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Rear Window (1954) - Blu-ray Review - UK

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Rear Window (1954) - Blu-ray Review

5 stars

Alfred Hitchcock has many classics under his none-too-skinny belt, but arguably none are as universally beloved as the 1954 thriller Rear Window.

Based on the short story by writer Cornell Woolrich called ‘It Had to Be Murder’, Hitchcock guided new screenwriter John Michael Hayes through the first of his four collaborations. A set was built inside Paramount studios so big it required the floor to be gutted out and built in the basement up to the rafters. Hitchcock regulars Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly would lead a stellar cast, and for the (then) princely sum of one million dollars (I hear Dr Evil) the cameras rolled on what is still considered to be one of the finest lessons in tension ever committed to screen.

Jeff, Adventurer/photographer (Jimmy Stewart), is laid up with a broken leg in his Greenwich Village apartment during a heatwave, due to his rather colourful occupation, and staves off boredom in an apartment complex by watching his neighbours through their open windows. His constant purveying takes a sinister turn one night when he hears the wife of a rather stern looking neighbour cry ‘Don’t!’ followed by the sound of broken glass. He then witnesses said neighbour leave several times, carrying a suspicious suitcase, clean a knife and saw off in his apartment, and have removalists collect a rather large trunk. Convinced a murder has occurred, Jeff ropes in his socialite girlfriend (Kelly), his nurse, and a none-too receptive policeman to investigate. Curiosity killed the cat being the furthest thing from his mind.

There is everything in this movie a person could want. You have characters of depth, themes both central and ancillary to the central plot that allow you to empathise with the characters and fear for them once fate is tempted. It’s relatable; it uses devices organic to the situation to ramp up the tension (and boy does it), tightening moments to a white knuckle finish perfectly. The hero is flawed but loveable, the heroine a mix of old world ideals and feminist flourishes (and she’s just a lot of fun and still one of the most beautiful women to ever—ahem—grace the screen), a menacing, detached and formidable villain, and a group of actors in support or bit parts that balance the film perfectly. This reviewer’s favourite, however, is Thelma Ritter’s nurse, a mix of hard-nosed pragmatist and uncanny intuitive. Her interactions and warnings to Stewart’s Jeff are the highlight of the picture.

The sets have an old world charm that is lost these days, but the sophistication of both the set design and the lighting (which apparently covered: morning, afternoon, dusk, and night) are still pretty impressive. The forced perspective set is unlike anything ever seen then or since, and provided a certain authenticity, making us, through Hitchcock’s subjective lens, a voyeur right alongside Jimmy Stewart with ease.

Music was kept to a bare minimum, with the director letting his world’s ambience flavour the film. It works well in keeping things relatable, without any leading accompaniment, and highlights just how good the script and performances are in ratcheting up the tension.

The film has an overwhelming critical recommendation for a reason. It truly is a master class in how to make a thriller. 60 years on, all of its themes and people are as relatable today as they were back then. It’s on all the lists for a reason. If you see one Hitchcock film this year (you’re crazy and denying yourself!) make it this one. Perfection.

Rear Window (1954) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
112 mins
Director
: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer:
John Michael Hayes
Cast:
James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey
Genre
: Mystery | Thriller
Tagline:
In deadly danger...because they saw too much!
Memorable Movie Quote: "When two people love each other, they come together - WHAM - like two taxis on Broadway."
Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
August 4, 1954
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 6, 2014
Synopsis: A wheelchair bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

Rear Window (1954) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - May 6, 2014
Screen Formats: 1.66:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono (48kHz, 24-bit); French: DTS Mono; Spanish: DTS Mono
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

This movie was restored in the late 90s for preservation purposes, and they have done a spectacular job, by all account, considering the state of the camera negative. Having said that, in the world of high definition, and the continuing reinvention of restoration in the digital age, I’ve gotta say this film could benefit from another go around.

This is not to say that the 1080p VC-1 isn’t a striking looking picture for its time, but there were some instances of inconsistent colour timing and the occasional blurry image (opening scene being one of them). Flesh tones, probably most of the rich colours, are probably accurate to the source, but could use a little TLC. Detail, by and large, is incredible: every blade of grass, brick, and railing bursts of the screen like you’ve never seen it. Blacks smack of modern retouching and are deep and inky. It’s as good a version of this film as has ever been laid eyes on.

Sound is a DTS-HD 2 channel mono mix that is more robust than you might think. Your rears are not going to fly off their stands by any means, but the mix provides crisp dialogue, and a surprisingly layered ambience of the city in the background that makes one wonder what a 5.1 mix might accomplish.

Special features for the 60th Anniversary Edition are all ported over from previous DVD or Blu Ray releases. They are copious, generous, but ultimately there’s no new content and no HD content at all. Not really that surprising for a title of this vintage, but something new would have been welcomed for such an impressive milestone year. Slipcase with a shitty photo-shopped cover that matches the case cover included in my review copy.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Audio commentary with author John Farwell

Special Features:

  • Rear Window Ethics: Remembering and Restoring a Hitchcock Classic
  • Masters of Cinema
  • A Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes
  • Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of the Master
  • Breaking Barriers: The Sound of Hitchcock
  • Hitchcock-Truffaut Interview Excerpts
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical and Re-Release Trailers

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