Bump in the Night (1991)
Character Name: Laurence Muller
Reviewed by Joyce Kavitsky (Kavitsky1@verizon.net)
In the early 1990s Christopher Reeve was in three roles for television and cable, almost in a row, as the villian to break being typecast in "good guy" roles and to show what a versatile actor he really is, as well as to stretch his acting muscles. The first is the thriller drama Bump In The Night which premiered on January 6, 1991 as a CBS Sunday Night movie of the week. The film is based on a story by Isabelle Holland about an ex-New York reporter fighting alcoholism as she and her ex-husband search for their kidnapped son. With this role, Reeve wants viewers to put aside their image of him as Superman and see him as an actor in another role. Reeve told the St. Louis Post Dispatch on the day of the premiere: "The public needs to come with a clean slate each time. All of us have many incarnations. An actor is not the part he plays. And I seriously hope that parents will take control of the TV set on Sunday night when this is on. There may be some kids out there who hear I'm in a movie. They've got to explain that just because he was Superman in one movie doesn't mean he's the same in this one. If they take the time to say an actor only pretends, that it's fun to pretend, that he doesn't really do these things." The cast also includes the talents of Meredith Baxter-Birney (Family and Family Ties) and Wings Hauser.
The plot revolves around Martha "Red" Tierney (Baxter-Birney), a successful former New York investigative reporter with a drinking problem. That morning she did not awaken herself from her stuper to see off her son, Jonathan, then found out from the school that he never arrived. Her writer ex-husband, Partick (Hauser), recently had a photographer take a picture of Jonathan outside his house. The photographer, without the father's knowledge, indirectly had the picture taken to an abuser of children. The man, Laurence Muller (Reeve), arranges a call to the boy telling him that his father would like to meet him at a nearby restuarant. Of course, his father never shows up, but his "friend" does. Muller, a former professor of literature and once the coach of his son's swim team appreciates Jonathan's interest in poetry. In fact, while at the zoo with Jonathan, he even calls to thank the woman who gave him the photo of the boy for an ideal choice. After Muller takes Jonathan to the zoo, he brings him to an uptown apartment that is mostly unfurnished, except for a large bed surrounded by photographic lights that immediately alerts the boy that something is wrong. Muller gives the boy a quick kiss on his hair while the two are looking out an apartment window suggesting what may occur. When sober, Martha uses her aggressive reporter skills and access to resources she needs to find her son in a race against time. During her search for her son Martha encounters Mrs. Beauchamp, the "cat" lady, who lets Jonathan keep his kitten at her house and who is the last person to see him the day he was abducted. Her alcoholic artist-friend, Katie Leonard, also comes through for her with a sketch of Muller.
My favorite parts in this serious drama of Reeve as Muller are the ones that strike me as funny. They include a tantrum he has on the phone while at the zoo with Jonathan where he whines and stamps his foot when the woman who he called to thank for setting him up the boy argues with him over the time he has the apartment; Muller lying in a bed cuddling and stroking a stuffed animal; when for breakfast he forcefully shoves potato chips into his mouth and drinks water from the faucet out of his hand; how he saved Jonathan, who was hiding in the attic, from Ben Nicolaides, the bad guy with shoulder-length hair who runs the kiddie porn ring-ballet school as well as the apartment, by getting beat up and beating him up then stabbing him to death and screaming; and when Muller was trying to get Jonathan down from the attic of the apartment by holding up a can of fire then dropping it and panicing.
When Reeve researched this part he looked at materials the New York City vice police provided him from an organization called North America Man-Boy Love Association and also talked to psychiatrists and the police assigned to these kinds of cases. He found out that predators of children move in on children from broken homes. Ironically, Reeve himself is from a broken home and had a brush with such a person when he was 13. He said this about it: "When I was about 13, I was already involved in the theater in Princeton, and I was supposed to get some stills taken by a photographer. I came over to his house, and he had a studio set up. But he wanted me to take my shirt off, and then I could imagine standing there in my underwear. I went straight home and told my parents. Because nothing specifically had happened to me, there was no arrest that could be made." Reeve also discovered who these men really are and said: "A lot of these [men] are not disgusting types sitting on a park bench in a raincoat. A pervert comes in all shapes and sizes. They cut across all the classes."
When this movie was being made in 1990, Reeve said his role was shot 'all at once, in seven days,' and he spent all of his time with the actor playing Jonathan. He never watched Baxter-Birney's portayal of Martha 'Red' Tierney, although he knew the second thread that runs through the film. Understandably, Reeve did not let his own children, Matthew and Alexandra who were 11 and 7 at the time, come to the set nor allow them to see the movie until they got older. The filmmakers, executive producers Craig Anderson and Robert Halmi and director Karen Arthur, along with Reeve, were careful not to let nine-year-old Corey Carrier, who plays Jonathan, be entirely aware of the nature of the story. Reeve said: "All he knew, as far as I know, was that he was being kidnapped. His father was on the set the whole time. You've got to take care of the people you're working with."
Currently, Bump In The Night is not avialable on home video in the United States and still has yet to be released, but it is available in the United Kingdom through Black Star on Odyssey Video on the Pal format. Reeve would like all parents of young children to see the film because the movie turns its attention to offensive perversion like the abducting and defiling of young children. He says: "This is a movie for adults to watch, and not for children. One of the messages is to account for children's time. Don't let your child slip away from you."
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