The Woman in the Window is an early noir from one of the masters of the genre, Fritz Lang. He made many proto-noirs in both Germany and the US, but it’s not till roughly the release of The Maltese Falcon in 1941 that film noir could really be considered a genre unto itself. This film came out in 1944, which was a high watermark for the genre, because both Double Indemnity and Laura (both also released by Masters of Cinema) also arrived that year. Lang pulls out a lot of the genre tropes here that would eventually almost become clichés. The term ‘Film Noir’ came out of a feature on American crime films by French critics in 1946, and The Woman in the Window was one of the films heavily featured in that piece.
Edward G. Robinson plays Richard Wanley, who is a psychiatrist (of course he is…). He is having some fun with friends while his wife and children are off on vacation. He soon encounters a drop-dead gorgeous woman who resembles the painting he was just admiring in a shop window. She eventually convinces him to join her for drinks, and they end up back at her place. But then her jealous lover storms in, and in act of self-defense Wanley kills him, and the two of them have to get rid of the body. However, everything goes horribly wrong, and there is a police investigation, blackmail, poisoning and a twist ending to die for.
Lang directs with his trademark precision, and it flows perfectly over its 99 minutes. It was superbly photographed by Milton Krasner, who also shot films for Billy Wilder, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Henry Hathaway and Robert Wise, to name just a few. Krasner’s career spanned the early 30s to his final film, the apocalyptic Beneath the Planet of the Apes. The performances are great across the board, especially Robinson and Joan Bennett, who was Lang’s go-to femme fatale for the early ’40s, and who he also started a production company with. The supporting cast of character actors, such as Dan Duryea and Raymond Massey, is as outstanding as you would expect: you may not recognize their names, but you will recognize their faces as they were in everything.
The disc that Eureka has compiled for their much loved Masters of Cinema range is fairly light on extras, but it has a visual essay by David Cairns and a commentary track by film historian Imogen Sara; the theatrical trailer is also included. The booklet includes two essays on the film by writers Amy Simmons and Samm Deighan.