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With: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey, Edmund Breon, Dan Duryea, Thomas E. Jackson, Dorothy Peterson, Arthur Loft, Frank Dawson
Written by: Nunnally Johnson, based on a novel by J.H. Wallis
Directed by: Fritz Lang
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 99
Date: 11/03/1944

The Woman in the Window (1944)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Picture Perfect

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

At last, this prime example of Fritz Lang film noir has been released on a Region 1 DVD. Many members of the cast and crew stayed on with Lang to make the better-known Scarlet Street the following year, but The Woman in the Window deserves recognition as well.

Edward G. Robinson plays Richard Wanley, a professor who teaches classes about the philosophy of homicide. His family goes away for the summer, leaving him and his two pals, a doctor and the District Attorney, to be "bachelors." Professor Wanley becomes enthralled by a painting in a nearby window and meets the woman who posed for it, the enchanting, but slightly treacherous Alice Reed (Joan Bennett).

She invites him to her place to see more art, but when her lover bursts in, Wanley kills him in self-defense. In a panic, Wanley decides that it will be easier to dispose of the body than go through all the proper channels. Unfortunately, the dead man is a well-known, wealthy industrialist and his disappearance is immediately noticed. Worse, Wanley's pal the DA (Raymond Massey) is assigned to the case, and Wanley finds himself involved in the most intricate details of the investigation.

Hitchcock may have been the master of suspense, but no one could deal in sheer paranoia like Lang. In Lang's universe, the innocent are guilty and there's no guarantee that things will work out. The Woman in the Window plays out with frightening, gripping logic, each new step and new realization suddenly appearing like a cold sweat. The only caveat is the unconventional ending; Lang defended it in an interview with Peter Bogdanovich, but I'm not so sure I agree. The snaky Dan Duryea turns up as a crafty blackmailer.

Sadly, MGM's new DVD comes with no extras. It has been released along with three other films noir on DVD: Orson Welles' The Stranger, Phil Karlson's Kansas City Confidential and Lewis Allen's A Bullet for Joey.

In 2018, Kino Lorber released this essential Lang title on Blu-ray, with striking sound and picture; contrast and grain are delightfully perfect. It comes with an audio commentary track by film historian Imogen Sara Smith, as well as a trailer for this and four other KL film noir releases.

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