The Woman in the Window: Siren Calls of Adventure

The next film on the list is Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window from 1944.  It stars Edward G Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea, a team that would be brought back together for 1945's Scarlet Street, with similar success.

Richard Wanley is a middle-aged professor who has a good life -- good job, a wife, kids -- but he feels like he's missing out on a sense of adventure that he had as a younger man.  One day, he walks by a window with a painting of a beautiful woman, and he's completely enthralled.  Even more so when the real-life subject of the painting walks up and propositions him.

Hours later, they're in her apartment enjoying drinks, when another man comes into the apartment.  He is enraged, slaps Alice across the face, and tries to strangle Richard to death.  So Richard stabs him in the back several times with a pair of scissors.

Holy crap that escalated quickly.  I like how it shows the confusion and chaos that accompany most murders.  But come on should really just call the police.  This was a home invasion.  They don't send people to jail for self defense in situations like that.  This whole movie would go so much more smoothly id you just call the police.

I can understand his point of view more than her's.  No matter what happened with the police, his wife would find out that he was at another woman's apartment in the middle of the night, and any way you swing it that's not a recipe for marital bliss.  But Alice should have just dealt with it.  Said that he was beating her and she killed him in self defense.  She would have the black eye to back her story up, and his history of having a violent temper.  There's not a jury in New York who would convict her.  Honestly, NY in the 40s? All she would have had to do was get up on the witness stand with her pretty little face and cry.  Story over.

But instead of doing things the smart and logical way, Richard and Alice decide to try covering their tracks.  Which immediately makes them look guilty.  Alice cleans up the apartment and Richard drives the body out to some wooded area to dump it.

It doesn't take very long for the body to be found, and not much longer than that for Richard to start looking pretty suspicious.  No matter how hard he tried to think a few steps ahead of the police, there were things at the crime scene that could be used as evidence against him. Of course, Richard is a respected member of society and is friends with members of the police force, so he'd have to look pretty damn guilty before they would even think of him as a suspect.  Slowly but surely, though, you can see them starting to question him a little bit.

And a blackmailer coming forward and threatening them doesn't make things any easier.  Richard comes up with a plan in which Alice will put poison in his drink, ridding themselves of their problem.  Only the blackmailer wasn't born yesterday, and he knows better than to drink anything given to him by someone he's blackmailing.  Richard is too tired to deal with this anymore, and he kills himself by drinking some of the poison...just as the blackmailer is shot by the police, thereby solving their problems.  Bummer.  What a tragic en--


I was willing to accept Dallas invalidating an entire season by making it all a dream.  I was willing to accept St Elsewhere taking place entirely in a snowglobe belonging to an autistic child.  But this??  This I will not accept.

Ugh. Fine.  I will accept it.  I guess it kind of works, because the dream is bittersweet.  Yeah, he's not in trouble, but also the only interesting things that happen to him are in a dream state.  Fine, movie.  You win.

Random Musings:

  • What's with the cop asking him if his last name is Polish?  Would he be more likely to give him a ticket if he knew he was Polish?

  • After everything you told Alice about covering your tracks, you manage to get your DNA about a foot and a half away from where you're stashing the body.  Smooth.  Is this your first murder or what?

  • Haha the Boy Scout who found the body kind of reminds me of the kid from Up.  (Also The Little Rascals.)

  • Is it just me or is it weird that his friend the doctor is prescribing him stuff randomly?

  • Richard is inserting himself into the investigation.  If I've learned anything from Criminal Minds, that means he's the unsub.

  • So this blackmailer's going to take two random hairs from the scene of the crime and what?  Give them to the police?  What would that prove?  Just that a man with a criminal record who's currently wanted for blackmail has access to two heads of hair.  You can't convict someone on evidence like that.  Please.

So this movie was pretty good.  I do like Edward G Robinson and Joan Bennett, so it was nice to see them again.  I enjoy movies where people are trying to cover up a murder, but when it's something that is so obviously self defense, it always annoys the hell out of me that they don't just go to the police.  Stupid.  Other than that, the direction is good, the writing is good, and there's a nice sense of tension and dread that builds throughout the film.  I can't decide if I think the film would have been stronger if ultimately Richard had killed himself.  Then I remembered that you couldn't have someone commit suicide during the Production Code era, so it was a moot point.  Whatever, it's still a good movie.  I can't decide if I prefer this one or Scarlet Street.

Thanks for reading, and come back next time!

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Anonymous said...

Wow, you are really knocking out these reviews! What is the "Production Code era" thing all about?
PS. The one thing in your all a dream gif looks like a pale turd with eyes. Is it? Lol. Love your reviews even tho I haven't even heard of half of these films. Keep 'em coming!

Luke said...

If I'm not mistaken, the 'all a dream' gif is from WonderShowzen.

I got frustrated with the ending too. It's a tricky thing to critique though, because it's purely due to the Production Code at the time, and if they *didn't* have the Production Code then a film noir like Woman in the Window probably wouldn't have even existed in the first place.

I wrote a review of this one a while back, here it is if you're interested (pimpin' my warez) -

Audrey on a Mission said...

Yeah, I think you're right about Wondershowzen Luke.

The ending is just kind of weird. Some people say that it ruins the film, but I don't know if I would go that far. It's just...weird.

Anonymous, The Hayes Production Code started in the 30s by the morality police to censor what was allowed to be shown and talked about in movies. No blasphemy, no drugs, no criticism of the clergy, no venereal diseases (WTF?), no white slavery, no sexual relationships between the races, no actual childbirth, excessive or lustful kissing, etc, etc.

The practical result for films like this was that if someone engaged in criminal acts during the film, they had to be punished for them. By making it 'all a dream' they sidestep the issue of punishment, because he didn't actually do anything wrong.

Luke said...

I love the lengths directors and writers sometimes went to with film noir in order to show the true complexity of crime whilst still playing ball with the Hays Code. I think you have to let the 'dream ending' slide in order for films in the '40s to engage more openly in that dialogue.

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