FILM by Shane “Peeping Tom” Hnetka
“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.” —Jeff’s nurse, Stella, in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Rear Window
It’s weird how the our attitudes to voyeurism have changed in such a short time. People who once snooped on their close neighbours now creep their friends on the Internet. And what was once considered exhibitionism has become acceptable as we all parade about with our virtual blinds up. Every move we make is monitored and tracked. And yet, some people still try and get away with murrrder.
“Suspense Of Screaming Proportions!”
Murder and voyeurism were both much simpler 60 years ago, as Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Rear Window demonstrates. And you can see for yourself, as Hitchcock’s 1954 masterpiece is playing at the Galaxy theatre twice this month: once on Sunday Sept. 13 and again on Monday Sept. 21. The screenings are part of Cineplex’s awesome Classic Film Series, which has been entertaining film fans for five years, showing one classic film every month. The best news: in celebration of the half-decade, both Rear Window screenings will be free instead of the usual $6.
In Rear Window, Jimmy Stewart is Jeffries, a magazine photographer sidelined with a broken leg who’s confined to a wheelchair until it heals. Stuck in his apartment with nothing to do, he spends his days staring out his window, which overlooks an apartment complex. Using his telephoto lens, he observes the various goings-on in other people’s homes. To put it bluntly, he’s spying on his neighbours.
One night, Jeff hears a scream. The next day, Mrs. Thornwald is nowhere to be seen. Only Jeff’s classy girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and nurse (Thelma Ritter) can help the incapacitated cameraman find evidence of what might or might not be … murrrder.
“I’m not much on rear window ethics.”
One of Rear Window’s great strengths is that it’s all shot from inside Jeff’s apartment and the audience only sees what Stewart can see from his window. Tension quietly builds — did Jefferies see something or didn’t he? Are Mr. Thornwald’s (Raymond Burr) large knives destined for a nefarious purpose? What happened to the dog?
Hitchcock had used the one-set gimmick before, in both his 1944 movie Lifeboat (entirely set in, duh, a lifeboat) and again in 1948’s Rope, which takes place in a living room. Rear Window works better than either. There’s no chase scenes or gun battles but when Lisa sneaks into Thornwald’s apartment looking for evidence, the tension builds as both Stewart and the audience are forced to helplessly watch what unfolds.
Hitchcock directed a lot of brilliant movies but Rear Window is one of his best. And it’s free! See it.
No More Nightmares
One of the masters of horrors has passed away. Wes Craven died Aug. 30 from brain cancer. Craven directed many horror films over the years from his first movie, The Last House on the Left to his more famous ones such A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. Personally my favourite film of his was always the underrated People Under the Stairs. He changed the face of horror and he will be missed.
Shane Hnetka is a Regina film and comic book nerd. Read his weekly “Sunday Matinee” column at prairiedogmag.com.