The Window (1949)

Synopsis:

A young boy (Bobby Driscoll, So Dear to My Heart) watches his neighbors kill a man. Because he is a compulsive liar, the boy’s parents don’t believe me. When the killers find out that the boy saw the crime, they decide to get rid of the kid.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“…I promise I’ll never make up another story.”

Although time and imitation have eroded some of its ability to invoke fear, RKO’s nifty (and influential) little thriller, The Window, remains an enjoyable exercise in noirish suspense. The film’s surprisingly good cast elevates the movie a few notches.

Based on Cornell Woolrich’s short story The Boy Cried Murder, The Window makes the most of a limited budget. Cameraman-turned-director Ted Tetzlaff (The Talk of the Town and The Enchanted Cottage) creates a marvelously economical, stylish, fast-paced suspense movie that delivers plenty of chills and thrills.

One of the most interesting aspects of this film is that it presents the city as a claustrophobic, unloving, forbidden place. Some scenes were shot in a soundstage, but most of the movie was filmed on location. The depiction of urban areas as a disorderly netherworld greatly adds to the overall atmosphere of dread.

Robert De Grasse’s (The Body Snatcher) b&w cinematography is superb. De Grasse seems to have learned a thing or two from his partnership with producer Val “Master of Shadows” Lewton — each scene is set up in deliciously chiaroscuro fashion. Tetzlaff was an excellent cameraman too (he shot Hitchcock’s Notorious), so you get two great cinematographers for the price of one!

Although child star Bobby Driscoll’s performance is a bit too high-pitched for my taste, he does convey the proper amount of fear and anxiety — he received the Oscar for Best Juvenile Performance of the Year. The young actor has first-rate support from Barbara Hale (TV’s Perry Mason), Arthur Kennedy (Elmer Gantry), Paul Stewart (Citizen Kane) and Ruth Roman (Strangers on a Train).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

The Window may not look like much today, but seven decades ago, this thriller broke new ground. This downbeat movie announced that terrible things were happening inside people’s homes. Hitchcock’s similarly-themed classic thriller Rear Window, which was also based on a Cornell Woolrich story, is much more polished, but The Window is pretty effective too. Remade in 1984 as Cloak & Dagger. B&W, 73 minutes, Not Rated.

4 responses to “The Window (1949)

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