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Reversal of Fortune (1990)

Wealthy Sunny von Bülow lies brain-dead, husband Claus guilty of attempted murder; but he says he's innocent and hires Alan Dershowitz for his appeal.


Barbet Schroeder


Alan Dershowitz (book), Nicholas Kazan (screenplay)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 12 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Glenn Close ... Sunny von Bulow
Jeremy Irons ... Claus von Bulow
Ron Silver ... Alan Dershowitz
Annabella Sciorra ... Sarah
Uta Hagen ... Maria
Fisher Stevens ... David Marriott
Jack Gilpin ... Peter MacIntosh
Christine Baranski ... Andrea Reynolds
Stephen Mailer ... Elon Dershowitz
Christine Dunford ... Ellen
Felicity Huffman ... Minnie
Mano Singh Mano Singh ... Raj
Johann Carlo ... Nancy
Keith Reddin Keith Reddin ... Dobbs
Alan Pottinger ... Chuck


Alan Dershowitz a brilliant professor of law is hired by wealthy socialite Claus von Bulow to attempt to overturn his two convictions for attempted murder of his extremely wealthy wife. Based on a true story the film concentrates not on the trial like other legal thrillers, but on the preparatory work that Dershowitz and his students put in as they attempt to disprove the prosecution's case and achieve the Reversal of Fortune of the title. Written by Mark Thompson <mrt@oasis.icl.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Case of Claus Von Bulow. An American Saga of Money and Mystery.


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


In the opening flyover of Newport, on the way to Clarendon Court, one of the mansions shown is Seaview Terrace (later known as Carey Mansion.) It's the gothic house with a turret. This mansion was used as the exterior of Collinwood in the 1960s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, which starred Klaus Von Bulow's lover, Alexandra Isles. See more »


In the opening shot flying over the estates in Newport, visitors are at some of the mansions. In 1983, some mansions, like The Breakers and Marble House, were open to the public. See more »


Alan Dershowitz: Our new evidence will clearly indicate...
Judge: Professor, you know there isn't a single case which allows you to introduce new evidence on appeal.
Alan Dershowitz: Well, there is one, your honor, and you wrote it. Derrick. In Derrick, in Derrick, you yourself said that a case based on circumstantial theory rather than fact only stands up if no other theory makes sense. The only way to show a better theory is to present it!
See more »


Sea Gull
Courtesy of Lyrichord Discs Inc.
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User Reviews

Schroeder's "Rebecca"
6 January 2004 | by manuel-pestalozziSee all my reviews

Reversal of Fortune sent more chills down my spine than any horror movie. The story once more proves why real murder cases are so interesting: It is not a (supposed) criminal act or the lawsuit that fascinates but the detailed insight into human relations and behavior patterns which a investigation of the circumstances allows. Barbet Schroeder, certainly a brilliant observer, seems to share this view and created a wonderfully stylized, finely crafted, superbly cast movie around the Claus von Bülow trial.

Fotography, lighting and the set design really are of the first order. The main "stage" of the film is a big mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. I don't know how much of the movie was shot on location - in any case the place reminded me strongly of Manderly, the country home in Alfred Hitchcock‘s "Rebecca". Somehow Sunny von Bülow, she is seen lying in her state of eternal coma and heard recounting events and musing about them in a voice over, is the mythical Rebecca Hinrich become flesh and blood in the most gruesome way imaginable.

The home of the von Bülows has the feel of a funeral parlor. The most important room is Sunny von Bülow's private bathroom, the door of which is flanked by two porcelain busts on high pedestals, like some gate of doom. Despite the warm colors, the opulent furniture, the glossy surfaces (they seem to come out directly of an old fashioned women's magazine), it is deadly cold in the world of the von Bülows. The emotional detachment of the whole family - apparently even the children - is truly horrific. The most hilarious scene is ever expressionless Claus von Bülow joining his wife in the marital bed with a thick sweater, a scarf and a woolen cap (Sunny von Bülows insists on keeping the window open on principle even in freezing temperatures). He turns away from his wife and, as the last act before turning off the light, puts his earplugs in.

Oh, and then there is law professor Dershowitz and his team. What has he got to do with this movie? Very little, I should say. The bubbly intellectualistic crowd occasionally allow the viewers to relax a little, but their sporadic intrusions into the "circle" of the von Bulows in no way counterbalance the weight and the frigid opulence that comes to dominate Reversal of Fortune. And that's just fine with me – as far as cinematic art is concerned.

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USA | Japan | UK


English | German

Release Date:

9 November 1990 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Reversal of Fortune See more »

Filming Locations:

Montclair, New Jersey, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$176,985, 21 October 1990

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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