Woman in the Window, The (1944)

The Woman in the Window (1944), directed by Fritz Lang.

His friends at the club warn the mild Assistant Professor of Psychology. Says his pal the District Attorney: middle-aged men who have "adventures" come to tragic ends.

Despite that, when the prof meets his dream girl that night, he can't help himself. She picks him up and takes him back to her place. Just for drinks, although his wife and kids are out of town...

Then, sudden death: the man who pays her bills bursts in and attacks him. It was self-defense, but who will believe that? They decide to hide the crime and dispose of the body. The prof is meticulous in his clean-up, but you know how that goes.

Wouldn't you know it? There is always a blackmailer lurking in the shadows. Only two ways to handle him: pay him or kill him. Getting in deeper.

This is a dandy scenario and a good companion to Scarlet Street (1945), a similar story the next year with the same director, cinematographer and stars.

We have:

The hats are a recurring motif, as are reflections and doubled images, a dream-like sense of displacement: "Am I really doing this?"

Two twist endings. The second may be a cheat:


It was all a dream, which ordinarily would be heinous screenwriting, but we don't mind so much this time. It is a gesture to code compliance where crime cannot pay.

I can imagine an alternative explanation: only the final segment is the dream. The suicide in his final moments imagines that none of it was real.

Robert Blake (age 11) has one scene as the prof's little boy. He was a busy child actor.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. The film scholar on the valuable commentary track calls this "portrait noir" along with Scarlet Street (1945) and Laura (1944).

She says Duryea had a big female fan base, despite (because of?) his studio-promoted image as the tough guy who slaps women around. He was, of course, perfectly nice in real life, but relished playing his villains.