heavy cast that runs up to his hip, as he broke his leg while getting an action shot at an auto race. Jeffries is unmarried and has only two regular visitors, his chatty visiting nurse Stella and his fiancée, Lisa Fremont, an elegant model and dress designer, who despairs of ever getting him to commit himself, but he thinks she is too perfect for him. His rear window looks out onto a courtyard and several open windows of other apartments and to stave off boredom, he entertains himself by moving his wheelchair next to the rear window and unethically watches his neighbours, holding his camera with a telephoto lens and moving it from one side to the other, like a movie camera, despite Stella’s warning and predicting trouble of being prosecuted as a Peeping Tom.

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Grace Kelly, as Lisa Fremont

Gradually, Jeff becomes familiar with some of the other tenants, who keep their windows open to stay cool during the intense heat wave. There is a lonely lady, nicknamed Miss Lonely-hearts by Jeff, who throws dinner parties for imaginary gentleman callers, a pretty dancer nicknamed Miss Torso, who throws drinks parties for several guys at a time, a pianist, who is scared about his career, a middle-aged couple, who lower their beloved little dog in a basket to the garden and the dog likes digging in the flower garden and Lars Thorwald, a travelling costume jewellery salesman, whose supposedly bedridden wife spends all her days in bed and makes life miserable for him. As Jeff becomes more and more engrossed in his pursuit of spying on his neighbours, he brings his girlfriend, Lisa Fremont to join him on his voyeuristic thrill. It was all fun, entertainment and recreation until one night, when Jeff witnessed something odd that made him suspicious.

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That night, when a thunderstorm wakes Jeff up at 2 am, he notices Thorwald, the salesman, living in the opposite building, making two trips in the rainy night carrying his briefcase, while his bedroom light remained on all night with the shade drawn. As the man seemed to be worried in the morning, Jeff assumed he was probably worried about his ailing wife and must have been up all night taking her care. But it also appeared to him that the salesman's wife is not in the apartment. However, Jeff watches the salesman wrap a thin saw and a butcher knife in newspaper and then, pack his wife’s dresses into a large trunk. While he pauses to drink and to survey the rear windows across from his apartment, Jeff assumes he is probably sending his ailing wife away for her health reasons. However, Thorwald spends the night in the living room rather than the bedroom and the next morning, two express men take the trunk away. After their departure, Thorwald, the salesman, drinks again and then enters the bedroom to pull up the shade, revealing that the bed is empty.

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His observations made Jeff convinced that the husband has murdered his wife, avoided the bedroom until the large, heavy trunk was gone and wondered if the trunk and the dresses concealed the body of his wife. Although Lisa was frustrated with Jeff's obsession with watching his neighbours, suddenly she becomes interested, as Jeff shares the outcome of his observations and his conviction with Lisa and Stella. While both Lisa and Stella believe him when they observe Thorwald acting suspiciously, Jeff calls his friend, Detective Tom Doyle of New York City Police, to report a possible murder with a request to investigate the apartment of Thorwald. While, Jeff and Stella watch two uniformed deliverymen carry out a rope-wrapped trunk from Thorwald's apartment, they were informed by Tom Doyle in the evening that his investigation of the apartment, in the absence of Thorwald, yielded nothing suspicious. He also informed that although the building superintendent and neighbours reported that Mrs Thornwald was sent to the country for her health, no one saw her leave. A postcard from Mrs Thorwald was found in the mailbox, informing her safe arrival to her husband, but the date of the letter is smudged.

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Soon after, a woman who sleeps on the fire escape yells at the top of her voice in a weeping fit to inform everybody in the neighbourhood that someone has strangled her little dog and broken its neck. Alarmed by her voice, all the neighbours rush to their windows, except for Thorwald, who sits quietly in his dark apartment, which made Jeff certain that Thorwald buried something in the flower bed and killed the dog because it was digging the flower bed. The next day, he hits upon a plan and calls Thorwald's apartment, requesting him to meet him at a bar down the street and when he leaves his apartment, Lisa and Stella grab a shovel and start digging the flower bed, only to find nothing. Since Thorwald is still out, Lisa climbs the fire escape to Thorwald's apartment and squeezes in an open window. In the room, she finds Mrs Thorwald's purse and wedding ring, which she surely would never have left behind on a trip and holds them up for Jeffries to see, but he can only watch in terror as Thorwald returns before Lisa has any chance to escape. As he confronts Lisa, Jeff realizes that Lisa is in danger and immediately calls the police to report an assault in progress in that particular apartment. Luckily, the police arrive before any unpleasant incident, but they arrest Lisa as Thorwald complains that she broke into his apartment. However, before being taken away by police, Lisa flashes her ring finger at Jeff, showing him that she has managed to steal the wedding ring of Mrs Thorwald's wedding ring, indicating that her disappearance is involuntary. But Thorwald notices Lisa signalling to Jeff before the police take her away.

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Lisa flashes her ring finger at Jeff

While Stella runs to the police station with the necessary money to bail Lisa out and Jeff is alone in his apartment, trapped in his wheelchair, Thorwald comes in and attacks Jeff. Finding no other way to protect himself, Jeff sets off a series of camera flashbulbs to temporarily blind him. However, Thorwald pushes Jeff out the window, dangles him from the window and while trying his best to hang on, Jeff yells for help. Nevertheless, Police enter the apartment and one of them tries to pull back Thorwald, but Jeff falls and broke his unbroken leg. On the other side of the story, Thorwald, under police custody, confesses to murdering his wife, disposing of her body in the East River and killing the dog for digging where her head was buried, which he later moved to a hatbox.

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A few days later the heat has lifted. The camera pans across the other apartments to show the couple whose dog was killed has a new puppy, the newlyweds are having their first argument, Miss Lonely-hearts starts seeing the pianist and Thorwald's apartment is being refurbished, while Jeff rests in his wheelchair, now with casts on both legs. The camera also shows Lisa sitting on the bed and reading a book called Beyond the High Himalayas, but once she sees Jeff asleep, she puts down the book and picks up Harper's Bazaar, a fashion magazine.

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Considered by several critics and scholars to be one of Hitchcock's best and one of the greatest films ever made, Rear Window (1954), starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly, was screened at the 1954 Venice Film Festival. It received four Academy Award nominations and during its initial theatrical run, earned $5.3 million in North American box office rentals. However, despite big box-office success and four Oscar nominations, Rear Window failed to score a best picture Oscar nomination, any acting nominations and most surprisingly, a nomination for the fantastic set design. The entire movie was shot on one set and the apartment-courtyard set measured ninety-eight feet wide, one hundred eighty-five feet long, and forty feet high, consisting of thirty-one apartments, eight of which were completely furnished. Nevertheless, it was added to the National Film Registry in 1997 and ranked 42 among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies. Much later, in 2007, the American Film Institute ranked Rear Window as the 48th Greatest Movie of All Time.

Strangers on a Train (1951) Dial M For Murder (1954)
Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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