This version of “Rear Window” is not to be confused with the 1954 film which starred Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. In fact, the names of all the characters have been changed, and the plot is updated to include newer technology in the 1998 TV movie.
Christopher Reeve - Wikimedia
Christopher Reeve was the obvious choice to play Jason Kemp, since he was confined to a wheelchair himself when this film was produced. In 1995, he had been thrown from a horse while competing in an equestrian match, which rendered him a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair and subjected to a portable ventilator until the day he died. He passed away in 2004 at the age of 52.
Jason Kemp was a successful architect with a prestigious company when he was involved in a car accident in the opening scenes of “Rear Window.” Detective Charlie Moore (Robert Forster) was assigned to the case to determine who was responsible for the accident. Jason then spent six months in rehabilitation before he was allowed to go home. He was able to spirit away one of the hospital attendants, Antonio, to be his personal assistant at home. He was also able to have a nurse to provide 24-hour care for him in his Greenwich Village apartment. Jason remarked that he is confident that, with his rigorous therapy schedule, he will be ready when the latest theories about spinal injuries prove that his present situation can be reversed.
When Jason was settled in at home, his company informed him that the huge project he was working on with the Woolrich Company had been taken over by a new employee, Claudia Henderson (Daryl Hannah). He insisted that he was able to take over again, and would work with Claudia on it if she wished.
Daryl Hannah - Wikimedia
Except for the big box TV and the land phone in Jason’s apartment, which dated the film slightly, Jason’s home was equipped with modern technology such as a voice-activated computer which gave instructions to his phone, his television, the locks on the door, and his aides’ beepers. Jason is unable to use his hands.
Jason spends quite a bit of his time watching his neighbors’ apartments across the courtyard. His aide, Antonio, said he would be able to equip him with a surveillance device which would magnify his view, providing him with a more sophisticated access.
What Jason Witnessed
Jason was intrigued by one couple - a sculptor and his wife - who were in their apartment constantly. The sculptor seemed to be working from home and his wife drank constantly. They argued a lot. After watching for several days, Jason witnessed a particularly unpleasant confrontation between the couple during which the husband beat the wife miserably. Jason used his voice-activated phone to report the incident to the police. Detective Charlie Moore was assigned to the case and the sculptor was taken to police headquarters. Jason learned that the couple were Julian and Ilene Thorpe.
Claudia and Jason worked on the Woolrich project together from Jason’s apartment, and the arrangement became friendly. Jason familiarized Claudia with the happenings outside his window, about which Claudia seemed skeptical. Thorpe had returned home and noticed that Jason was watching him, and gave him a sneering look. One evening, Jason was awakened by loud screaming from across the courtyard, followed by complete silence. He was sure that Thorpe had killed his wife. Charlie Moore questioned the sculptor and learned that his wife had left to visit her sister. He could find no evidence of a crime. Both Charlie and Claudia downplayed Jason’s theory, and life went on. Charlie, at this point, informed Jason that he was not responsible for the accident which injured him and proved fatal for the female driving the other car. The viewer had been aware of this from the beginning, as the woman was seen texting while driving. Jason was naturally relieved at the news.
A few days later, Jason was startled to see that Thorpe’s wife had returned, and the couple were ardently kissing in their bedroom. The woman appeared to be thinner, she was not drinking, and did not have the prominent mole which had defined her. The viewer learns that the new lover is Thorpe’s sister-in-law.
Claudia Comes on Board
Antonio remarked to Jason that Claudia was falling in love with him, which startled Jason. She brought groceries to the apartment and made him lunch. Jason brought her up to date on his surveillance, and said that he needed Thorpe’s email address. Claudia said she could visit his apartment on the pretense of wanting to purchase one of his sculptures.
Her mission was accomplished along with the further discovery that Thorpe’s wife’s jewelry and perfume were no longer there, but there were items of a different brand on the vanity. Jason emailed Thorpe fearlessly, stating “I saw what you did.”
Christopher Reeve - Wikimedia
The Reality is Frightening for the Viewer
In a terrifying scene, Thorpe managed to enter Jason’s apartment, drugged his nurse, and slit the tube on Jason’s breathing apparatus. Jason can only breathe on his own for a short time, so this scene was an anxious moment for not only Jason, but for the viewer who could not help but empathize with Jason, as well as Christopher Reeve. Have no fear, Antonio arrives just in time to save his charge, and we all breathe a sigh of relief. The final scenes show Claudia boldly kissing Jason, and we are left with the thought that the pair might possibly have a future together.
It was not so for Christopher Reeve, however. He did have the satisfaction though of producing this tremendous example to other paraplegics that they are all able to live worthwhile lives, even with such a devastating disability. Although Christopher, in his own life, was obliged to use his breathing tube every couple of words, his sheer willpower allowed him to speak his lines without that restraint, which says a lot about his acting ability.
James Stewart - Wikimedia
I was so impressed by this film which gained for Christopher Reeve a nomination for the Golden Globe for his role in this Made-for-TV film. He won the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award, however, for this performance. Viewers know him for his role as “Superman,” but “Rear Window” has demonstrated that he had super powers beyond what Superman has ever shown us.