The Bedroom Window (1987) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Terry is having an affair with his boss' wife Sylvia. One night after an office party they are together and Sylvia witnesses an attack on Denise from Terry's bedroom window. She doesn't want to expose their relationship and so is reluctant about talking to the police. Terry, wanting to help, gives the police the description of the attacker. He soon becomes the main suspect in the case. He then sets to find the real rapist/killer with some help from victim Denise.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Baltimore, Maryland, 1987...after midnight. Terry Lambert (Steve Guttenberg) is coming home from a party at his boss's house to his place on East Mount Vernon, near the Washington Monument. He hurries up to his second floor apartment, looks the place over, hastily stows a few stray items of bachelor clutter. He glances out the bedroom window, sees that his guest is arriving and goes to meet her at his front door. She is a beautiful, elegant Frenchwoman, and we soon learn she is Sylvia Wentworth (Isabella Huppert), his boss's wife.

    They retire to the bedroom, for a lengthy session of love-making. When they are through, Terry excuses himself to go to the bathroom. A muffled scream outside attracts Sylvia's attention. She goes to the window and looks out...a man has grabbed a young woman from behind, and is attempting to drag her toward the street. She calls to Terry and tries to open the window. It sticks at first...then it opens suddenly, with a loud crack. The man, startled, looks directly up at her. She remembers she's naked, and steps back behind the curtain. The distraction gives the victim a chance to get her breath and scream loudly for help. Lights come on, doors open...and the man runs away. Terry comes out of the bathroom and joins Sylvia at the window. She tells him what she saw, but it's all over, now, and people are helping the woman to safety. So they dress and he walks her to her car. "Any regrets?" he asks. "None," she replies. "In spite of what happened...or perhaps because of it...it was the most exciting night I can remember."

    Terry arrives late for work the next day, at Wentworth Construction. The receptionist advises him that the boss, Collin Wentworth (Paul Shenar), has been asking for him. Terry goes directly to his office. Collin asks where he disappeared to last night, and Terry replies that he just went home. An office assistant brings a newspaper to Collin while they're talking, and he separates out the business section to check his stocks. As Terry turns to leave, an item on the front page of the Metro section catches his eye...a girl who was murdered the previous night, a few blocks from his apartment. He borrows that section to read more about it.

    He meets Sylvia at his apartment at lunch. They discuss the murder, and decide it could be related to the attack she witnessed. She says she wishes she could come forward and give a description of the man she saw to the police, but she has so much to lose. On an impulse (and to impress her), Terry picks up the phone and calls the police. He tells them HE witnessed an attack from his bedroom window, and wants to report it. Sylvia is alarmed, but also excited. She coaches him on details, tells him she'll wait in her car on the other side of the Washington Monument, and leaves just before the police arrive.

    Detectives Quirke (Carl Lumbly) and Jessup (Frederick Coffin) seem quite pleased with Terry's story. They ask about a point or two, but for the most part they accept it without question. It turns out they think the two incidents are related, too...and this is a welcome lead.

    After they leave, Terry goes out to where Sylvia is waiting, and directs her to drive to the murdered girl's apartment. Terry explains to Sylvia (and we see in flashback) how the murder was done. Sylvia listens soberly, then thanks him for helping her do the right thing. He asks when he'll see her again. "Soon," she promises, "very soon."

    When Terry returns from lunch, Collin stops him and jokingly asks him if he's been up to something he shouldn't. "The police were trying to contact you," he says, and gives him the number to call back. Terry explains that he witnessed an assault the night of the party. Collin, curious, follows him back to his office to listen in on the call. Detective Quirke asks if Terry can come to the precinct that night at 7 p.m. He agrees, and hangs up. Collin has already lost interest...implies that Terry is a fool to get involved.

    At the precinct that night, Terry stops at the desk and asks for Detectives Quirke and Jessup. The desk officer (Joyce Greer) tells him they're a little late getting set up, and to wait over there, pointing to a bench in the lobby. He goes to the bench and sits down. A young woman--tall, slim, pretty, with short, curly, dark hair--sits next to him. She looks at him expectantly. He glances at her distractedly, then goes back to the desk officer to ask what she meant by getting set up. "You're here for the line-up, right?" she says. He is completely gob-smacked. The young woman approaches now, and says, "You must be the one!" She pauses, sensing a problem, and adds uncertainly, "I mean, they told me there was a witness..." Detectives Quirke and Jessup join them at this point, and confirm that they are, indeed, here for a line-up. The young woman, Denise Connelly (Elizabeth McGovern), reminds them that she didn't see her assailant at all. Detective Quirke tells her that sometimes people see more than they realize..."but anyway, Mr. Lambert here got a good look." Terry looks cornered...he hadn't bargained for this.

    True to her word, Denise is unable to identify her attacker. Terry looks uneasily at all the subjects. We see that the suspect is among them, and Terry hesitates when he looks at him...something about Sylvia's description clicks. But he doesn't feel confident enough to positively identify him. Detectives Quirke and Jessup are disappointed. "One of these men has done this kind of thing before," Quirke admits. "From your description, I thought... I guess I was wrong. I guess we keep looking."

    Terry walks out of the station with Denise. She has seen him before, she says, at Edgar's, the Poe-themed cocktail bar where she works. "My night for not recognizing anyone," he mumbles. She also tells him she's sorry he wasn't able to identify the suspect, because she won't feel safe again until they catch her attacker. In spite of himself, Terry is beginning to feel involved. As he walks her to her car, he sees the suspect come out of the police station, and get into an old beat-up pickup truck. When Denise drives away, Terry jumps in his own car and follows him, to a rough-looking neighborhood by the shipyards. The suspect parks in front of the house on the corner and goes inside. Terry drives by slowly, looking in the windows...sees him get a beer from the fridge, and go to stand behind an older woman (mother?) watching a flickering TV. "Didn't even tell her," says Terry to himself, musing.

    He is there in the morning, to follow the suspect to his work as a welder in a shipyard. He returns with Sylvia at lunch. The adventure is wearing thin for Sylvia...she says she isn't sure he's the one, and she still can't go to the police, anyway. She tells him pointedly that next time they get together they shouldn't spend all their time driving around.

    But Terry continues to follow the suspect. That night, they wind up in the Fells Point Saloon, downtown. The suspect positions himself near the bar, where he can watch the girls. Terry finds a place across the room where he can watch the suspect. He seems to be paying extra attention to a pretty girl in a brown-checked shirt (Sara Carlson) who's engaged in a rowdy popcorn-throwing fight with her friends at a nearby table. Suddenly she stands up and begins to dance. She gives one of her male friends a pretend lap dance...then climbs up on a table and dances for everyone. She's good...has good moves, a good body, an eye-catching sheaf of light-blonde hair and a slew of gold bracelets jangling on her arm. Almost everyone in the bar cheers her on. When she finally sits down, the suspect steps quietly up behind her, and looks down...

    At this moment, someone bumps the cocktail waitress (Jodi Long), and she spills her tray of drinks on Terry. She apologizes profusely, tries to wipe his jacket off with her towel, offers to buy him another drink...he finally agrees, to get her to leave him alone. When he looks up again, the suspect is gone. He goes outside...the suspect's truck is also gone. He goes back to the suspect's house and waits for him there. It's very late when he finally drives up. He tries to sneak in without waking his mother, but her light goes on and she begins to scold, loudly. Terry smiles a little. The suspect goes down into the basement, strips, and goes to bed. Terry calls it a night, too, and drives away.

    He passes emergency vehicles, police, medics and an ambulance, parked near an alley. With a sense of foreboding. he stops, and gets out to look. EMT's are lifting a body onto a gurney, covering it with a plastic sheet. "What happened?" he asks another man, standing nearby with an armload of groceries (Richard K. Olsen). "Found a body in the dumpster," he replies. "Some girl." Terry watches as they wheel the body to the ambulance. An arm slips out to one side...with a slew of gold bracelets jangling. There's a hint of that checked shirt visible under the clear plastic sheet and the swath of light blonde hair is unmistakable.

    Terry goes to the police the next day and tells them that he is now ready to identify Denise's attacker. They ask him why he is so sure now. He tells them that he followed him the night of the line-up, to see him under more similar circumstances, to confirm he was the right one. The officers are excited again. They call in State Attorney Peters (Robert Schenkkan), and ask him to get a search warrant for the suspect's home and vehicle...whose name, we learn, is Chris Henderson (Brad Greenquist).

    But the searches don't go as they'd hoped. They are unable to find any blood, hair, or fibers in his home or truck. They do find a handful of mint-flavored toothpicks in the glove compartment of his truck, but those are available free in a number of downtown restaurants, and don't provide enough of a link to the murders on their own. ("We held that back from the press," explains Detective Quirke. "Henderson stuck a toothpick in the locks at the apartment buildings of both the murdered girls so their keys wouldn't work, and they'd have to go around to the side door.") They have called Terry in to explain all this to him, and tell him that they now have no choice but to charge Henderson with Denise's assault. With Terry's help, they can get him put away, and while he's serving time for that they'll get lucky and find evidence to connect him to the murders.

    Terry meets Sylvia in the square near the Washington Monument to break the news. She is frightened and angry that the situation has progressed to this point. Terry assures her that whatever happens, he won't involve her. But she doesn't trust him. "All you've done so far is grandstand," she says, "and I'm the one with everything to lose." She flounces off, leaving him there in the square. Denise Connelly, who has been out running, happens along just in time to see the back of her as she walks away. She calls to Terry, and walks over to join him. She tells him it means a lot to her that he decided to come forward. This makes him feel both a little better...and a little worse.

    He goes home, dejected, but finds Sylvia waiting for him in the foyer of his apartment building. She apologizes for lashing out at him. She tells him she'll support him, even go to court (secretly!) And when he testifies, it will be for both of them.

    At the trial, State Attorney Peters allows Terry to tell his story with little interruption. Confident, articulate and personable, he makes a splendid witness. He delivers his evidence without faltering, and when he is finished, he stands up to leave. "One moment, Mr. Lambert," admonishes the judge (Penelope Allen), "there are two attorneys present." Everyone titters a little, including Terry, and he sits back down. Henderson's attorney (Wallace Shawn) steps forward, and says, "Okay, Mr. Lambert, let's take you through this again, in perhaps a little more detail." He establishes that Terry was alone and asleep when Denise's screams awakened him, that the whole incident happened very quickly. He proposes that they test Terry's eyesight under conditions similar to the night of the attack. "And we'll start by having you remove your contact lenses," he finishes.

    Terry is stunned...again, he clearly hadn't counted on this. Henderson's attorney reminds him that he wears hard contact lenses, which he would have removed prior to going to bed, so he would have witnessed the incident without the lenses, and they need to determine whether that would have been possible.

    Peters, also taken by surprise, objects...but the judge overrules him. Terry removes his contacts, and the courtroom is darkened. Henderson's attorney goes to the back of the room, holds up an object and asks Terry to identify it. Stumped, Terry's eyes stray to Sylvia, watching from the gallery as she'd promised. She tries to mime that Henderson's attorney is holding up a small red book. Henderson sees where Terry is looking, and recognizes Sylvia as the woman in the bedroom window, the true witness. Denise also sees where Terry is looking, puts two and two together, and comes to the same conclusion.

    Terry is unable to identify the book, even after they turn the lights on in the courtroom. With his testimony discredited, Henderson is acquitted. Peters is in a towering rage. The detectives are also angry...worse, they are now looking suspiciously at Terry.

    He slinks home to hide, but finds no peace there: a neighbor, a middle-aged woman (Kate McGregor-Stewart) from the first floor, ambushes him on the stairs. Clearly enjoying herself, she tells him that the police came to ask her a lot of questions about him today. He goes on upstairs to his apartment, but he's only there for a minute when there's a knock at the door: Denise is standing outside when he answers, looking reproachful. "You heard they let him go?" he asks; she nods slowly. "Sickening, isn't it?" he says; she nods again. "Would you like a beer?" he asks. "Thanks, I would," she replies, and comes inside. "Is that the famous window?" she asks, looking into his bedroom. He nods, she asks if she can have a look. He hands her a beer, and they stand together looking out the window in silence for a moment. "I know, Terry," she says. He looks at her, startled, and she repeats, "I know. I saw you with her in the park, and I saw her today in court, coaching you...it was pathetic. It was her, not you who witnessed the attack, and she can't come forward for some reason, so you were idiot enough to come forward in her place." Terry tries to deny it, but she's not buying it. He asks her what she's going to do. She tells him she'll be waiting to see what HE does...and what SYLVIA does. She thanks him for the beer and leaves.

    Terry picks up the phone to call Sylvia, but stops when he hears a couple of odd clicks on the line. Afraid the police are tapping his line, he makes arrangements to meet her another way, at the National Aquarium. He tells her Denise knows about her. He also tells her he thinks the police suspect him, that they may be tapping his phone and following him. Sylvia is sure Terry is exaggerating about the police, but the news about Denise upsets her. She tells him to ask her to give them more time. She still can't come forward, she needs time to think. As she is leaving, she makes an unkind remark about his bad eyesight. Apparently, the flirtation is over.

    Terry goes back to Denise, and asks her to hold off on going to the police. "All right," she says, "But I'm giving the time to you because you're the one who needs it. SHE knows EXACTLY what SHE'S doing."

    When Terry comes out of his apartment building the next day, Detective Jessup is waiting, to take him to the precinct for another interview. The detectives aren't so friendly this time. They ask what he was doing the night of the attack, then they ask about the girl from the Fells Point Saloon. They tell him that the barmaid doesn't remember seeing Henderson there, but clearly remembers Terry. He is pretty shaken by all this, but tries to remain cool. He asks if he is under arrest; they tell him not yet...this time, they're moving more slowly.

    He decides enough is enough. He calls Sylvia and tells her she must go with him to the police. She is dressing to go out for the evening with Collin, and she is furious he has called her at home. She hangs up on him, but Collin has heard, and asks who it was. She hesitates, comes to a decision...replies, "Terry Lambert."

    Meanwhile Terry, angry and desperate, drives to Sylvia's house...only to be told that the Wentworths have gone to the ballet for the evening. He drives to the theatre to talk to her there. She and Collin are sitting toward the front of the theatre in the center section. She turns, sees him at the back of the theatre, and goes to go talk with him. They step into the foyer, and he tells her the police definitely suspect him, and she's the only one who can tell them what's going on. She replies that she can't. She confessed to Collin that she had slept with him...one time only...for which Collin has forgiven her, on condition that she agrees to say that she was at home that night, so they are not involved further in the mess. "So you'll have to find another solution to your problem," she finishes. "Sylvia, there IS no other solution," he exclaims, so vehemently that one of the ushers approaches and asks Sylvia if she's ok. They are at an impasse. He stops her, though, as she turns to walk back into the theatre: "Tell me one thing," he asks, "it was him, wasn't it? You were sure, right from the beginning, it was Henderson." Sylvia replies in a tired voice, "All right, I was sure. Of course I was sure. There's nothing wrong with MY eyes." She goes back into the theatre, and he leaves. A man standing in the back of the theatre tells her softly that the act is almost over, it would be better to wait. She complies.

    Terry goes back to his car, but as he is getting in, he notices the vehicle parked behind his: an old, beat-up truck...Henderson's truck. Alarmed, he runs back into the theatre. He is just in time to see Henderson stab Sylvia. Henderson smiles triumphantly, and shoves the dying woman toward Terry, who catches her, getting his shirt soaked with her blood. Collin has come back to see what's keeping Sylvia, sees Terry with her lifeless body in his arms, and raises the alarm. With ushers in pursuit, Terry flees down onto the stage, and escapes through the back of the theatre. Henderson walks calmly out the front door, and no one notices.

    At Edgar's, Sylvia's picture flashes up on one of the TVs as the socialite victim of a heinous murder. Denise asks the bartender to turn up the sound. Terry's picture is shown next, as a person of interest in Sylvia's slaying. One of Denise's co-workers asks, "Isn't that the guy who.....?" Denise nods, thoughtfully.

    When she goes out to her car after the bar has closed, someone approaches her suddenly, urgently. Startled, she lashes out, hitting him in the face and knocking him down. It is Terry. She takes him home, and sneaks him into her apartment. He tells her what happened, tells her that he knew he was being followed, but he'd thought it was the police. Henderson couldn't have planned it better...taking care of the one person who could accuse him and clear Terry at the same time.

    Denise believes him. Terry is curious about that...why she never suspected him. "I knew something the police didn't know," she replies. "Even that first night at the station I knew something was wrong. It was obvious you didn't know me. You hadn't seen me from your bedroom window or anywhere else, and you weren't interested. Not flattering, perhaps...but on reflection, trustworthy." She asks what he's going to do. He tells her that he has no other choice, he'll take his chances with the police. She tells him he can stay the night at her place, and surrender in the next morning.

    She points out that between the two of them they probably know more about Henderson than anyone else. She asks if she and the other girl looked alike. "Not really," Terry replies. Denise asks, "What made him notice her, in particular?" "Everybody noticed her," he replies. "She danced. She was good, too, she was sexy...and her friends egged her on." He asks her with a little smile, "Did you dance the night you were attacked?" "On a Thursday night the place is so busy, I don't have time to breathe," she says. "Did anything unusual happen that night?" he persists. "Well, there was the kiss," she says. It had been Peter the bartender's birthday (Francis V. Guinan, Jr.). They had gotten him a cake, and she had brought it out at midnight. She had given him a little kiss, and everyone had cheered and applauded. So she'd given him another, longer kiss...that brought more cheers and applause. Then he'd grabbed her and given her a really long kiss...and the crowd had gone wild. "Two girls," says Terry, "both young and pretty, both did something that made them the center of attention. Something sexual...something that would turn a normal guy on." Denise adds, "Turns him on too, but makes him want to kill."

    She asks if he loved Sylvia. He told her he probably had a crush on her, but that he really hadn't known her at all...and he was just something for her to do. "I can think of worse things to do," says Denise, and hands him a set of sheets and a blanket for the couch. Sometime in the night, she comes out to him, and asks him to join her in her bedroom. She tells him that she has not been able to be with a man since the attack...but tonight, with him, she thinks she could. He tenderly holds out his hand to her, and she joins him on the couch.

    The next day, she tells him that sooner or later Henderson will attack someone again. He replies that he'll be in jail, the perfect alibi. She says they could make it happen sooner, rather than later, by setting a trap for him...by getting a girl who's his type to do something they know will push his buttons. Terry refuses...doesn't want to put her in danger. "Besides," he adds, "He'd know you, know it was a set-up." Denise dresses up in a short leather miniskirt and halter top, with a hot pink jacket and stiletto heels...puts on a long, auburn wig, and changes her make-up. He's impressed, decides maybe it could work.

    He calls Detectives Quirke and Jessup, and tells them to wait at the precinct...he'll call and let them know where they can meet him later that night. Denise rents a car for Terry, so that he can follow her and Henderson, and they go to his workplace to wait for him to get off. This night, of all nights, he works late. And then he goes to a neighborhood pool hall to have a beer, rather than going to hunt for another victim. "Not one of your better places in town," she says to Terry...but she musters up her courage and walks in.

    There are no other females there...all the blue collar guys howl and growl and catcall as she walks to the bar. She orders a beer and a bump, and puts a quarter in the juke box...dances a little to the tune when it comes up. A man at the other end of the bar (Maury Chaykin) sends her another drink, and invites her to play pool with him. Henderson is watching her, but makes no move toward her. Terry watches him from outside through the window. At one point Henderson goes over to the bar, where Denise left her jacket and purse, and stares down at her open wallet on the bar. Terry realizes that he saw Henderson do this before, at the Fells Point Saloon. This is how he found out where the other two girls lived. Henderson goes to the restroom...Terry comes into the bar and tells Denise what he saw, and that Henderson's apparently decided to go for it. He goes back outside to call Detectives Quirke and Jessup from the phone booth on the corner.

    Henderson comes out of the restroom and leaves. Denise wraps up the game of pool. Her pool partner tries to put a move on her, but she's had extensive experience shutting down unwanted advances. A bold grab of the "family jewels" and a threat to put them in the corner pocket along with the 8-ball does the job.

    Terry has discovered that the phone booth is in use: a transient (Mark Margolis) seems prepared to talk all night. Terry tries to persuade him to leave, offers to pay him, then winds up demanding that he leave. The transient ignores him at first, then they start to fight. Denise comes out of the bar, gets in her car and leaves. Terry calls to her, to get her to stop and wait for him, but she doesn't hear, and he can't get away from the transient. A patrol cop (Kevin O'Rourke) pulls over to break it up. While the cop is dealing with the transient, Terry steals the patrol car and heads out after Denise, calling on the way for help on the police radio.

    Denise arrives at her apartment building, and sees that Henderson's truck is parked a few stalls away. She takes a can of mace from her pocket to keep ready. She discovers that the elevator from the underground parking garage has been disabled in some way. Thinking Terry is right behind her, she starts up the stairs, slowly, cautiously, checking corners and glancing behind her from time to time. On the first floor landing, she pauses, looking up the next flight of stairs...and Henderson steps out from behind the door and grabs her.

    Terry arrives and jumps out of the cop car. He sees Henderson's truck, and pauses.

    Denise and Henderson are struggling on the stairs....she tries to spray him, but he knocks the mace out of her hand. She falls, and he grabs her by the hair to drag her to her feet. He is shocked to his shoes when it comes off in his hand! He turns her over and looks at her, recognizes her, just as Terry appears on the landing below him. "You!" he growls...and Terry jumps on him. Denise is able to get clear and find the can of mace. She grabs Henderson by the hair, pulls his head back and lets him have a full dose right in the eyes. He screams, pulls away from Terry, who also falls, and makes a desperate dash for his truck. Terry checks to make sure Denise is all right, then goes after him.

    Officers are arriving now, Denise directs them to help Terry. Henderson is in his truck, trying to get it started, but something has been jammed in the ignition. He pulls it out and throws it away. He starts the truck, but Terry is on him again...grabbing him through the open window, trying to drag him out of the truck. Henderson takes off, with Terry hanging off the side...they pull out of the parking garage, and out onto the street. Detectives Quirke and Jessup arrive just in time for Henderson to crash into their car. Terry is thrown clear, skinned and bruised, but without serious injury.

    Later, Henderson has been strapped to a gurney, and loaded into an ambulance. Terry and Denise sit on the fountain at the foot of the Washington Monument, and wait for the police to decide their fate. Detective Quirke approaches them, looking stern, and says, "You know we'd have gotten him, eventually. Sooner or later, we'd have muddled through. What did you put in his ignition...a toothpick?" Terry smiles slightly. "Paper clip," he replies. Quirke shakes his head. "It was a stupid move," he remarks. "You seemed like such a level-headed girl," he says to Denise. "What happens now?" she asks. "Well, for your friend here there's still the question of perjury...obstruction of justice," he says. "I'd say you're looking at ten to twelve years." Denise and Terry both look alarmed. "Just kidding," he says, with a smile. "Get yourself a good lawyer." He walks off. Terry puts his arm around Denise, and they smile at each other...the camera pans up to the statue of George Washington, the music comes up, and the credits roll.

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