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Rear Window: Collector's Edition

Rear Window is arguably Alfred Hitchcock's most beloved film. That's because it is the last gasp of prestige Hollywood cinema, one of the last of the great studio films before the full impact of television, the Consent Decree, new technology, and other factors were fully visited on the industry. This kind of delightful, deceptively light Hollywood film saw its final farewell in Hitchcock's own North by Northwest just a few years later. With its wit, delicacy, visual style, density, and music, Rear Window is a rich, fully felt experience. This is the movie people mean when they say that don't make movies like they used to. Released in 1954 by Paramount, the film offers a compelling story and illustrates how a director can triumph over an intriguing self-imposed aesthetic challenge. Rear Window concerns a Life magazine photographer named L. B . "Jeff" Jeffries (James Stewart), laid up in his Greenwich Village apartment with a broken leg after a work-related injury, who, while fending off his high society girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly), begins to suspect that the traveling salesman on the other side of his rear courtyard, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), has murdered and disposed of his wife. The film explores some of the responsibilities and consequences of our curiosity. It's about the subterranean life beneath the surface of our society, the world that few see. "That's a secret private world you're looking at out there," Jeffries's cop friend Doyle tells him. Beneath it's surface, the film is a tense examination of the way we really are. It's not a flattering portrait. The sterility of the long lens Jeffries uses both intrudes intensely into the midst of human drama, yet keeps a cold distance. Universal's transfer of the restored print is beautiful, if still inevitably flawed, as explained by restoration producer James C. Katz, and the very busy restoration artist Robert Harris in one of the accompanying documentaries. It's an anamorphic widescreen (1.66:1) transfer that captures most of the Technicolor beauty of the original, with good blacks, but it's contrasty, grainy, and has minor speckles throughout. The original negative was a victim of yellow-layer fading, a problem explained in the documentary on this disc, and was repaired during the creation of a new negative. Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono) that has not been remixed, though it has been cleaned up. For the most part it is adequate, with only occasional moments where the dialogue sounds a little shredded. There are two documentaries on the disc — "Rear Window Ethics: Remembering and Restoring a Hitchcock Classic" directed by Laurent Bouzereau, provides info about both the film's production history and the recent restoration; and the 13-minute featurette "Screenwriter John Michael Hayes on Rear Window," which gives the screenwriter's version of how the movie came about. Also included are two trailers: a re-release theatrical trailer from 1962, when the movie was paired with Psycho, and a six-minute group re-release trailer for Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Trouble With Harry, Rope, and Rear Window, narrated by James Stewart, from 1983. Production notes, talent files, still gallery with score. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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