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HTF REVIEW: "Winter Kills" (with screenshots)

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#1 of 9 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 26 2003 - 07:12 AM

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Winter Kills

Studio: Anchor Bay
Year: 1979
Rated: R
Film Length: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: NONE

Plagued with production problems and butchered by
its original distributors it is apparent that
Winter Kills was a project doomed to fail
right from its onset. When the film was released
in 1979 it quickly disappeared without a trace. Now
over 24 years later, Anchor Bay is giving the film
new light in a deluxe DVD presentation.

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Richard
Condon (The Manchurian Candidate, Prizzi's Honor),
This is the story of Nick Kegan (Jeff Bridges), the
son of a powerful Kennedyesque family, who has
done his best to make himself obscure after the
assassination of his older brother, the former
President of the United States.

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As the film opens, Nick is working as an oil rigger
when a terminally ill patient who is helicoptered
aboard admits to being the second assassin of his
Presidential brother 19 years before. From hereon
in, Nick begins to dig deeper and deeper into the
past to find out who is truly responsible for
his brother's assassination while under the
watchful eye of his world-famous tycoon father
(John Huston).

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While I can truly appreciate that many will probably
consider Winter Kills a great comedy of
politics and power, I found it to be a baffling
viewing experience with more twists and turns than
a rollercoaster and a lot of questions that go
unanswered. I was also greatly bothered by the
overexaggerated acting and the all-too-brief cameos
of actors Elizabeth Taylor and Anthony Perkins, who
almost appear to have been thrown into the film for
good measure.

How is the transfer?

Anchor Bay has been building a reputation of doing
tremendous things with older catalog product. Put
this transfer up there with the best of their
efforts. The transfer sports a near-pristine print
that looks just wonderful. Though images are a bit
on the soft side, I was surprised at how clean and
detailed everything looks. Colors are well balanced
and flesh tones look accurate.

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The film's Dolby Digital mono track comes across
the front channels strong and clear. The only
problem I saw was that audio tended to overmodulate
during loud orchestral passages. Otherwise, this
is a very clean audio track with that boasts
audible dialogue.

Special Features

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Winter Kills has been released as a 2-disc
Special Edition, which may not be a good thing. It
seems that Anchor Bay could have strived to make
this a single-DVD without sacrificing any extras.

The DVD arrives in slipcover packaging. The innards
slide out to a dual-gatefold digipack that hold the
2 DVD discs in bland generic plastic housing.

Disc One contains the entire feature as well
as a full-length audio commentary with
Writer/Director Willam Richert who comes across
sounding like a loud sportscaster or telethon host.
Within the first few moments of this commentary we
hear a shocking report about how one of the financial
backers of this film wound up with a bullet in his
head by irate investors on his 30th birthday. As
you watch the opening credits take note that the
hand-made chess set is worth $100,000. Throughout
his commentary we hear how the film was cast, as
well as some of the funny unscripted moments. Richert
keeps the commentary moving at a nice pace offering
background information on many of the filmmakers he
worked with as well as some of the problems they
faced once they ran out of money to make the film.
It's quite obvious that Richert's memory is still
very fresh, and as a result, this commentary is a
good listen.

As the norm, Anchor Bay still does not provide
subtitles for the hearing impaired, though the
DVD has been Closed-Captioned. As I have stated
in many previous reviews, CLOSED CAPTIONING is a
nuisance to watch and although I wish Anchor Bay
would spend some money for subtitling on all
future releases, I find myself consistently
talking to a brick wall on this matter.

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Let's move on to Disc Two....

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Just by watching the opening moments of the featurette,
Who killed Winter Kills? you seem to get the
impression that the making of this film was a far
shadier process than the film story itself. It
begins by giving us a little bit of background on
author Richard Condor and his best-selling book.
Next, we learn how the producers of the Emanuelle
pictures wanted to move on to mainstream film and
eventually contacted Willam Richert who was a
little put off by the challenging project. Actor
Jeff Bridges talks about how he was talked into
doing this film at about the same time he was gearing
up for the remake of King Kong. The most
amazing thing first-time director Richert was able
to do for this film was assemble am amazing all-star
cast. Watch this to learn how he did it. Both director
of photography Vilmos Zsigmond and production designer
Robert Boyle talk about their experiences on this
film, particularly the day when the entire crew
was thrown off the set for financial failure. So
how did the film get financed? You'll hear the
story of unscrupulous financiers who finally got
the film out of bankruptcy. Although the film opened
to rave reviews from critics, audiences were not
too kind to the film, resulting in a rather abrupt
theatrical run. Even though I wasn't too thrilled
with the movie, I thought this documentary was
simply outstanding to watch. Almost worth the
price of the DVD alone.
(length: approx. 38 minutes)

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After nearly 25 years, Willam Richert and Jeff
Bridges reunite in Reunion, where the two
friends tell some old stories about their collaboration
and some of the tough times they went through on this
film project. Most interesting to watch is both men
laughing about the fact that the money used to fund
this picture was drug money.
(length: approx. 9 minutes)

In Star Stories, director Willam Richert tells
some interesting stories about Elizabeth Taylor and
a fur coat; Sterling Hayden offering a smoke of his
marijuana; an unscheduled fishing trip with actor
Richard Boone. Fun to listen to!
(length: approx. 8 minutes)

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A Stills gallery contains a large handful
of behind-the-scenes and deleted scenes stills as
well as poster, advertising and production art. Use
your remote to leisurely browse through this material.

The film's original theatrical trailer is
also included.

DVD-ROM content includes the film's original

Final Thoughts

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I would estimate that Winter Kills will be
appreciated most by conspiracy buffs with a healthy
appreciation for dark, irreverent humor. Others
will find this film dated and rather difficult to

Fortunately, Anchor Bay has done a superb job
with the transfer of this film and has provided
supplements that I found far more enjoyable than
the film itself. Unfortunately, Anchor Bay chose
to spread these supplements across two discs when
one would have easily sufficed.

Release Date: NOW

All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#2 of 9 OFFLINE   Rob Gardiner

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Posted March 26 2003 - 07:54 AM

Wow! I've been looking forward to this film on DVD for a while. Ron, do any of the supplements refer to the longer cut that was released in '83? I would guess that the "deleted scenes stills" cover this material but I can not be sure. The only information I have on the longer cut is the vague info at imdb. Many thanks for another fine review.

#3 of 9 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx


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Posted March 26 2003 - 07:56 AM

great review Ron. Sounds like a must buy then.

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Communication is Everything

#4 of 9 OFFLINE   Ian Currie

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Posted March 27 2003 - 01:38 AM

Can anyone tell me who the actress is in the screenshot in the 'how is the transfer' section? She's stunning.
Ian Currie

#5 of 9 OFFLINE   Jordan_E



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Posted March 27 2003 - 02:13 AM

The extras on this set has definitely turned this into a must-buy! Thank you Ron, for reminding me that this movie has come out already! It's easy to overlook a gem like this while scanning the so-called blockbuster titles at my local retailer (it's probably buried back in the DRAMA section anyway).
And you believe, at heart, everyone's a killer...

#6 of 9 OFFLINE   Ric Bagoly

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Posted March 28 2003 - 06:14 PM

[quote] Can anyone tell me who the actress is in the screenshot in the 'how is the transfer' section? She's stunning. [quote]

Belinda Bauer, aka The Villainous Lady Scientist in Robocop 2.

Good movie. I'll be picking this up...
"You can't be the first, and you'll never be the last, but baby, you can ALL be next! Woooooooo!!!"

#7 of 9 OFFLINE   Kevin M

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Posted March 31 2003 - 09:33 PM

I don't know Ron, my girlfriend & her sister, who are both deaf, prefer CC to subtitles. Mainly (according to them) because DVD subtitles for the most part don't offer text descriptions of sound effects, like CC does, that are important to the over all film experience for a deaf person, and I have compared quite a few DVD subtitles to their CC counterparts and not only do they often times not describe pertinent sound effects (I.E. the phone rings or footsteps coming closer etc.) but most of the time they aren't even very accurate as to the true screen dialog....CC isn't either mind you but not as bad as the sub's IMO.

Opinions vary of course.

Anyway, I have never seen Winter Kills but as I do on many of your reviews Ron I will certainly give it a rent to see what all the talk is about for good or bad & please keep delving into the lesser known films out there on DVD, there are some true gems you might not have looked at before.
-Kevin M.

There's a human tendency to resent anyone who disagrees with our pleasures.  The less mature interpret that as a personal attack on themselves.
- Roger Ebert

#8 of 9 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR



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Posted April 01 2003 - 02:17 AM

I loved the book, but I have never seen the film. I guess I'll have to buy this DVD.
Cogito, Ergo Sum
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#9 of 9 OFFLINE   Ed St. Clair

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Posted April 01 2003 - 05:54 AM

Winter may kill. However, Belinda Bauer, makes life worth living.
Movies are: "The Greatest Artform".
HD should be for EVERYONE!

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