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Following a chance meeting with a beautiful young woman, a forty-something professor unwittingly becomes involved in murder and blackmail while his family is away on vacation. Robinson is wonderful as always as the professor who is in over his head because of a moment's indiscretion. Bennett looks stunningly beautiful as the kind of woman who can lead any man astray. Duryea is appropriately slimy as a blackmailer. Lang is at the top of his form in this atmospheric and efficiently made film noir. Some feel cheated by the ending but it is actually quite clever. Interestingly enough, Lang reunited with Robinson, Bennett, and Duryea in his next film, "Scarlet Street."
Woman in the Window (1944)
A methodical movie about a methodical cover-up. Edgar G. Robinson is the perfect actor for a steady, rational man having to face the crisis of a murder, and Fritz Lang, who has directed murderousness before, knows also about darkness and fear. There are no flaws in the reasoning, and if there is a flaw to the movie, it is it's very methodical perfection. Even the flaws are perfect, the mistakes made and how they are shown.
We all at one time or another get away with something, large or small. And this law-abiding man finds himself trapped. He has to succeed, and you think he might. Part of me kept saying, I wouldn't do that, or don't be a fool. But part of me said, it's inevitable, he'll fail, we all would fail. So the movie moves with a steady thoughtful pace. It talks a lot for an American crime film, but it also has the best of night scenes--rainy streets with gleaming dark streets, hallways with glass windows and harsh light, and dark woods (for the body, of course). But there are dull moments, some odd qualities like streets with no parked cars at all, and a leading woman who is a restrained femme fatale, which isn't the best. And then there are twists and suspicions, dodges and subterfuges. And of course Dan Duryea, who makes a great small-time chiseler.
This is a movie that does a superb job of building suspense. It has wonderful actors such as E. G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey, Dan Duryea and other fine supporting actors who work hard at telling a great story. The brilliant musical score helps tell the story and convey the suspense. BUT, after about 95 minutes of brilliance, the movie is ruined by a cop-out, cliche type of ending. Very disappointing. The fine actors who were in this film and the audiences both in the theatres and on TV deserved much more than this "dumb" finale.......
The Woman in the Window is directed by Fritz Lang and adapted by
Nunnally Johnson from the novel "Once off Guard" written by J.H.
Wallis. It stars Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey & Dan
Duryea. Music is by Arthur Lange and Milton R. Krasner is the
After admiring a portrait of Alice Reed (Bennett) in the storefront window of the shop next to his Gentleman's Club, Professor Richard Wanley (Robinson) is shocked to actually meet her in person on the street. It's a meeting that leads to a killing, recrimination and blackmail.
Time has shown The Woman in the Window to be one of the most significant movies in the film noir cycle. It was part of the original group identified by Cahiers du Cinéma that formed the cornerstone of film noir (the others were The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, Laura and Murder My Sweet). Its reputation set in stone, it's a film that boasts many of the key noir ingredients: man meets woman and finds his life flipped upside down, shifty characters, a killing, shadows and low lights, and of course an atmosphere thick with suspense. Yet the ending to this day is divisive and, depending what side of the camp you side with, it makes the film either a high rank classic noir or a nearly high rank classic noir. Personally it bothers me does the finale, it comes off as something that Rod Serling could have used on The Twilight Zone but decided to discard. No doubt to my mind that had Lang put in the ending from the source, this would be a 10/10 movie, for everything else in it is top draw stuff.
At its core the film is about the dangers of stepping out of the normal, a peril of wish fulfilment in middle age, with Lang gleefully smothering the themes with the onset of a devilish fate and the stark warning that being caught just "once off guard" can doom you to the unthinkable. There's even the odd Freudian interpretation to sample. All of which is aided by the excellent work of Krasner, who along with his director paints a shadowy world consisting of mirrors, clocks and Venetian blinds. The cast are very strong, strong enough in fact for Robinson, Bennett and Duryea to re-team with Lang the following year for the similar, but better, Scarlet Street, while Lang's direction doesn't miss a beat.
A great film regardless of the Production Code appeasing ending, with its importance in the pantheon of film noir well deserved. But you sense that watching it as a companion piece to Scarlet Street, that Lang finally made the film that this sort of story deserved. The Woman in the Window: essential but not essentially the best of its type. 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have to disagree with all the people who say that the ending spoils the whole movie. In my opinion, it is just the opposite: the end makes the whole film much better. First of all, it is the only way to make the whole thing realistic. Is it possible to believe that a professor -supposed to be an intelligent person- would react to a murder in the way he does, i.e., getting rid of the body, when it would have been very easy for him to prove his innocence? Furthermore, is it logical his suggestion of killing the blackmailer? Of course, it could all have been that way, but then it would not have been such a realistic film as it actually is; it would have been a good thriller, but nothing more. Actually, it is a thriller, but also a deep description of the human mind. All the "thriller" is a description of the professor's hidden desires and fears. Some interesting details: -When he is giving a lecture at the beginning of the film, the name of Sigmund Freud is written on the blackboard. Freud's theories are the key of the film. -During all the dream, whenever the professor appears in his house, portraits of his wife and children are visible. This shows once again his fears and his state of mind.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Woman in the Window has an ending almost guaranteed to infuriate
you the first time you see the movie, and, the second time, to leave
you with an immensely satisfied smile.
"The man who kills in self defense, for instance, must not be judged by the same standards applied to a man who kills for gain." So says middle-aged and happily married Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson), professor of criminal psychology, to his class at Gotham College. Wanley is about to put his dictum to the test. When his wife and their two young children leave for a brief vacation, he dines at his club with two old friends, one a doctor and the other, Frank Lalor (Raymond Massey), the district attorney. Wanley bemoans his increasingly middle-aged life. "I hate this solidity," he says with a rueful smile, "this stodginess I'm beginning to feel. To me, it's the end of the brightness of life, the end of spirit and adventure." His two friends leave and he settles in, before returning to his empty home, with one last brandy and The Song of Songs. When he leaves the club late in the evening he stops, as he often has, and gazes at the portrait in the window of the gallery next door. The woman is lovely...beautiful, with a challenge in her eyes and a gaze that looks right at you. When a voice asks him for a light for her cigarette, the professor turns and is stunned to see that the voice belongs to the woman who posed for the portrait. Alice Reed (Joan Bennett) sometimes stops by the gallery to see the reaction of men when they look at her portrait. The two somehow wind up at a quiet bar, talk and then the professor escorts her to her apartment in a taxi. She invites him up and shows him sketches the artist made of her before painting her portrait. She seems genuinely friendly and honest and the professor apparently has no intention of becoming an adulterer. But when an angry man breaks into her apartment, slaps Alice Reed and attacks Professor Wanley, it's only a matter of seconds before the man is dead, stabbed by Wanley in the back with a pair of scissors handed him by Alice. Professor Wanley's life now begins to spin out of his control.
He decides to say nothing to the police. He leaves Alice and returns with his car. With her help he gets the body into the back seat and drives it to a deserted parkway, where he disposes of it in the underbrush. The man turns out to be a powerful businessman who had been seeing Alice regularly two or three times a week. The Professor's friend Lalor takes charge of the investigation and invites Wanley to accompany him, thinking the professor of criminology will be interested in how the case is slowly being built up to identify the murderer. Wanley keeps making little errors and mistakes...a ripped coat, a scratched wrist, a tire track in the mud, a slip of the tongue that seems to say Wanley knows more than he should. Lalor begins to look curiously at his old friend. And then the bodyguard (Dan Duryea) of the dead man turns up. He blackmails Alice, who must ask Wanley for help. This time Wanley reluctantly begins to think of murder.
The Woman in the Window is a fine noir. Some may think it's just the opening act for Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street, filmed the following year with the same three stars, Robinson, Bennett and Duryea. Scarlet Street is a classic, drenched in casual cruelty, loneliness and sadness. The Woman in the Window starts out as a classic noir. Professor Wanley is a man of good intentions whom we like and who finds himself moving in situations well beyond his capability. Joan Bennett's Alice Reed, however, is no Kitty March. Alice may be a kept woman, but she wants to do the right thing as long as she doesn't get in trouble. And she seems genuinely to like and even respect the Professor. Dan Duryea, of course, is a rotter, but he's at least straight forward here. He wants money; he doesn't seem to delight in hitting women. It makes for a movie which puts a premium on the skill of the actors to bring us along with them as events conspire against them. Few were better at this than Edward G. Robinson and, in my opinion, the under-appreciated Joan Bennett.
So we have a first class noir...and then Fritz Lang pulls the rug out from under us. To fully appreciate The Woman in the Window -- trust me -- you'll need to see it a second time. How about making that second time a double feature? Have some friends over and play Scarlet Street first, then The Woman in the Window. Keep them in that order. You'll have a great main course, and then a great desert.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just a great film. I actually watched (not through choice) the colourised version of this classic film noir, and while that's a debate in itself, I must admit I was seduced by the ochres and browns employed here and wasn't distracted at all by their use. I'm a great fan of Fritz Lang's oeuvre and unlike other critics here no way accept a diminution in his skills when he crossed the pond to Hollywood. I mean pick any one from "Fury", "You only live Once", "Scarlet Street" and this, as entertaining a thriller / fantasy film as you could ever hope to see. I prefer to think that like his great contemporary Hitchcock, he adapted superbly to the mores of the Hollywood studios and generated a great body work almost the equal of "The Master", who don't forget had more pull with the studios, meaning bigger budgets and stars at his disposal to more convincingly project his artistic vision. The story here is of course a cautionary one, "be careful what you wish for" as Edward G Robinson realises every safe middle aged man's fantasy as his dream girl, the alluring Joan Bennett comes to life right on cue to bring some glamour and excitement to his bookish existence. Besides the two leads excellent portrayals, I was impressed by Dan Duryea as the blackmailing heavy but good as the cast are, it's Lang's manipulation of them which attracts most admiration. Okay the "Dallas" meets "Wizard of Oz" ending might seem a bit of a cop-out but that would be griping over next to nothing. This is great Hollywood film noir and thoroughly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Psychology professor Richard Wanley played by Edward G.
Robibson, who seems to be sleepwalking throughout the entire movie,
gets a lot more then he expected when he becomes infatuated with a
portrait of a woman Alice Reed, Joan Bennett,in a art display window as
she suddenly comes out of the shadows and into his life. Taking Alice
out for a drink at a local night club Richard is invited to her
apartment to more or less chit chat, Richard is married with children,
and nothing else.
After getting to know each other a little better all of a sudden this wild man bursts into Alice's apartment and almost like a robot, the guy looked like he was under hypnosis, attacks Richard ringing his neck. Alice coming to Richard's rescue hands him a pair of scissors where he ends up stabbing the unhinged and crazy guy to death. It turns out that the dead man is a Frank Howard, Arthur Loft, who's been having an affair with Alice and lost it when he found her alone in her apartment with another man. An open and shut case of self defense Richard together with Alice instead of calling the police choose to practically implicate themselves in a murder that they really didn't commit. The two decide to transport Howard's body by automobile to the wilds of upstate New York and dump it there where it would, hopefully for them, be found days if not weeks later decomposed and unorganizable.
Things don't go exactly as planned for Richard and Alice with Frank Howard turning out to be Wall Street financier Claude Mazard with the police having an all points bulletin looking to find him within 24 hours of his disappearance. Richard also messed up in his disposing of Mazard's body by both inuring himself, Richard cut his hand on a barbwire fence, and leaving his both shoe and tire prints at the scene. There's also the fact that Mazard's body was found in tact and identifiable the very next day by former "Little Rascal" and now eagle scout Spanky McFarland with all the evidence of Richard being there in tact as well.
Despite all the facts pointing towards Richard and him subconsciously blurting out facts about Mazard's killing that would have him at least arrested for questioning by the police his friend District Attorney Frank Lolar, Raymond Massey, doesn't seem to catch on and gives him a more or less free pass in Mazard's death. It's when this blackmailing sleaze-ball and Mazard's former bodyguard Heidt, Dan Duryea, pops up that things really get hot for Richard & Alice. Heidt wants a cool $5,000.00 from Alice, he's not really sure who her accomplice his, for him to keep his mouth shut about her involvement in Mazard's death, somehow Heidt put two and two together, or else he'll rat her out to the police. Alice and Richard in turn plan to do Heidt in by having him invited to Alice's place for the evening and then spiking his drink with a lethal dose of sleeping pills.
Like everything Richard and Alice planned in their "perfect crime" this also backfires as well with Heidt getting the drop on what Alice was up to and taking off with the full $5,000.00, she offered him $2,900.00, after slapping her around for trying to hoodwink as well as kill him. On top of all that Heitd wants another $5,000.00 or else he'll rat her, and eventually Richard, out to the police where they both can very well end up in the Sing Sing electric chair. Richard getting the news from Alice that everything is now kaput and that he'll together with her will soon be arrested goes home and downs a bottle of crushed sleeping pills, in his wine, waiting for the or his end to come.
It's when everything looks like it's going down hill for Richard and Alice that Heidt ends up getting shot and killed by the police for what seemed like him running a red light! You now wonder if the news, with Alice being on he scene of Heidt's shooting, will get to Richard before he ends up killing himself! It's then when the movie finally starts to make sense as we watch Richard out cold, from downing his toxic drink, as Alice frantically tries to get in touch with him by phone with the good news of Heidt's sudden departure. It's then that you suddenly begin to wonder if the movie is at all real or something out of the ordinary; like something straight out of an episode of the "Twilight Zone" or "One Step Beyond"!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When a dignified middle aged professor starts to muse about how dull
and boring his life has become and also feels frustrated by the
constraints placed upon him by his lifestyle, he becomes increasingly
discontented and despondent. The necessity to no longer respond to
events completely spontaneously or to simply act in accordance with his
own instincts has taken a great deal of the colour and vitality out of
his world. The opportunity for an improvement seems to arise however,
when his wife and family leave for a short vacation and after having
become captivated by the portrait of a beautiful woman in a gallery
window, he unexpectedly meets her and she invites him to her apartment
to see some sketches by the artist who'd painted the portrait.
Unfortunately for the professor, these developments also propel him
into the guilt trip of a lifetime.
Professor Richard Wanley (Edward G Robinson) and Alice Reed (Joan Bennett) spend a pleasant evening together until an extremely angry guy suddenly storms into the apartment, slaps Alice and starts to strangle Wanley. As the two men struggle, Alice slips a pair of scissors into Wanley's hand and he stabs his attacker. At first, Wanley intends to contact the police, but then on reflection, decides to dispose of the body instead. Alice tells Wanley that the man had regularly visited her and she knew him as Frank Howard. She empties the man's pockets before Wanley takes the body to his car and finds a watch with the initials "CM" engraved on it. He then goes and dumps the body in a wooded area.
Next day, Wanley meets his friends District Attorney Frank Lalor (Raymond Massey) and Dr Michael Barkstane (Edmund Breon) at their club and Lalor announces that he's been put in charge of investigating the disappearance of prominent financier Claude Mazard. The body is subsequently discovered by a boy scout and Lalor thinks it's likely that Mazard had gone to his mistress' home and been killed by one of her other male friends. He also mentions that a bodyguard had been employed to follow Mazard and that the "tail" was also a criminal. When Barkstane notices Wanley looking increasingly disturbed and upset, he prescribes some sleeping powders but warns that an overdose would be fatal.
Mazard's bodyguard Heidt (Dan Duryea) visits Alice's apartment and after threatening to expose her involvement in Mazard's death, demands that she hand over $5,000 to ensure his silence. He searches around and finds the scissors and the professor's initialled pencil. She asks for time to pay and he promises to return the following day. Alice contacts Wanley to tell him about the blackmail and knowing that Heidt won't stop after receiving the first ransom; Wanley gives Alice the cash and some sleeping powders to put into Heidt's drink. Heidt collects the money, but becomes suspicious and avoids the drink and after another search, finds Mazard's watch which he puts in his pocket before leaving. His possession of this item is incriminating and leads to the first of the two twists which conclude the story.
"Thw Woman In The Window" is a gripping melodrama in which the suspense builds relentlessly as Wanley's predicament becomes increasingly serious. His anxiety is also made progressively greater by the fact that:-
1. through his friendship with Lalor, he is close to the investigation and is alarmed at the speed with which developments seem to be racing towards the obvious conclusion that he is the culprit.
2. he has a seemingly uncontrollable habit of blurting out remarks which, if taken seriously would point the finger of suspicion firmly at him.
3. when he dumped the body, he left behind a whole series of clues.
He also feels the strain of knowing that things have become hopelessly out of control as he goes from killing a man to disposing of the body and then colluding with Alice to kill a second man. The tension he feels also becomes unbearable as he tries to maintain his respectability so that he can avoid jeopardising his marriage, his family life and his career.
This movie is a well regarded film noir but one which departs from some of the conventions of the style. Most notably, the much maligned ending changes the whole tenor of what had transpired earlier, the very repressed Wanley is certainly not a typical noir hero and Alice is a far more mysterious and benign presence than the standard femme fatale. Similarly, its rather moralistic and salutary tone (especially at the end) is at odds with the more ambiguous and objective stance more commonly adopted in these films.
The strong supporting cast act in a style which is extremely competent, though maybe rather "stagey" by modern standards and Edward G Robinson and Joan Bennett are excellent throughout.
Fritz Lang's sturdy ensemble - Joan Bennett, Edward G. Robinson, and
Dan Duryea - which would deliver again in 1945's "Scarlet Street" -
comes together for "The Woman in the Window," a 1944 film noir. The two
stories have some similarities, with Robinson in over his head, Duryea
a slime bucket, and Bennett a beauty, though this time, not corrupt
like her character in "Scarlet Street;" however, as in that film, she
manages to get Robinson in it up to his neck.
Robinson here is an assistant professor, Richard Wanley, enjoying a bachelor summer as his family gets out of the city as he hangs out at his club with two friends, the DA (Raymond Massey) and a doctor (Edmund Breon). One night, on arriving at the club, he notices an arresting painting of a woman in the gallery next door and becomes mesmerized by the woman's seductive beauty. Inside the club, the conversation is rather depressing - he and his friends are middle-aged, and their adventurous years seem over even if the spirit is still willing. On leaving the club that evening, Wanley can't help looking at the portrait again - and in the window's reflection, he sees the artist's model, Alice Reed, standing behind him. He takes her out for a drink, and she invites him to her place to see some of the artist's other sketches of her. It's all fairly innocent, Wanley being happily married but just enjoying some extra freedom and a little of that adventure. It turns out to be more than a little. Unfortunately, Reed's boyfriend enters and on seeing Wanley, becomes jealous and attacks him. A terrible fight ensues, and Wanley is about to be strangled when he is able to repeatedly stab the man in the back with scissors which Alice hands him. He's about to call the police but hesitates for fear it will ruin his career. He decides instead to cover up the murder and dump the body with Alice's help. Then he has to sit by while his friend the DA comes up with clues to solve the case, and Alice becomes the victim of a blackmailer.
This is really an excellent film, very compelling and tense, and I for one didn't mind the twist ending one bit, which the viewer will find somewhat reminiscent of a famous film done a few years earlier. Perhaps by now the device has been overdone; I don't think it was back in 1944, and it's certainly a surprise.
Lang's stylish direction makes each moment count in this atmospheric film set in and around New York City. Robinson hands in yet another fine performance as an innocent in Babylon; Bennett does a great job as a man magnet who didn't mean to get Wanley in trouble; and Dan Duryea, as a nasty bodyguard, is very good with some fabulous line deliveries. "What an amateur!" he sneers at Alice as he finds what he's looking for in her apartment. Duryea was by reputation a very nice guy, but you'd never know it from the scores of blackmailers, sadists, and killers he played during his long career.
It's a shame that Lang was so difficult to work with, which caused his career in the U.S. to hit the skids in the '50s. Nevertheless, he was one of the great directors, and in the noir genre, he was a hard guy to beat. If you love film noir, don't miss the master's "The Woman in the Window."
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