The Woman in the Window (1944)
March 25, 2023 11:55 PM - Subscribe

When a conservative middle aged professor engages in a relationship with a femme fatale, he's plunged into a nightmarish world of blackmail and murder.

His family packed off to Maine, Professor Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson) is anticipating some quiet time alone. Then he meets Alice (Joan Bennett), the model for a portrait he admires, and can't resist her offer of a drink. No sooner do they get to her place, however, than her jealous boyfriend arrives in a rage. Richard kills him in self-defense, and they decide to hide the body. Things go smoothly until Richard's D.A. friend invites him to tag along on the investigation of his own crime.

Mattie Lucas: Yet even with its cop-out ending, The Woman in the Window remains a potent piece of work. It showcases Lang potently adapting his style for American audiences, and in the process helping to develop one of America's most indelible contributions to cinema history. But like many American achievements, it was based on foreign styles, built by immigrants, adapted from something which had come before - a fitting metaphor, perhaps, for American history in general.

Eric Somer: Despite an ending that smacks of Production Code compliance, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW encapsulates standard film noir themes throughout its mostly nightmarish narrative. The film takes a hard line on men who contemplate a life outside of traditional family values. From the early going, the many temptations that test Richard revolve around his absent family. Without his wife and children home to keep him honest, Richard drinks more than usual and stays out later than what would be typical, which leads to a one-on-one situation with an enticing woman. Fate often brings a heavy hand down on such errant men in the film noir, where self-assured, sexy women like Alice are best kept at a distance.

Pauline Kael: One of the best of Fritz Lang's American movies--a thriller with the logic and plausibility of a nightmare. Lang's technique is so sure and so seductive that the viewer completely identifies with the safe, serene protagonist (Edward G. Robinson), an associate professor of psychology at a New York City college, and shares his shock and fear when he's caught in a trap. The professor is interested in the relation of motive to homicide--an interest that's purely a matter of intellectual curiosity. Then, when his wife and child are out of town, he visits a woman's apartment; her lover comes in and unexpectedly attacks him, and he kills the intruder with a pair of scissors.

posted by Carillon (2 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Definitely mixed feelings on the ending. I can see in retrospect that there were some clues I guess, but I really hate things that pull the rug out after they've made you care. Otherwise pretty great, I hadn't realized it was one of the reasons why film noir has a name, I guess one of the trope codifiers. Edward Robinson plays essentially a reverse character to his Keyes in Double Indemnity which is pretty interesting. I did love how he couldn't stop giving away clues to the DA, though again, made less interesting when you realize it is a dream.
posted by Carillon at 11:58 PM on March 25, 2023

I hadn't realized it was one of the reasons why film noir has a name, I guess one of the trope codifiers.

It's one of the core tropes of film noir - our choices no matter their intent can destroy us. We want to like Edward G. Robinson's character and we try to think the best of him, he's smart & affable so we assume he could never fall into this kind of nightmare but... he's in a Fritz Lang noir so he's doomed as soon as he meets the femme fatale. I agree with Kael's assessment of the film - I think it is one of Lang's strongest American films.

Worth checking out, especially if you haven't seen it, is the other Lang noir with Edward G. Robinson - Scarlet Street. Made a year later and operating on similar themes & story.
posted by Ashwagandha at 12:18 PM on March 27, 2023 [1 favorite]

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