Window Shopper

After World War II, prospering city living clustered everyone together. Heat intensified. People turned into a, “race of peeping toms,” as Stella (Thelma Ritter) notes, simplifying the ‘50s Red scare down to a single line.

Rear Window assumes the worst of people. Hitchock wasn’t known for feel good stories; Rear Window didn’t change anything. Photographer LB Jefferies (Jimmy Stewart) looks out from his two room apartment at New York’s wildly diverse lifestyles. Musicians, dancers, lovers, murderers… all collected in a few rooms, all within speaking distance to one another. And yet, totally isolated. The only communication is angrily rejected, the only contact involving a dead dog.

This is less a story about windows than mirrors. Jefferies wonders about his own life, whether he can continue dating Lisa (Grace Kelly), since she’s the most luxurious thing to enter his feeble apartment. Rear Window confines Jefferies to a wheelchair, in a position only to consider what might be, as seen through his voyeuristic binoculars. And really, he doesn’t even need those; he’s close enough to see anything with the naked eye, but there’s a need, an urge to get closer. Eventually, that decidedly human want turned into reality TV. In the 1950s, society provided.

Rear Window works for immigrants, race, or gender; anything people are told to fear…

Across the way, there’s a beautiful dancer who wears few clothes – a perversion Jefferies wishes for. If he rejects Lisa, maybe she becomes the lonely woman on the first floor, pantomiming dates. There’s the party man who never seems to enjoy the crowds, a social life a woman like Lisa might bring. Or, there’s the nagging wife, stressful and needy enough to warrant a murder. Maybe. As a veteran, there’s no doubt Jefferies killed before as an ex-pilot. A mushroom cloud photo hangs on his wall. Crowded apartment living means there’s no elevation between targets though.

Paranoia spreads. It’s alluring. What begins as a theory designed by boredom soon draws Lisa into the mystery. Then the nurse. Imagine this at greater scale, and in comes Rear Window’s encapsulation of the Red Scare. Rear Window works for immigrants, race, or gender; anything people are told to fear, they’ll find or amplify the worst of.

The twist? Jefferies is right. Totally. Every thought, every idea, every theory. Suspicion pays off, but Rear Window introduces constant doubt. The facts don’t add up, or the killer covered his work. Morality weighs on this story, Jefferies is a hero, but his actions sinister in their effectiveness. Privacy is an uncertain right.

Video

A complex source juggles absolute clarity and purposeful focus. Some dips in clarity happen in-camera, others in attempting to keep the color in sync, and at times, the mastering adds overly heavy processing to keep consistency. Rear Window jumps between extremes, if generally held up by persistent filmic texture.

Universal’s encoding handles the grain structure, resolved naturally even against the brightest color (Kelly’s green outfit poses a definite challenge). Exquisite texture makes full use of the resolution, giving Stewart’s sweaty brow incredible definition in close. The masterful studio set is revealed down to individual bricks.

Glamorous saturation lets every color glow. Flesh tones appear gorgeous, warmed but pure. A garden sports richly hued flowers and lush greens. Red bricks bring out spectacular density. An early sunset produces an orange at peak richness.

HDR adds to impeccable shadows, especially during the climactic scene as Stewart and Burr cover themselves in darkness. Absolute black is achieved. Delicate highlights shine on wine glasses, off camera lenses, and enhance daylight exteriors. Subtle, but stunning.

Audio

In DTS-HD, there’s enough fidelity to keep this mix up to date. Flawless clarity manages each line’s consistency, short of a few likely dubbed in post. Stewart’s whispers over the phone remain as audible as the louder screams, and at the same purity.

While there’s no questioning the age, this is premium restoration work.

Extras

Both the UHD and Blu-ray contain the same bonuses, but watch this material on the Blu-ray (except for author John Fawell’s commentary). Universal coats SD sources (even taped sources) with blinding HDR, blowing out colors and contrast.

A nearly hour-long documentary explores the film, and writer John Michael Hayes carries on a conversation about Rear Window for 13-minutes. An episode of Pure Cinema focuses on Hitchcock for 25-minutes, and Breaking Barriers details Hitchcock’s use of sound (over 23-minutes). An interview snippet between Hitchcock and Trouffaut lasts 16-minutes. Spend 33-minutes on a Master of Cinema episode, followed by a photo gallery and trailers.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Rear Window
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Rear Window’s relentless paranoia captures post-war America in a confined, tension-driven space.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 48 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: