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The Bedroom Window
cast: Steve Guttenberg, Elizabeth McGovern, Isabelle Huppert, Carl Lumbly, and Wallace Shawn

writer and director: Curtis Hanson

108 minutes (15) 1987
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Barry Forshaw
If ever a film merited the noun 'sleeper', it's Curtis Hanson's The Bedroom Window. Why it initially gleaned very little attention is easy to see: neither main star, Steve Guttenberg and Elizabeth McGovern, parleyed their early promise into solid careers, and the presence of durable French actress Isabelle Huppert in a supporting role finds her notably ill at ease acting in English. And Curtis Hanson, another example of unfulfilled promise as a director, had not demonstrated significant hit-making capacities. But the word on The Bedroom Window was (some time after its release) slowly but surely pushing the film to viewers' attention. And this welcome DVD issue shows that the slowly accrued reputation was fully deserved. Hitchcock's Rear Window (with its similar transference of guilt theme) remains the finest exploration of the concept, but Hanson's film is pulse-accelerating entertainment, cunningly plotted and full of narrative moves that second-guess the viewer's expectations.

Guttenberg is enjoying a clandestine liaison with his boss' seductive French wife (Huppert) when the latter hears a scream from across the street - and she sees a young woman (who we later learn to be McGovern) being violently assaulted. It appears that the assailant is also responsible for a murder - but Huppert cannot admit to being a witness, as she'd have to explain what she was doing in Guttenberg's bedroom. So the latter, fully briefed (although he saw nothing), opts to be the witness, and contacts the police. Needless to say, dangerous complications ensue - with the principals suffering unwelcome attentions from both police and the killer.

Set pieces (notably a knife murder at a dress-suit ballet evening) are handled with real panache by Hanson, who shows confident skill in using his Baltimore locales - an unfamiliar city to most viewers, as opposed to the over-exposed San Francisco and New York. And genuine tension is engendered, notably in the final risky setup to entrap the killer. The narrative twists come out of left field (although one of them doesn't hold up to real examination - and skip the rest of this sentence is you want to avoid a spoiler: what wearer of hard contact lenses would not keep glasses by their bed? A small point, but it undercuts a key revelation, otherwise impressively handled).

But Rear Window it isn't. Why? Although the tone of Hitchcock's classic is mostly light, its greatness lies in its dark undercurrents, so brilliantly articulated by James Stewart, who demonstrated time and again in his work for Hitch and for Anthony Mann a capacity for anguish and complexity that enriched his portrayals. In The Bedroom Window, Guttenberg is likable but much too lightweight to find the darker colours here. Nevertheless, this is a recommendable thriller.

The anamorphic transfer is acceptable, without showing any impressive pixel detail. Extras? Zero, unless you count the trailer - and who does?

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