Kiss to Die For, A (1993)

vt Those Bedroom Eyes
US / 91 minutes / color with some bw / Hearst, Polone, NBC Dir: Leon Ichaso Pr: Kimberly Myers Scr: Deborah Dalton Cine: Jeffrey Jur Cast: Tim Matheson, Mimi Rogers, William Forsythe, Carlos Gomez, Carroll Baker, Nina Jones, Susie Spear, Johnny Popwell, Challen Cates, Deborah Hobart, Orestes Matacena.

A Kiss to Die For - 0 opener

Still desolated three years after the death of his wife Kate in a train crash, or guilty over the fact that he no longer misses her and can’t even remember the last time they made love, psychology prof William Tauber (Matheson) decides to end it all by throwing himself off a train. Just as he’s about to do so, a passing beautiful stranger, interior designer Ali Broussard (Rogers), saves his life. She also takes him to his sleeper compartment on the train and gives him a pretty convincing carnal reason why life might be worth living after all.

A Kiss to Die For - 1 William readies to suicide

William (Tim Matheson) readies himself for the terminal plunge.

After they disembark at their joint destination, Ali tries to persuade William that this was just a spur-of-the-moment thing, that he should accept it for what it was and not expect anything more. Understandably, he’s not so eager to let things lie. He has her business card—she owns a little company called The Decorator’s Touch—and in due course phones her to set up another meeting. That, too, ends up in bed. She keeps trying to tell him that she enjoys the sex but doesn’t want the relationship to go any further; he, a psychologist who has a little difficulty analyzing himself, is by now convinced that he’s fully in love with her, even though the two of them still know little about each other beyond what they like between the sheets.

A Kiss to Die For - 5 Ali tries to adapt to new circs

Ali (Mimi Rogers) tries to adapt to the novelty of having a steady.

William’s aneighbor Sue (Jones), who has been indicating her availability to him, is obviously none too keen about the arrival on the scene of the flamboyantly sexual Ali. Here again we see William’s failings as a psychologist. As a lonely person himself, he seems strangely incapable of noticing that Sue is lonely too. Most people in a similar situation—let alone a psychologist—would by now have at the least established a friendship with Sue rather than simply treating her as someone useful to look after the cat when he’s away.

A Kiss to Die For - 4 Sue is disappointed by developments

Good neighbor Sue (Nina Jones) is disappointed by developments.

Meanwhile, the cops—in the shape of Detectives Mike Stoller (Forsythe) and rookie Hector Morales (Gomez)—are investigating the second murder in what looks like it might be developing into a string of them, a middle-aged, bewigged man shot by an unknown woman after sex. Just to ensure that the cops know there’s a pattern, the first victim was shot once and this next one twice. Looking at the photos in the deceased’s home of the man with various babes, Morales asks:

“How does a guy with no hair get fish like this?”
Stoller: “Easy. He’s a gynecologist.”

Stoller is sure the shooter is a hooker, especially since a business card—astonishingly similar to Ali’s The Decorator’s Touch card—has been left on the scene. It boasts the name Bedroom Eyes. His lieutenant, Perkins (Popwell), is less convinced, but even so Stoller and Morales start asking around in local prostitution circles. Soon enough a streetwalker called Mindy (Cates) points them toward a major madam, Madam Francesca (Hobart), who Mindy thinks might be able to help.

A Kiss to Die For - 2 Mindy offers help

A hooker named Mindy (Challen Cates) gives the cops a helpful lead . . .

The wheelchair-bound Madam Francesca can’t—at least not directly—but she has heard about Bedroom Eyes through her clients. And she really can’t remember which clients.

Stoller: “You know we could subpoena your [client] list.”
Francesca: “You subpoena my list and there won’t be anyone left to run this city. . . . Besides, you won’t find a judge who’ll take the risk.”

A Kiss to Die For - 3 but Francesca's less obliging

 . . . but Madam Francesca (Deborah Hobart) is less obliging.

William is beginning to learn a little more about Ali. She likes old French movies—we see the two of them watching a snatch of À BOUT DE SOUFFLE (1959)—and she dislikes talk of the past. They do other things besides watch French movies, of course—such as play on a carousel (a popular noirish motif!)—but all of their outings end in a familiar fashion.

From here on, if I’m going to explain what the movie’s about and why it’s worth watching, I’m going to have to commit spoilers in all directions. (I explain in the sidebar to the right that this site is full of spoilers, but here I’m going to go further than usual.) If you don’t like spoilers, skip ahead to the last paragraph or two.

A Kiss to Die For - 7 Forsythe as the bop

Hardbitten cop Mike Stoller (William Forsythe).

The next victim is a middle-aged man called Harold Graham, whose widow (Baker) admits to Stoller and Morales that it was her late husband’s occasional practice to hire Bedroom Eyes for an evening of passion at some hotel, Mrs. Graham being invited along to watch. The cops get Mrs. Graham to go through their photo files of hookers and sit her down with an artist, but all to little avail. In fact, Mrs. Graham has been deceiving them: she still has the contact details for Bedroom Eyes. She sets up an assignation with the intention of killing the woman; but, when Bedroom Eyes arrives and protests her innocence, kills herself instead. She does, however, leave a suicide note for Stoller and Morales to find . . . and a phone number for Bedroom Eyes.

A Kiss to Die For - 6 Mrs Graham commits suicide

Mrs Graham (Carroll Baker) commits suicide.

Stoller confronts William with the news that his girlfriend might be a hooker and a serial killer. William responds by phoning Ali’s answering service and setting up a rendezvous in a nearby hotel between himself (under a pseudonym) and Bedroom Eyes. Sure enough, up she turns . . . and it doesn’t take long for William to realize that, despite the fact that the hooker’s body is Ali’s, its current occupant is someone else entirely. The trouble is that, despite loving Ali, he’s if anything more allured by Bedroom Eyes—who, moreover, promises him that “I can give you the last time with your wife.”

A Kiss to Die For - 8 Bedroom Eyes

Bedroom Eyes (Mimi Rogers).

During this encounter it becomes blatantly obvious to William, and even more so to us, that Ali/Bedroom Eyes are victims of what is now known as dissociative identity disorder but used to be much more vividly (and, if you’ve ever met a sufferer, accurately) described as multiple personality disorder. This is of course a fairly common theme of psychological thrillers, including a number of movies of the classic noir era and after—an early example is Lizzie (1957)—but the 1990s saw a flurry, such as EVERYBODY WINS (1990), FEMME FATALE (1991), COLOR OF NIGHT (1994), NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS (1995), PRIMAL FEAR (1996) and PERFECT BLUE (1997). Just before you roll your eyes and start muttering about clichés, however, be aware that the trope is extraordinarily well handled here: the occasional visual clues we get throughout the movie offer a really neat piece of misdirection, while right up until the last few minutes we don’t actually know who the killer is. The various twists in the final stages of the movie certainly caught this viewer by surprise.

Rogers is arguably the most proficient of the later generation of femmes fatales (her sole rival might be Linda Fiorentino, although Fiorentino has been far less prolific), and she’s absolutely at the top of her form here. Despite the fact that for obvious reasons the sex scenes have to be, well, “tasteful”—this TV movie was first aired on NBC, after all—she exudes, in both her roles, a pretty raw and potentially corrupting sexuality that more or less defines the femme fatale. Matheson serves as, essentially, the null-personality sap, while Forsythe delivers such an over-the-top performance that at times you have to wonder if he’s gone off his meds . . . or perhaps overindulged in them. Gomez is fine, though, as his sidekick/straightman, while the great Carroll Baker seems here a bit sleepy.

A Kiss to Die For - 9 Hector

Carlos Gomez turns in a good performance as sensitive cop Hector Morales.

The crew of A Kiss to Die For were obviously keen to establish the movie’s noir credentials. The cinematography underlines this: particularly in the first half of the movie there’s beautiful shot after beautiful shot that, despite its being in color, you instinctively—at least if you’re into film noir—see as black-and-white. The score, by George S. Clinton, no less, is very much in the same vein: lots of evocatively poignant sax. In a nightclub that Ali and William visit there’s a great performance by Theodis Ealey.

As I’m far too fond of pointing out, the best TV movies can often outclass the average of their theatrical counterparts, and I’d claim this to be the case here. Oh, sure, there are occasional signs of hurry—in one shot Ali’s wearing a wedding ring—and a few of the minor roles could have been more polished, but overall, with an intelligent script and a very strong central performance, this is a psychological thriller that’s definitely worth attention.

A Kiss to Die For - closer

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On Amazon.com: Those Bedroom Eyes (A Kiss to Die For)  DVD [PAL Import]

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4 thoughts on “Kiss to Die For, A (1993)

  1. Agree that Rogers made a super femme and that many a TV movie was great. I’m a sucker for thrillers from this era, so to find one that earns such high praise from you, I’m eager to check it out.

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