The Woman in the Window (1944)

Billed as “The Screen’s Supreme Adventure in Suspense,” this perfectly crafted film noir from Fritz Lang involves a rather strait-laced psychology professor named “Richard Wanley” (Edward G. Robinson), who drops off his vacation-bound family at a train station and then goes out drinking with his buddies, district attorney “Frank Lalor” (Raymond Massey) and “Dr. Michael Barkstane” (Edmund Breon). Before entering the club, Richard notices the striking portrait of a beautiful woman in the window outside. After exiting the club, he stares obsessively at the portrait again and then is actually approached by the subject of the painting, femme fatale “Alice Reed” (Joan Bennett). Richard reluctantly accepts Alice’s invitation to join her for a few drinks and—before you know it—he’s in her apartment. However, all hell breaks loose when Alice’s lover “Claude Mazard” (Arthur Loft) suddenly shows up unannounced, a struggle ensues and Richard ends up fatally stabbing Claude in the back with a pair of scissors. After deciding to cover up the murder, Richard and Alice have to deal with a blackmail attempt from Mazard’s sleazy bodyguard “Heidt” (Dan Duryea). One of my favorite scenes is when Richard reluctantly (and awkwardly!) accompanies Lalor to the crime scene. I also like how Richard keeps burning evidence in his fireplace. Little by little, Richard becomes more and more tormented by the crime. The suspenseful film was scripted by Nunnally Johnson and loosely based on J. H. Wallis’ 1942 novel Once Off Guard (which featured the shout line: “Forbidden love leads to tragedy”). Oh yeah, for the record I thought the film’s twist ending was great! Robinson, Bennett and Duryea would all appear together in Scarlet Street (1945), also directed by Lang. Robert Blake appears uncredited for about 30 seconds at the beginning of the film as Wanley’s son, “Dickie.”

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