Morbid Curiosity

Christopher Reeve Makes Hitchcock Uplifting

As for the original's psychosexual tension, which would be plainly inappropriate here, it was replaced by something superficially more optimistic, but actually more morbid. Near the fade-out, with Reeve and Grace Kelly sub Darryl Hannah in a romantic tête-à-tête, the star remarked that while he obviously couldn't perform sexually now, he'd be able to "in a few more years." Everybody knows that Reeve insists he'll be completely healed someday, and how important this faith is to him. Everybody also knows no cure is yet in sight. Hearing his wishful thinking expressed as fact was both painful and appalling; at that moment, how on earth could we respond to him as a character, or to Rear Window as a movie?

Christopher Reeve acts valiantly in Rear Window. But is Rear Window better for it?
Ken Regan / ABC
Christopher Reeve acts valiantly in Rear Window. But is Rear Window better for it?

To Reeve and a large chunk of the modern audience alike, that's clearly a negligible distinction; the movie wouldn't be worth belaboring if it weren't so symptomatic. Recently, down where I live, a debate about high school productions of classic but insufficiently enlightened plays—the disturbingly violent Oklahoma!, for instance—included a serene suggestion that the students simply rewrite the shows to tailor them to current attitudes; that'll do wonders for their education. These days, good citizens treat cultural readymades as expediently as the most benighted bizzer, equally gratified to put them to good purpose—and equally indifferent to their integrity. By those vapid standards, Reeve has actually improved on Hitchcock in adding uplift to a nasty movie. Nor does it matter that the results are artistically puerile, since art isn't relevant to what this version is about; hell, entertainment isn't relevant to what this version is about. Me, I'm all for Thanksgiving. I just wish my brain wasn't always getting treated like the turkey.

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