The Woman in the Window (1944)

Directed by Fritz Lang

I’ve had The Woman in the Window in my “to be watched” pile for a very long time. And this is odd given that I was anxious to watch it. With Fritz Lang directing and the script coming from Nunnally Johnson, I had some fairly high expectations.

Well, I finally watched it last night and I regret to say it was a disappointment.

While it had some good moments, and a pretty impressive cast that included Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Raymond Massey, overall I found it kind of trudged along from scene to scene and, more significantly, suffered from two pretty major story flaws.

(Also, for Fritz Lang who sets a pretty high standard, the directing seemed pretty pedestrian, though it had some moments.)

Edward G. Robinson in The Woman in the Window (1944).

The first story flaw is Edward G. Robinson’s character who is, depending on the scene, a rather boring homebody professor, a frightened introvert, a man single-minded, focused and in control, and then a frightened little man. Who in the world was he supposed to be?

And who was responsible for this muddled characterization?

I find it hard to blame Robinson as I assume this was written into the script. However, shouldn’t the director and actor have voiced some misgivings?

The second flaw for me was the ending.

I won’t give it away, though I’m not sure it would matter, but I found it hugely disappointing because it is such a cheap, easy-out trick. It reduces the film to a rather poor installment of, say, The Twilight Zone or Night Gallery, the kind of show that relies on some twist at the end.

Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson in The Woman in the Window (1944).

I suspect the ending had something to do with the studios. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that Lang’s movie ended about two or three minutes before this final version ends, the ending here being something the studio likely insisted on, finding the other too bleak.

That’s just a guess but I find it hard to believe Fritz Lang would have wanted this ending.

Ultimately the blame for the movie’s faults falls on Nunnally Johnson for the script, where they find their genesis.

While no one excels in the movie (director, actors etc.), everyone more or less does a competent job. The elements that hurt the movie, and perhaps deflated everyone so they simply did their job and no more, are all in the script.

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