The Bedroom Window

The Bedroom Window
April 14th 2023

Before establishing himself as one of the preeminent thriller directors of the 1990s with films like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992), The River Wild (1994), and L.A. Confidential (1997), Curtis Hanson penned screenplays for the clever Canadian crime film The Silent Partner (1978) and Samuel Fuller’s controversial White Dog (1982) and took various directing gigs including the martial-arts family film The Little Dragons (1980) and the virginity comedy Losin’ It (1982), starring Tom Cruise. Though this eclectic, workmanlike, approach to his early career predicted later pivots like Wonder Boys (2000) and In Her Shoes (2005), Hanson is predominantly revered for his genre work, the blueprint of which is the aptly titled voyeur thriller The Bedroom Window (1987).

Though Hanson’s first true genre film as both writer and director was his debut feature, Sweet Kill (1972), it feels every bit the product of a 26-year-old budding filmmaker—that it is, a far cry from the Robert Towne–produced sheen that makes The Bedroom Window glisten in comparison, much of which can be credited to cinematographer Gilbert Taylor’s (The Omen, Repulsion) nearly constantly moving camera. Hanson structures the first ten minutes of his film as a De Palma–esque Hitchcock homage, with lovers (Steve Guttenberg, in between Police Academy sequels, and the inimitable Isabelle Hupert) witnessing a brutal attack from the bedroom window after an elliptical bout of sexual congress. Despite the initial moments of dread (before a topless Hupert scares off the assailant), the sudden burst of violence is treated with indifference by Guttenberg, and the film moves onto the next thing—taking what would usually be the catalyst for a feature-length runtime of thrills and putting it onto the backburner. Hanson’s bold narrative stroke sets his film apart from the Rear Window clones.

Where Hanson’s film really sets itself apart from the Hitchock imitator pack is that the violence of the plot, either witnessed or reported, is only one piece of the mystery at its center; it is as much concerned with infidelity, politics, identity, and obsession as it is with any singular heinous act. In one film, we can see the domestic paranoia of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, the stalking terror of The River Wild, and the criminal-justice exploitation of L.A. Confidential. It’s a potent, if modest, entry in an all-but-lost genre that predicts the trajectory of one of America’s largely overlooked filmmakers.

The Bedroom Window screens tonight, April 14 at 10:30pm and tomorrow, April 15, at 7:30pm with an introduction by Clyde Folley in 35mm at Roxy Cinema.