A full-scale restoration of the film started in 1997, the third Universal Pictures restoration by the team Robert Harris and James Katz.
Rear Window has never looked as good as it could have, according to Harris, even during its initial release in 1954. That’s because the first dye-transfer prints weren’t made until the 1962 reissue, when they were badly timed and came out beige. “So this will be the first time we see the film’s full-color spectrum,” he says. But first the restorers must clean up an extremely dirty negative, abused from the very beginning. “It’s a mess,” Harris says. “There were 400 runs off the camera negative before the end of 1954. We don’t know why they didn’t do it dye-transfer, which would have saved printing off the negative. This was reasonably unusual for the period. And we’re missing 1,000 feet of negative.”
Besides the accumulation of dirt, pieces of the original Eastman color negative that were dupes (titles and optical effects) have faded in the yellow layer of emulsion due to aging and improper storage — a malady that sooner or later strikes all color negatives from the early ’50s through the ’80s, when a more stable stock was introduced. This first- layer deterioration includes loss of contrast, blacks and shadows going blue and facial highlights turning, in the words of the restorers, “a lovely shade of crustacean.”
Screenwriter John Michael Hayes is interviewed about certain points of his early life but the main focus is his work on Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW. The screenwriter talks about his early days of going to movies and how he realized that certain screenwriters and directors were dependable in regards to turning out a good product. He talks about how he always considered Hitchcock one of these people so he then talks about how he got the book sent to him. This led to a dinner with Hitchcock where the screenwriter was asked what his favorite film of his was, which he replied SHADOW OF A DOUBT. This here led to the screenwriter thinking he blew his chance at the new project but the rest is history. This is a pretty fun interview because John Michael Hayes goes into so much detail about his ideas on the story, what Hitchcock asked for and there’s even a discussion about him spending a week with Grace Kelly so that he could get a good idea about her because her character wasn’t in the original book. He also tells some great stories about basing her character after his wife and how during the preview she caught onto what he had done. The writer says that at the end of production you just knew it was a case where everything had gone right and they all knew it.
Aug. 10, 1954: From left, Grace Kelly, Los Angeles Times photographer Phil Bath, James Stewart and director Alfred Hitchcock look over camera equipment used by press photographers and in the Hitchcock movie “Rear Window.”
Behind the scenes of Rear Window (1954).