Woman in the Window

Another Fritz Lang noir, The Woman in the Window doesn’t measure up to The Big Heat, Scarlett Street, or of course, M, but it was fun.  I have a problem with films that have trick endings.  The best part was watching Dan Duryea and Joan Bennett in their nasty pas de deux.

Edward G. Robinson plays another wimp, Professor Wanley, who lectures on Freudian psychology.  What repressed impulses roil his inner psyche, we wonder?

He’s happy in the bosom of his family, but as the film begins, he is being left alone as wife and kids go off on a trip to visit relatives.  Hmmm…while the cat’s away…

On his way to his men’s club for dinner, he stops to admire a striking female image.  It’s clear from his movements before the camera that he is taking in her bosom in detail.  As in Scarlett Street, he’s a man who will be done in by art.

In the safe haven of an all-male environment, he takes a lot of kidding about how he’s free now for a few weeks to go berserk, paint the town, see some burlesque shows.., but in the end, all agree, middle-aged guys just can’t take it, not like they did when they were young!

No, just a quiet night at the club, curled up with a book.  He searches the shelves for a favorite, and what does he find?  The Song of Solomon!  A love poem, Old Testament style, but these professors get their kicks differently.

Well, maybe the intellectuals are not so different from the rest of us.  He’s a man, and there’s the woman in the painting, in the flesh, talking to him!

Yes, that woman in black wants to talk to him.  Who says hot babes don’t find four-eyed professors sexy!  It does happen, you know!  Isn’t that what he was dreaming of all along…and dreams sometimes come true.  He’s married, of course, but what’s the harm of going to her place to admire some sketches for that marvelous portrait?

He transgresses, steps out-of-bounds, reaches for the forbidden fruit, and what happens?  Wet dream into nightmare!  An enraged man enters, proceeds to choke him, and the wan professor has to stab him in self-defense.  What a fix – his reputation is ruined, unless…they can dispose of the body cleanly.

From then on, it’s cat-and-mouse right to the end.  There’s a very funny sequence after the body is found in the country where the professor dumped it:  we see a newsreel in a full theater announcing the news.  The corpse was discovered by a boyscout:

“I wasn’t scared.  Boyscouts are never scared.  If I get the reward for locating his body, I will use it to send my younger brother to a good college, and I will go to Harvard.”

I hear the wry laughter of an Old World immigrant here.

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2 Responses to Woman in the Window

  1. It’s been a long time since I saw this – I’d love to see it again, although I agree with you that it’s not in the class of Scarlet Street. (And incidentally, is Scarlet Street the only film from Classic Hollywood where the murderer gets away with it? It’s certainly the only film where one finds oneself wanting to cheer when someone who didn’t do it gets taken to the elctric chair!)

    The ending of The Woman in the Window often comes in for criticism, but from what i remember, it was merely a decorative twist at the end of a story that had already been satisfactorily resolved. I’m not too certain on this point though – I’d need to see it again.

    • Lichanos says:

      the only film from Classic Hollywood where the murderer gets away with it?

      Not sure. Could be! My Encyc. of Film Noir comments on just that point. The Code prohibited such things, but in the film, EGR suffers madness and remorse as punishment, as the newsman on the train predicts the murderer will.

      ...decorative twist at the end of a story that had already been satisfactorily resolved.

      Weeell…that’s a charitable way to put it. I just can’t see it that way.

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