The Rising Action Podcast: A Discussion On "Rear Window"

Literary Studies, Media Studies

Storytelling, no matter the medium, is my greatest passion. In fact, I love it so much, I co-host and produce a weekly podcast with one of my best friends, SWU Alumni Josh Johnson, solely on storytelling. We call it The Rising Action Podcast. After hearing about Rear Window from my fellow cohost a few months back when we started our journey, I grew intrigued. Then after learning that this class would analyze the widely-regarded Alfred Hitchcock classic, I knew we had to do an episode discussing it. This post takes some of my favorite highlights from this week’s episode and puts it into a bite-sized form. With all that out of the way, I’m going to shut up, and let Josh and I get into it.

Josh and Grayson discussing the concept of “It Had to Be Murder”:

Josh: I really enjoyed the concept. It was something that was taken and turned into a motif in the movie adaptation of it. But the concept itself was really cool- somebody witnessing a murder through their back window….And on top of it, the main character is inhibited. 

Grayson: Which we don’t know until the end of the story; well, they allude to it in the beginning, but they don’t directly say his leg is broken. 

Josh: Right. He doesn’t ever explain why in the short story….It’s in the first scene of the movie….In the short story, you don’t really know why. You just know he can’t really do anything about things that he’s seeing, which is really interesting because as a concept, you have a person who witnesses a murder, but they can’t do anything about it physically, you know, what do you do? Do you leave it alone? Do you pursue it further?…. It was a really cool concept. And it was very dense. That seemed like something that could have been a whole book or at least a novella to me. The pacing was super quick for a short story. But see, it also achieved what you want every short story to give you was an emotional payoff or a huge effect at the end of it for the reader. And it definitely does that.

Josh and Grayson on why the short story feels more impactful than the film

Grayson: I think the contrast between the short story and the movie, and maybe why it hits a little bit different is that, in my opinion, the short story feels thematically darker than the movie does. The movie almost feels a little happy go lucky…. It does have its suspense and everything, but it feels like these characters all have…. joyous banter and charisma, which I love about it. But the short story…. it’s just these two guys, and you don’t really know much about the main character other than his name. And it just feels darker, especially with like the way the murderer, Thorwald, gets away with the murder…. It’s weird. I feel like the short story, it could be an amazing Denis Villeneuve movie…. It reminds me a lot of [the movie] Prisoners where… I’m reading the short story- I didn’t have this moment in the movie- in the short story I’m reading this and I’m like, ‘Oh, there’s a lot of signs [that Thorwald murdered his wife].’ And then as soon as the friend in the police force finds the woman and [her suitcase], I’m like, ‘Oh, the main character is crazy. Like he is making up all this stuff because he is isolated in his house and he can’t do anything…. He’s obsessed. [Thorwald] has not murdered anyone.’… I can’t really get on board with the protagonist. And then as more things develop, I’m like, ‘Oh, okay, no, maybe he’s not crazy.’ It’s constantly that question back and forth is [the protagonist] actually onto something or is he completely delusional right now?

Josh: I did enjoy that a whole lot because when you kind of go back and forth about a character that’s really good. A true psychological thriller makes you go back and forth- make you debate on, you know, what’s real and what’s not real. 

Grayson on the third act of the film

Grayson: I think the third act of the movie is the worst part of the movie. I was almost crying of laughter when Thorwald comes into [Jeffrey’s] apartment. That part was so funny to me…. Thorwald’s walking up, he comes in the house and he sees him. And he doesn’t have a gun…. Maybe they just don’t want him to have a gun. Maybe they want him to be more of an everyday man. And Jeffrey’s idea is, ‘I’m gonna get a really bright camera and flash the guy.’ So he does it. For the first time, I was like, ‘Okay, sure.’ Like he blinds him; Maybe that gives him some time to escape or something like that, right? No! He does it two or three more times…. He is slowly walking and goes, “Ah!” and puts his hands up in front of his head and then he’s walking again, ‘Ah!’ like that. And I’m like, ‘Yo, just block your eyes and run at him. It’s not that hard. He’s in a wheelchair. It’s just so goofy…. In the short story, this man comes in with a gun and tries to kill him. And he realizes he has to escape and just dies in this horrific way…. Maybe it’s a sign of the time of the filmmaking…. Those moments right there made [the movie] feel less suspenseful.

Josh and Grayson on the darker nature of how Thorwald hid the body

Grayson: That’s what I like also better in the short story is that has how he hid the body. It’s incredible the way they did it. And it’s also so much more creative and demented- 

Josh: Creative and demented is a perfect union for this kind of story. I do agree that the short story does hit so much better because it has all the aspects that you would want…  the body’s buried a little bit better. The villain is a little bit smarter. He’s more brutal. Stakes are higher and your protagonist is gone at the end.

Grayson: You know, the way it’s unfolding in the short story was very, very suspenseful to me. But I was also confused. I’m waiting for the explanation of [what’s going on]. I’m like, ‘What am I not getting right now?’ So basically… [he] just buried his wife’s body in the concrete and put it up a little bit higher. And that was the key. To me, that is way more sadistic and threatening for Thorwald’s character…. I was not intimidated by Thorwald in the slightest- in the movie, he looks like me if I was like 60.

Josh: It looks like a guy they described me as a salesman and he kills his wife to run away with another woman. 

Grayson: They described him as like a dark-haired, Scandinavian looking man. I just imagine him looking a lot grimier, but not in the sense that he’s just dirty, but in the sense that like, he kind of has that look in his eyes, you know?

These dialogue excerpts are just a handful of discussions from The Rising Action Podcast. If you’re interested in more about our thoughts on the story or simply storytelling in general, check it out on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

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