Friday, March 16, 2007

The Window (1949)

The script's the thing with this tight, exciting thriller. It starts with a familiar premise -- the little boy who cried wolf -- and once the setup is past, it runs smooth as butter down the line. Bobby Driscoll is as credible a child actor as you'll find in essaying the part of Tommy Woodry, a young boy who can't get anyone to believe he's witnessed a murder, but it's what surrounds him that truly compels. This is a child's-eye noir, and as such it's a cutting expression of childhood anxieties. The film does a fine job of making the adult world menacing and vaguely unknowable; Tommy's truth is fobbed off by patronizing cops and exasperated parents (the scene where Mr. Woodry uses the spectre of paternal pride as an emotional blackjack with which to silence Tommy is a creepy highlight), but the fact that it is the truth gets him in trouble with the nasty folks upstairs. It's not often you see a bad guy slug a kid onscreen, but that sort of unexpected brutality, bringing the sensibilities of noir to an after-school morality play, is what makes the movie special. It's willing to take that chance because it feels right for the character who does it, yet it still convinces that Tommy could elude and outwit him at film's end. The Window is a film that knows its situation, knows its characters and knows its audience. It's damn entertaining, too.

Grade: A-


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