DOUBLE BILL #1 Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958)

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A while ago, I wrote an article about the many similarities and differences between All About Eve (1950) and Sunset Boulevard (1950). It wasn’t really a comparison piece per se, just a post about two of my favorite movies, which happen to be quite often associated with one another for a number of reasons. And that got me thinking. A lot of movies often go hand-in-hand in movie buffs’ minds, and I thought it would be a nice idea to write a series of posts about that. I meant to start this a lot sooner – I wrote the Eve/Sunset piece about a year ago -, but now I have finally decided to follow through with it. So, here it is, the first instalment of my DOUBLE BILL series of posts: Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). For the record, this is not meant to start a war. These are just the thoughts of a movie buff.

Rear Window and Vertigo are two of The Master’s greatest and most beloved movies. Not to mention that they are arguably the two best Hitch/Jimmy Stewart movies of the four they made together. And because it’s Hitchcock, they share a lot of the same themes and motifs. You know, the usual ones. Suspense, mystery, icy blondes, perfect shots, you name it. However, there’s more to them than just that.

In both Rear Window and Vertigo, obsession leads to trouble. Although you can argue that both of them deal with very different types of obsession. In Rear Window, Jimmy Stewart is obsessed with watching his neighbours. This leads to him finding out something he shouldn’t have found out. In Vertigo, he’s obsessed with the memory of Madeleine (Kim Novak). His obsession makes him do… well, obsessive things. However, in Rear Window, Jeff’s obsession is due to boredom at having to stay at home – the whole thing might just be a metaphor for his relationship with Lisa (Grace Kelly), depending on how you want to look at it and how deep you think it might be. In Vertigo, his obsession is psychotic. It’s deeper. And sicker. Vertigo is like the culmination of every Hitchcock movie and every theme ever used in every Hitchcock movie. And it is definitely the darker one of the two. Rear Window, however, has always been my favorite. But I will agree that, objectively, Vertigo might be the better movie. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s the greatest movie ever made, like Sight&Sound did, but it is perhaps Hitchcock’s masterpiece (if you can pick just one!). Vertigo messes with your head and when it finally clears it all up for you, it delivers the ultimate comeuppance. It’s an incredibly satisfying resolution. On the other hand, the scene with Jeff and Thorwald (Raymond Burr) in Rear Window is one of the most thrilling scenes of all time. When Thorwald looks up at Jeff when he sees that Lisa is wearing his wife’s ring, you know it’s on. You know it’s going to be awesome. That whole scene in Jeff’s apartment is the reason why Alfred Hitchcock is called the Master of Suspense. No matter how many times you watch it, it’s always unbelievably exciting.

There are so many overlapping, intertwining themes in both of them, all drenched in metaphors, that one could analyze them forever. As I’m sure movie buffs will continue to do ’til the end of time.

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16 thoughts on “DOUBLE BILL #1 Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958)

  1. “this is not meant to start a war” Hahahaha Carol! 😛

    Very interesting post and very great idea! Of course, many Hitchcock’s films can be compared as they often use similar themes as you brilliantly proved it in your article. The “obsession”, yes, is a key element in both films. Actually, I hadn’t really realized it was the case for Rear Window before I read your article, but now I do! By the way, in this idea, have you seen Brian de Palma’s Obsession?

    I would also compare Vertigo to another one, To Catch a Thief, for the colourful images.

    And there’s always so much to say about Hitchcock’s films in general, I’m glad you chose two of them for your first double bill!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! Rear Window was my first Hitchcock, and it was a recommendation from my grandmother. I couldn’t have started with a better movie! I loved how you put the two chracters’ obsessions side by side.
    Have you heard about the Hitchcock 50 online course TCM will offer this summer?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Mike

    Great idea comparing films Carol, looking for mores of these. You couldn’t have picked a better pair. You’re right-they’re 2 of Hitch’s best. Rear Window might be more entertaining but Vertigo is the one that has stayed with me more over the years

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Two of his best films. I love both and never tire of watching them. Although featuring very different stories, they are similar due to the deep obsession of the two lead characters(both played by James Stewart). Their mutual obsession threatens to destroy what they each hold dear.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The perfect double bill for Hitchcock. To your engaging comparison, I can add that both films are obsessed with the gaze and the anxiety produced by looking. Laura Mulvey’s article on the male gaze argues that in classical film men look and women are poised for being looked at. Both films illustrate this with emphasis on the danger of obsessive gazing. My favorite aspect of Vertigo is Midge, who looks back. From her glasses that show her looking to the painting she does, Midge shows Scottie that some women do look back, and this sends Scottie away: he wants to be the one in power, the one who looks. He can’t handle an equal relationship and it becomes his doom!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. caracoleta07

    I haven’t yet watched Rope and I didn’t fully appreciate Vertigo when I saw it but I agree with your assesment that these were the best two works that came out of the partnership between Jimmy and Hitchcock.

    I like that you pointed out ‘obsession’ and the common link between the two movies. I hadn’t thought of that.

    I do preffer Rear Window as well. Everything about it is great.As you pointed out that scene is so masterfully done…! As you’re watching it you’re equal parts dread and expectation.

    I’m glad that for you it was “an incredibly satisfying resolution”, because to younger me wasn’t wasn’t much satisfied with the ending. I definitely have to watch it again to see how I feel about it now.

    Liked by 1 person

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