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Bedroom Eyes

1984, Starring Dayle Haddon, Kip Gilman, Barbara Law, Christine Catell. Directed by William Fruet.

After several years of concentrating on horror and rural revenge flicks like Funeral Home and Trapped, Bedroom Eyes represented a slight change in direction for accomplished Canadian genre director Bill Fruet. Made for Robert Lantos and Stephen Roth of RSL Films, Bedroom Eyes would become Fruet's most popular work, a film which anticipated the erotic thriller home video trend by several years.

As the tax shelters collapsed in the early 1980s, RSL seemed poised to follow the Cineplex Odeon lead of releasing nothing but stolid Canadian dramas. But somewhere along the way, their focus changed to the much more lucrative world of late night movies. Home video was just coming into its own, and now that people could enjoy racier films in the privacy of their own homes, these movies were suddenly in demand in a whole new way. RSL got the ball rolling with a co-production called Paradise and George Mikhalia's notorious farce Scandale (both 1982), but their next film, Bedroom Eyes, was a much more mainstream attempt to capture the home video market. Using the framework of a traditional thriller spiced up with a variety of fetishes and a provocative advertising campaign, Bedroom Eyes proved a modest hit.

Known for grabbing his audience in the first scene, Fruet drops us into Bedroom Eyes with both feet running. Actually, those running feet belong to Harry (Kip Gilman), a stockbroker who enjoys late night jogs to keep fit. As he makes his way through one neighbourhood, Harry finds himself drawn to a house and decides to sneak a peek through the window. There, he sees a girl slowly undressing. At first, Harry doesn't even notice that he isn't the only voyeur inside sits another man, giving the girl instructions. Harry is so transfixed that he continues watching until he is interrupted by a neighbour out walking his dog.

But as the weeks pass, Harry becomes more and more obsessed with peeping at the house, a compulsion which he is unable to explain. He decides that a psychiatrist might cure him of his voyeurism, and contacts a doctor in his office building, Dr. Alice Barnes (Dayle Haddon, Paperback Hero, Spermula). Harry explains that he can't get the girl out of his mind, and Dr. Barnes has him describe some of the scenes he's witnessed. This, of course, is an excuse for Fruet to cut away to flashbacks of gratuitous softcore footage, and he again goes for the jugular, including shots of the previously seen guy brandishing a whip, and the girl having a lesbian affair.

Not to be outdone, Harry goes out that for dinner that evening with Caroline (Christine Cattell, The Kinky Coaches and the Pom Pom Pussycats) a hot-to-trot co-worker. As Dr. Barnes watches from another booth in the restaurant, Caroline engages Harry in a little foot sex under the table in a scene probably better described as "disturbing" than "sexy." Disappointed his foot is getting more action than he is, Harry can't dump his date soon enough to get back and look at naked girls through windows. This time, Harry watches the guy stand over the girl, who is lying face down on the bed. But when he looks again after being distracted by the neighbour's dog, the guy is gone, and a trickle of blood can be seen on the bedsheets. Scared, Harry runs to a nearby park and makes a 911 call.

The police arrive on scene to find an overwhelming amount of evidence indicating the killer probably escaped out the bedroom window. Harry managed to leave everything but his business card in the flowerbed footprints and cigarette butts litter the ground and nice big fingerprints are found on the window pane. The cops come to arrest Harry, but Dr. Barnes sneaks him back to her place. She believes that Harry is only guilty of trespassing, and hypnotizes him in order to release any suppressed memories that may identify the real killer. The emphasis here is definitely on "erotic" and not on "thriller." Although Fruet generally does a competent job in the director's chair, he has considerable trouble maintaining an air of suspense throughout the entire 90 minute running time. The result is that the film's final twist doesn't pay off the way it should. It comes not as a shock, but just another plot point and a convoluted one at that.

At least part of this has to do with the completely bland portrayal of Harry by Kenneth David "Kip" Gilman, an American import best known for his work on Trapper John, M.D.. Presumably so that viewers can easily substitute their own bedroom eyes for Harry's, Gilman avoids giving his character any tangible aspects of personality. Despite one scene in which he self-deprecatingly refers to himself as a pervert, Harry seems to exist only for jogging, peeping and offering his foot to young girls.

But as I've indicated, this wasn't a film that was intended to be seen for its masterful twist on Hitchcock's Rear Window or Lynch's Blue Velvet it was the scenes of the mystery girl and Harry's obsessive voyeurism that made Bedroom Eyes Fruet's most widely seen film. And these scenes are well done, especially considering that it was Fruet's first foray into this genre. The nudity in his previous films was almost always accompanied with brutish violence, and certainly few would describe them as erotic. Here, the moderately sleazy softcore scenes are certainly well-shot, and probably guaranteed more than a few rentals through word-of-mouth.

Although it's not up to the standard Fruet set in Death Weekend, Bedroom Eyes is still better than most genre films that Canada was pumping out in the mid-1980s. Groundbreaking at the time it was made in 1984, the film was picked up for a home video release by Fox (albeit three years later) and eventually proved popular enough to spawn a sequel, scripted by Gerard Ciccoritti (Psycho Girls) with Wings Hauser taking over the role of Harry. Watched today, Fruet's film suffers from the oversaturation of erotic thrillers in the 1990s which have made clichés of some of the plot devices, but fans of the genre will certainly find something here.

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