Anchor Bay // 1987 // 113 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Harold Gervais (Retired) // July 25th, 2000
I know its a police frequency. I just stole a police car.
Architect Terry Lambert (Steve Guttenberg), has it all. A great job, a beautiful apartment and to top it all off, he is bedding down his boss's stunning wife, Sylvia (Isabelle Huppert). Terry's ideal situation changes quickly after a night of lovemaking. Terry has gone to the bathroom and Sylvia hears a scream from outside. Going to the window she sees an assault in progress. Opening the window and calling out, she makes direct eye contact with the attacker. Scared he runs off. Coming back in the room, Terry is told of what she has seen. Not wanting to expose their affair and since the girl is all right, the two decide to keep quiet.
All is well and good until the next morning when Terry notices in the paper a news item about a girl who was raped and murdered a few block from Terry's apartment. Turns out the girl was killed a short time after the attempted assault outside of Lambert's residence. Putting two and two together, Terry decides that he and Sylvia need to come forward. Unwilling to let the truth be known to her husband, Sylvia says no. Knowing that something must be done, Terry gets all the information from Sylvia he can and goes to the police himself, saying that he is the one who saw the assault.
Needless to say things do not go as planned and as this is a suspense thriller. It is at this point that things start getting really complicated and my discussion of the plot is over.
Before Writer/Director Curtis Hanson (The River Wild, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle), received world wide financial success with 1997s L.A. Confidential and Y2K's Wonder Boys really made him the critics darling, he made suspense/action thrillers and noirish style mysteries. These films did well enough at the box office but were roundly trashed in the press. 1987s The Bedroom Window was one of his earlier efforts and it stands as Hanson's ode to the master, Alfred Hitchcock.
The movie has a couple of things going for it. First and foremost is the work of Elizabeth McGovern (She's Having A Baby, Once Upon A Time In America, Ragtime), as the first intended victim, Denise. Through a series of misadventures Denise becomes involved with Terry and is the only one to believe his innocence when he is accused and hunted for the murders. They of course fall in love and cook up a dangerous plan to snare the real killer. In the role McGovern brings the gifts as an actress that have often been her trademark. Intelligence, toughness and an odd kind of sensuality. McGovern gives the movie a spark that helps keep things interesting. She also carries a sweet kind of vulnerability that makes you care about what happens to her. The best moments of the film are the ones that have her in them.
Next up is Wallace Shawn (My Dinner With Andre, Manhattan, The Hotel New Hampshire), as the true killer's attorney. Its a small but crucial role and Shawn works it for all its worth. Long one of my favorite supporting actors, any movie with him can't be all bad and this is no exception.
For the disc, Anchor Bay does another amazing job. This movie was released 13 years ago but from the quality of the transfer it looks like it could have been made yesterday. Preserving the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the film has been given an anamorphic transfer that packs loads of detail and clarity. Colors are rock solid with no signs of pixel breakup. Flesh tones are reproduced so that they look quite life-like and supple and there is hardly a trace of edge enhancement. The films numerous nighttime and shadowy sequences also hold up beautifully. If there are any problems it comes from the occasional presence of film grain, however those problems are surprisingly few and far between. Congratulations to the people at Anchor Bay.
The sound is Dolby Digital Mono and it is serviceable. Dialogue is clearly heard but the overall sound field always has a hollow feel to it. The track has limited fidelity so there is a thinness to the proceedings. Background distortion is held to a minimum with very little background hiss audible. One thing to be thankful for is the Mono track prevents the musical score of Michael Shrieve and Patrick Gleeson from being heard all over your home theater. Their effort is such the mid-to-late '80s movie sound. If I never hear a drum machine or a synthesizer on a soundtrack again, it will be too soon.
Extras are pretty much confined to the movies original theatrical trailer.
Few filmmakers have cast as large a shadow as Alfred Hitchcock. To this day you hear this filmmaker and that filmmaker talk about how he wants to make the kind of movies Hitchcock did. The main difference between Hitchcock and most of these other filmmakers is, Hitchcock made good films that have withstood the test of time.
This movie follows the conventions of the genre almost to the letter. Stop if you have seen this all before. Innocent man is thrown into a situation in which he has no control over. Things go from bad to worse and the innocent man finds himself wanted for crimes he did not commit. Killer becomes aware of the innocent man and now the innocent man is being hunted by the police and the true murderer. Innocent man meets and falls in love with a woman with a heart of gold who believes he is telling the truth even though everything looks grim. Together they find a way to capture the true killer and live happily ever after. Its been done a thousand times before and quite honestly, its been done better than here in The Bedroom Window.
As the leading man, we have Steve Guttenberg (Zeus and Roxanne, Three Men And A Baby, Cocoon). Yes, Police Academy Steve Guttenberg. I was thinking if ever VH1 were to start doing an actor's version of "Where Are They Now" Guttenberg would be a prime candidate. Its not so much that Guttenberg is bad, it is just that, like so much else in this film, he is just so average. His performance lacks any kind of emotion, with his answer for anything being a goofy grin and a lost puppy dog look in his eyes. If a movie like this is going to work the audience needs to care about the leading man, or at the very least identify somewhat with him. As the viewer we need to be pulled into the web the director and the writer have woven and feel the discomfort of the protagonist. The leading character needs to be a kind of everyman, that way the feeling that it could happen to any of us is made real, thus building tension as the situations spin out of control. Instead of everyman, Guttenberg gives us a grinning nobody.
As Terry's married lover, Isabelle Huppert (Heaven's Gate, The School Of Flesh), has the exotic and mysterious thing down pat. Unfortunately her motivations are as difficult to understand as her English. Like Guttenberg, Huppert seems to have wandered in from another, far different movie. She looks beautiful but totally lost. Considering that McGovern does not really enter the film full force until almost 40 minutes or so in, the first part of the movie falls almost entirely on Huppert and Guttenberg's shoulders. Needless to say, it makes for some slow going.
That Curtis Hanson has grown into a skilled filmmaker of formidable talent is difficult to deny, so perhaps it is easier to forgive early failures such as The Bedroom Window. He has a definite love for the genre that shines through the movie and the film has sequences that preview great skill. This kind of material is very difficult to pull off and he was simply at a stage in his career where he did not possess the skills to make it all work. I found myself watching and thinking that it would be a pretty impressive senior project but as a feature film that people would have to pay to see, well that is another matter.
If you have read my reviews of Anchor Bay in the past, you know of my fondness for the material they put out and the care which goes into it. You would also know the one thing that I feel separates them from the pack is their seeming steadfast resistance to subtitles. No where is it clearer than in The Bedroom Window, that this is a needed function. How else am I supposed to completely understand Isabelle Huppert?
Outside of some good work from Elizabeth McGovern and Wallace Shawn there is not a lot to recommend here. Anchor Bay does their usual job on the technical end of things, so The Bedroom Window finds itself looking better than it has any right to.
Unless you are a die hard Guttenberg fan and you can't wait for your Police Academy reruns on the Superstation, pass this one by.
The VerdictBecause of all the good work Writer/Director Curtis Hanson has done since making The Bedroom Window, he is forgiven and all charges against him dropped. Anchor Bay is ordered to do 6 months community service in an establishment to benefit the deaf and hard of hearing for their continued failure to provide close captioning or subtitles. That is all I have. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer