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Rear Window

Paramount Pictures
Voyeurism gives way to sneaking suspicion and high-risk behavior in 1954’s Rear Window, widely considered one of suspense master Alfred Hitchcock’s finest cinematic offerings and often counted among the best films of all time. Based on the 1942 short story “It Had to Be Murder” and two grisly cases Hitchcock plucked from newspapers of the day, the classic zeroes in on photojournalist L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries during a sizzling New York City summer as he resorts to spying on his neighbors through their open windows as a diversion while recuperating from a broken leg. Through his binoculars and telephoto lens, Jeff begins to craft narratives for strangers – Miss Torso (a dancer), Miss Lonelyhearts (a suicidal spinster) and the Songwriter (Ross Bagdasarian, the late actor and musician we can thank for creating Alvin and the Chipmunks). In the process of piecing together an imagined, neighborhood soap opera, he stumbles upon Lars Thorwald (a character Hitchcock allegedly modeled after producer/frenemy David O. Selznick) and comes to the conclusion that he’s murdered and dismembered his wife. Somewhat reluctantly, Jeff’s socialite girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and insurance-appointed nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) get sucked into a DIY detective plot that explores what New York Times critic Bosley Crowther once described as “the impulse of morbid curiosity” and slyly flips the script by using a single set to turn viewers into voyeurs — effectively seducing them away from the monotony of their own lives. Direct inspiration for films such as Body Double (1984), Sliver (1993) and Disturbia (2007), not to mention episodes of The Flintstones, The Simpsons and Family Guy, the four-time Oscar nominee screens this week as part of the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s outdoor Starlight Movies in the Garden series.

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