The Woman in the Window DVD
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Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced in 1944
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - American film
James Oliver is mightily impressed by this classic film noir from Fritz Lang.
With his wife away on vacation, Professor Richard Wanley plans to indulge his worldly desires Ė a quiet drink and an early night. But the fates have something different in mind: before the night is through, he has accidentally killed a man and embarked on a botched cover-up. It isnít long before the law, and some less savoury characters, pick up the scent.
With its raking shadows and fatalistic tone, The Woman in the Window is unmistakably a film noir, and a particularly fine specimen at that. Whatís most impressive is the way that this bad dream gradually constricts; unlike most noirs, it delays introducing the darkness. The temperature is raised slowly, letting the tension simmer until it reaches boiling point and the characters start getting burnt.
Such masterful control of tone is one of the reasons why director Fritz Lang is so revered, of course. This isnít one of his best known works; it has to jostle for attention with the rest of his filmography and sometimes gets elbowed aside by the bigger boys. Thatís a real shame because itís a little gem. The script gives Lang an opportunity to explore some of his abiding obsessions, chiefly guilt and destiny. Itís true the ending has been controversial: a studio imposition, some say. But the director clearly builds up to it, imbuing the film with a nightmare quality that is only finally lifted by the coda.
Heís ably assisted by his cast. Robinson is excellent as the mild mannered man in a mid-life crisis and Joan Bennett is as alluring a femme fatale as ever shimmied on screen. Best of all is Dan Duryea, who has great fun as a scumbag blackmailer determined to throw a spanner in the works.
The following year, the same cast reunited with Lang for Scarlet Street, another story of an ageing milquetoast who meets the wrong woman. That sulphurous masterpiece might be better known but The Woman in the Window is surely its equal. This is fine film noir Ė ruthless, inevitable and brilliantly wrought.
James Oliver on 18th December 2008
Author of 147 reviews
A ruthless, brilliantly-wrought film noir, filled with raking shadows and suffused with a fatalistic tone, in which a mild-mannered professor (played by Edward G. Robinson) suddenly finds himself an unexpected murderer embarking on a botched cover-up and with the law on his trail.
Publisher: Optimum Releasing
Length: 95 mins
Aspect ratio: 4:3
Cat No: OPTD1451
Format: DVD B&W