Let's get this out of the way at the start: Yes, I knew the film Disturbia was a remake of this film... I just didn't know how much. I thought it just took the basic concept, but no. There is a ton of stuff that film takes from this. But did basically knowing the movie beforehand through its remake affect the viewing of this film?
For those that don't know, the film tells the story of L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart), a photographer stuck in a wheelchair due to a broken leg. He has one week left in the cast and contends with a spunky nurse named Stella (Thelma Ritter) and his nearly perfect model girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly). To pass the time, he spies on all his neighbors. One day, however, he starts believing that one of the men, a man named Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) might have murdered his own wife and is trying to get rid of the evidence. Even bringing in an old detective friend, Thomas Doyle (Wendell Corey), he has a hard time convincing anyone that his suspicions are true.
This is probably one of the most perfectly paced films I've ever seen. The first 30 minutes or so set up all the characters, including the ones he spies on. It sets up the relationships and how everything will inevitably evolve throughout the rest of the film. After this, once the murder aspect is tossed in, it slowly builds its suspense. It takes us on a "is he or isn't he?" trail... though I figured I knew the ending based on Disturbia. Still, it didn't really deter me from enjoying the film or feeling the suspense.
So far in each Hitchcock film I've watched, it seems there's at least one character that bugs me. Here, that's not the case. Every character has a purpose, and almost every relationship goes somewhere. (The gorgeous) Grace Kelly begins as this perfectly little model who is kind of in her own world of fashion and glam. Because of this, Jeffries is conflicted on their relationship as she's not really adventurous or even close to the type of person he is. Of course, this changes as the film goes on. And then James Stewart (yet again) is here, again in a type of detective role. It's no real shock that I enjoyed him--but I will also add that this is definitely my favorite role/movie of his that I've seen thus far. My favorite character, though, had to be the nurse, Stella. She was really funny, and her acting felt much more modern than of those around her. And I haven't even mentioned all the neighbors who might not even speak, but still get their own story arcs.
The writing is very tight and clever. There's a lot of good dialogue, the cleverest usually coming between Jeffries and Doyle or Stella. But the characters never say more than they need to. This does leave a handful of things up to the imagination, though, due to some unanswered questions (a handful of "why"s, at least for Thorwald).
The directing and camera work was top notch. As we know, I love a good film in a tight space. The whole film takes place in that apartment--or at least through the perspective of the apartment--with a couple minor exceptions. And there were also a handful of great single takes panning around the apartment buildings (which was really, at that time, the biggest indoor set for the studio). Hitchcock really was great at manipulation. Even the music (with the exception of the very beginning) was done completely within the realm of the film--no external movie music added--adding a deeper sense that you're trapped in this apartment complex.
Overall thoughts? If you've seen and like Disturbia (as I will admit, I do), and would like to see the less modernized original (and not to mention where the accused is much less obviously evil), definitely check it out. Actually, I'd say check it out, anyway. It's quite excellent. Anyway, there are only a couple more Hitchcock films left for me to review this month, but as of now, this one just slipped into first place as my favorite.