The Woman in the Window Reviews
"The Woman in the Window" isn't terrible, but it almost completely lacks ingenuity. The cinematography is uninteresting, the sets and costumes run-of-the-mill, and the story rather thin. But it does hold one's interest, and there are moments of real tension.
Robinson plays a college professor who specializes in criminal psychology. He gets wrapped up in a murder with a woman (Bennett) he meets on the street late at night. It is fun to watch them try to cover it up. But the twists and turns are pretty much what you'd expect from a B picture.
There's also a tremendously lame twist ending built to make the film palatable to a Disney audience. I suppose Lang was pushed by the studio to end it this way. But it's still lame of Lang to have given in. He should have pushed back harder. It seems clear that in this period Lang cared more about earning his salary than making true cinema. From world-famous artist to studio hack in 20 years. What a disappointment.
Lang was an Austrian Jew who fled the Nazis and ended up in Hollywood. Another Austrian Jew who did the same was Billy Wilder. While Lang's creative period was over, Wilder's was just beginning. By coincidence, Wilder also directed a film noir in 1944: "Double Indemnity," starring Barbara Stanwyck. If you want to see first-rate film noir, skip Lang's film and watch Wilder's.
This slick noir features an aging professor Richard Wanley who is played by Edward G. Robinson. While Wanley's family is out of town, he fears going out on the town with his friends because he knows to ignore what he calls the , "Siren call of adventure." While the lure of eroticism is constantly hovering around him, he prefers to stay inside. However, upon a fateful encounter with a young woman, he becomes involved in a murder.
Lang expertly gives the viewer the sense of Wanley's inner turmoil as the police begin to gather evidence that could lead to his conviction. Lang's constant use of mirrors illuminate the double nature of these characters while his use of clocks help to build suspense and shows that time waits for no man, regardless of class.
To the chagrin of many, the twist ending adds another element to Lang's theme of sexual repression. While I was a bit disappointed, it does seem logical for Lang to use this twist seeing as he was the man who helped bring about a similar twist in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
All in all, a densely packed film that is not only a success for fans of Lang, but for fans of Noir as well.
However, the ending is a joke and terribly executed. True, it does not make the film any worse but it leaves you with a screwy aftertaste and knocked down my rating quiet a bit.
A solid film noir that is boosted by relying on genre parameters but fails to deliver a satisfying ending.
Underneath an ideal surface example of the "noir" construct, Lang interjects a deft psychological evaluation of the increasing voyeurism in American culture -- perhaps encouraged by cinema? Robinson's plunge into fate's grip is all suggested by his fixation on a portrait. Here, Lang smartly plays on the same construct on which Hollywood operates -- the relationship between image and audience. Most potently, he understands that this relationship is a sexual one. A connection between idealized and unreachable models cinema has taught us to build. The kind of kernel that has been gnawing away self-image for a century. However, instead of glorifying and capitalizing on this relationship, Lang inverts it and demonstrates how it can hijack common sense. HOUSE BY THE RIVER shows the same obsession with the human connection with ideals and sex. Furthermore, it introduces a concept key to Lang's greater ideology -- sex and death are forever entwined as basic necessities.
We must immediately forgive the ending, like we must do for countless other pictures of this era. It is remarkable that Lang even managed to cultivate such an unforgiving portrait of Americana. In fact the ending only serves to further his evaluation of the viewer's fatal, sexual relationship with art.
Like they would repeat in SCARLET STREET, Robinson and Bennett turn in a fine chemistry. Robinson is not an attractive man. But he rejects our need for such a character by inspiring the bumbling, nervous moments of idiocy that we all know in ourselves. There is something about the way Bennett lights her cigarettes that signal danger. WOMAN IN THE WINDOW does not present her as the appalling bitch that she would be in SCARLET STREET, but the smoke hovers around her like an evaporating halo. And her youthful power complex is just right for dragging Robinson into the abyss.
Lang managed to be so damning and so hateful while simultaneously constructing a new American style. So many of these films demand a viewing and so few of them get one. A renaissance of this formidable cycle is needed.