The Woman in the Window (1944)

23 07 2009

Another nice, solid noir from Fritz Lang’s American period. Unlike most of his films from the 50s, this one is loaded with his trademark (shadow-filled) visual sensibility. This is, at least from a cinematography standpoint, quintessential film noir. The cast is ideal too, Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea all deliver riveting performance. This is essential to as the story itself is rather unremarkable, not to mention hard to believe in the first place. Once one gets past the melodramatic turns, it’s pretty smooth sailing.

Edward G. Robinson plays Professor Richard Wanley, a teacher of criminology studies at Gotham College. For reasons left unknown, he lives away from his family, who he sends off back “home” in the very beginning. His life is filled with fascinating conversations with his colleagues, and well, nothing much else. Leaving his apartment, he passes by a painting of a woman. He finds it fascinating, and his interest only becomes deeper when a woman (Joan Bennet) who bears a striking resemblance to the woman in the painting, approaches him. The woman is Alice Reed and, despite the implied age difference, they hit it off. They wind up back at Alice’s apartment, but their good time is ruined when one of Alice’s recent flings come crashing into her apartment. He attacks Wanley, who stabs the man with a pair of scissors in self-defense.

At this point, the audience is required to use their imagination a little bit. Being a criminology expert, Wanley should call the police and admit to murdering in self-defense. Curiously, he doesn’t and decides to dump the body in a nearby forest. The film’s finale (which I’ll try not to give away) does offer something of an explanation to Wanley’s poor judgment, but it doesn’t make his decision any easier to accept. Despite his profession, Wanley makes a couple of key areas when disposing of the body, as well as when he returns to the crime scene as a guest to one of his colleagues.

The not so logical narrative does not overwhelm the rest of the film’s strength. As expected, the cinematography is stunning, and as I already mentioned, the performances are all pretty decent. There’s nothing particularly unique about this picture, especially since Lang would collaborate with a majority of the same cast two years later with Scarlet Street, which is better remembered. It’s a nice stylistic exercise for Lang, but it isn’t entirely remarkable on its own. Not a bad film from any stretch of the imagination, but not really a great one either.

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