The Bedroom Window (1987)

The Bedroom Window is a 1987 American psychological thriller film directed by Curtis Hanson. It stars Steve Guttenberg, Elizabeth McGovern and Isabelle Huppert, and was shot in Baltimore in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood. Based on a novel The Witnesses, by Anne Holden, it tells the story of a young executive who starts an affair with the wife of his boss which then escalates into nightmare after he lies to the police in order to protect her.

Terry (Steve Guttenberg) asks his boss’s wife Sylvia (Isabelle Huppert) to his apartment after an office party and the two go to bed. Later, while he is in the bathroom, she hears screams outside and goes naked to the window. Seeing a man attacking a young woman, she opens the window and the assailant runs away. When the media report the murder of a young woman near Terry’s flat that night, he thinks the police should know what Sylvia saw but, to protect her, claims he was at the bedroom window.

At a police lineup, neither he nor the victim Denise (Elizabeth McGovern) is able to pick out the attacker Carl. Despite the feeble evidence against him, Carl is put on trial for the assault and during the proceedings his lawyer proves that since Terry is short-sighted he could not have witnessed the incident. Carl goes free, leaving not only the police and the prosecution but also Denise and Sylvia aghast at Terry’s ineptness.

In the courtroom, Carl recognised Sylvia as the woman at the window. Desperate to warn her, Terry finds her at a ballet performance and tells her she must go to the police, but she refuses all further involvement. As he leaves, he sees Carl’s distinctive truck parked outside and rushes in again. Too late, however, for in the dark she has been stabbed fatally and dies in Terry’s arms.

He takes refuge with Denise, who first seduces him and then offers him a chance to redeem himself. She wants revenge, and with him devises a plot to provoke Carl into another attack. Disguising herself, she goes to a bar where Carl is drinking and signals her availability. Terry follows her as she leaves to go home and, when Carl attacks, the two are able to repel him. He escapes, only to be caught by the police who Terry forewarned.

Cast

  • Steve Guttenberg as Terry Lambert
  • Elizabeth McGovern as Denise
  • Isabelle Huppert as Sylvia Wentworth
  • Paul Shenar as Collin Wentworth
  • Carl Lumbly as Det. Quirke
  • Frederick Coffin as Det. Jessup
  • Brad Greenquist as Carl Henderson
  • Wallace Shawn as Henderson’s Attorney
  • Robert Schenkkan as State Attorney Peters

Development

Curtis Hanson read the novel The Witness by Anne Holden and tried to get the film rights. They have been bought be Paramount who had them for 15 years. Hanson did a deal with the studio to write the script. His adaptation added the character of Denise, the assaulted waitress.

Casting

Hanson says Elizabeth McGovern was his “only choice” to play Denise. “Robert De Niro was obsessed with McGovern in Once Upon a Time in America. Dudley Moore was obsessed with her in Lovesick. So it’s fun to have her play a part where her beauty is secondary. At a certain point she takes over the plot. She’s the victim who becomes the aggressor.”

In the script Sylvia was American but Hanson decided to cast Isabelle Huppert. “She gives the movie a little extra something,” said Hanson. “Being French, she has a veneer of sophistication. She’s glamorous and belongs to a world that he aspires to. Isabelle also added a contrast with Elizabeth, to whom Steve’s character was initially unattracted.”

Hanson says Steve Guttenberg was not his first choice for the lead but rather a suggestion of Dino DeLaurentiis. “Dino thought that if the movie wasn’t successful, at least he’d have a young person in the lead who is liked and is known for comedy,” said Hanson.

Guttenberg was very enthusiastic to do the film and Hanson agreed to cast him after they had dinner together. “I thought the picture should have his enthusiasm and his humor,” Hanson said. “Steve was dying to play the part. It was something different for him. He perceived his character as more of a leading man than a comedian.”

Shooting

The film was shot in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland and in North Carolina at DeLaurentiis’ DEG studios in Wilmington.

Music

The music for the film was composed by Michael Shrieve and Patrick Gleeson, and released as the official soundtrack album on LP in 1986.

Upon its original release, The Bedroom Window was met with a negative feedback by Vincent Canby in The New York Times. The filmed subsequently received mixed to mildly positive reviews from other film critics. James Berardinelli gave the film 2 out of 4 stars and called it “a promising thriller [gone] badly wrong”. Jack Sommersby recommended it as “a first-rate thriller that only occasionally missteps”, but reflected negatively on its story. Derek Armstrong described it as “a diligent, suspenseful thriller” with “a tense, focused story”, pointing out, however, the inferiority of the third act to the rest of the film as well as loose plot threads.

As of August 2018, the film holds an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 15 reviews.

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