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Rear Window (1954)

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Any year is a good year to reintroduce filmgoers to an Alfred Hitchcock film. As welcome as was last year's return of North by Northwest is Universal's rerelease of Hitchcock's 1954 classic comedy-thriller, Rear Window. James Stewart plays a photographer named Jeffries, who, bored with being stuck in his apartment wearing a leg cast, spies on his neighbors. He deduces that Thorwald (Raymond Burr in a bit of casting that cleverly plays on/reverses his Perry Mason persona) has murdered his invalid wife. Stewart, at the time of the film, had already begun taking the kinds of roles that were the flip side of Mr. Smith. The actor seamlessly plays each moment, whether observing the other characters in their respective apartments or participating with the two characters -- his girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly), and an insurance company nurse (Thelma Ritter) -- who eventually share his voyeurism. The story owes its timeless appeal to screenwriter John Michael Hays (who adapted Cornell Woolrich's novella) and Hitchcock's masterful photography. The set, a courtyard surrounded by everyone's rear windows, offers glimpses into a myriad of lives and resembles a modern still-life, which Franz Waxman's jazzy score reinforces. A helicopter hovering over one of the buildings looks light years away from the crop-duster planes of North by Northwest, but all else in Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz's restoration works like a kiss to the big screen. (PG) Rating: 10

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