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Silver Screen Streak List #24: 04. The Woman in the Window (1944)

Silver Screen Streak List #24: 04. The Woman in the Window (1944)

Directed by Fritz Lang
Written by dorrk
17 March 2024

One of the recurring themes of film noir is how easily one's safe but boring life can unravel into chaos based on one poor impulsive decision. I suppose that this theme applies to the narrative of Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window (1944) — Edward G. Robinson stars as an aging professor ruing the diminishing adventure of his life... until his chance encounter with a dangerous woman — but even more so it applies to Lang's film on a meta-level: this decent, somewhat facile but well-crafted noir thriller coasts along just fine... until it commits one of the cardinal sins of storytelling and throws away the preceding 90 minutes out of cutesy gutlessness.

Without getting into spoilers — Can you spoil a movie that spoils itself? Isn't a spoiler, in a case such as this, an act of mercy? — it's difficult to review the qualities of a script that features an iron-clad defense against the usual narrative nit-picking. To complain that this was too obvious or that that strained credulity or that the other thing reeked of contrivance is essentially off-limits. Nunnally Johnson's script, adapted from J. H. Wallis' Once Off Guard (1942), is a feature-length expression of that great line from The Maltese Falcon (1941): "When I slap you, you'll take it and like it!"

I will say that Lang is a dependable director who finds a few great moments of imagery in The Woman in the Window (1944) and, as usual, Robinson is extremely watchable even as his character makes a series of asinine decisions. As his femme fatale, Joan Bennett is OK but her character and the limitations imposed upon her by the lazy script do her no favors. Lang, Robinson, and Bennett — and most of the rest of this cast & crew — would reteam a year later for the much better Scarlet Street (1945).

Without the forfeit of the enraging final twist, The Woman in the Window is still slight, a barely 3-star noir dwarfed by its contemporaries. With its ending, however, who cares, and why should they?

Silver Screen Streak List #24: 04. The Woman in the Window (1944)

Silver Screen Streak: "Flickchart's Best Crime Thrillers"

The Woman in the Window (1944), in Crime Thrillers, Ranked

The Woman in the Window (1944), Ranked

The fourth movie from Nigel Druitt's list of The Best Crime Thrillers according to FlickchartThe Woman in the Window (1944), musters only the miserable rank of #4645 (24.61%) on my Flickchart. So this list goes on ice until the fabled next round finally arrives. The next list — the penultimate list of the First Round! — takes me back 'down under' for a jaunt through Flickchart's top-ranked 'Best Film' Winners from The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards.