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HTF REVIEW: "Winter Kills" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Mar 26, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    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.


    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).


    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.


    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


    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.


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


    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)


    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)


    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


    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
  2. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

    Feb 15, 2002
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    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. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Apr 15, 2002
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    great review Ron. Sounds like a must buy then.

  4. Ian Currie

    Ian Currie Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 1, 2002
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    Can anyone tell me who the actress is in the screenshot in the 'how is the transfer' section? She's stunning.
  5. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

    Jan 3, 2002
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    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).
  6. Ric Bagoly

    Ric Bagoly Producer

    Aug 1, 2002
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  7. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

    Feb 23, 2000
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    Real Name:
    Kevin Ray
    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.
  8. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

    Jun 15, 2001
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    I loved the book, but I have never seen the film. I guess I'll have to buy this DVD.
  9. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

    May 7, 2001
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    Winter may kill.
    However, Belinda Bauer, makes life worth living.

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