Why It’s Okay For Movies To Keep Ripping Off ‘Rear Window’

We sure like to watch other people watch people.
Why It’s Okay For Movies To Keep Ripping Off ‘Rear Window’

While peeping on your neighbors with a telescope in real life usually just leads to boredom and/or a restraining order, we seem to love seeing it happen in movies -- specifically when murder is involved. Most famously, this was the premise of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 classic Rear Window. But now, more than six decades later, Hollywood is still milking this scenario, most recently in the disappointing Netflix thriller The Woman in the Window.

Netflix is also producing a new Kristen Bell series, The Woman in the House, with an extremely similar premise. But it wasn’t so long ago that a movie was actually sued for being too much like Rear Window: 2007’s Disturbia.

Producer Steven Spielberg was served in 2008 by the trust that owned the rights to the Cornell Woolrich story “Murder From a Fixed Viewpoint,” on which Rear Window was based. The suit was eventually tossed by a judge who noted that, apart from that core concept, Disturbia was substantially different and “peppered with humor and teen romance.”

The lawsuit was also kind of crazy, considering just how many other movies have ripped off Rear Window and gotten away with it. Hell, Brian DePalma did it twice, first with Sisters and then later Body Double, which was basically just Rear Window mixed with Vertigo mixed with every VHS movie ‘80s video stores kept hidden behind a pair of filthy saloon doors.

And we really shouldn’t be quibbling over movies ripping off Rear Window because Hitchcock’s film was itself kind of a rip-off. It basically had the same premise as the movie The Window, which was about a kid witnessing a neighbor commit murder from the fire escape, and it came out just five years earlier.

That’s because it, too, was based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich, who apparently had the same great idea twice. And that story was later adapted two more times. So, really, it’s always been more of a generic thriller trope, not a specific reference to one movie. Which means that Hollywood will presumably continue beating this dead horse while another horse watches through some kind of telescope for horses.

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Top Image: Universal Pictures


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