Cult Movie: It would be a crime to neglect The Woman In The Window

Edward G Robinson and Joan Bennett in The Woman In The Window
Ralph McLean

The Woman In The Window

FRITZ Lang certainly knew what made a great Film Noir. He was a master of those moody and mysterious American thrillers first identified as a genre by French critics in the 1940s.

Lang always seemed at home in that murky world,where the shadows threaten to subsume everything before them and he understood intrinsically the twisted morals and dark truths those films evoked.

There are starkly stunning works early in his career, like M, but with The Woman In The Window the director delivered a black and white beauty worthy of comparison with the likes of The Maltese Falcon and even the film forever held up as the greatest noir ever, Double Indemnity.

Released in 1944, and freshly reissued on Blu-ray by Eureka Entertainment as part of their splendid Masters Of Cinema series, it's a masterpiece – albeit a slightly flawed one.

Made in collaboration with writer and producer Nunnally Johnson, it stars the great Edward G Robinson, playing against his traditional hardnosed gangster type as a love-struck psychiatrist by the name of Richard Wanley, and the beautiful Joan Bennett as Alice, the femme fatale who drags him into the darkness with alarming ease.

Wanley is killing time while his wife and family are on a holiday when he bumps into Alice, who bears a bizarre resemblance to a woman in a gallery portrait that he'd been ogling just moments previously.

When the pair head back to her home, Alice's wealthy and very jealous boyfriend Frank (Arthur Loft) appears and swings for Richard, who is forced to kill the man in self defence. He is, admittedly, helped on his way to the crime by Alice, who passes him a handy pair of scissors to complete the job.

Rather than risk his nice family life by reporting his actions to the police, he decides instead to get Alice to help him dispose of the body and clear up all the evidence. When a district attorney friend (Raymond Massey) and Frank's old bodyguard (Dan Duryea) come sniffing about to investigate, all Richard's clever plans come crumbling apart in his hands.

Lang structures the familiar story of lust and violence tightly and the action rattles along at an impressive pace from the off. There's a cold, almost detached attitude to the body disposal that is quite unnerving and Robinson and

Bennett are brilliant as the leads who are running out of time.

There is one huge issue at play here that stops it being a true classic however: there's a surprise ending (which I won't spoil here) that's admittedly well ahead of its time for a film made in 1944, but still feels unsatisfactory and disappointing to me.

That aside, The Woman In The Window is masterful storytelling from a masterful movie maker. Eureka have, as usual, gone the extra mile with a package which includes everything from audio commentary to a video essay on the film from critic David Cairns.

It's a beautiful and deeply dark film that would be a crime to ignore.

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