Blu-ray Review: Winter Kills

Winter Kills

Winter Kills William Richert’s adaptation of Richard Condon’s novel “Winter Kills”–a thinly veiled look at the John F. Kennedy assassination–grounded in dark political satire was plagued with production issues including a mafia hit on one producer, a forty-year prison sentence handed down to another, production was halted several times. When the film was finally released, Richert battled distributor Evco-Embassy for years, before buying the film and recurring it himself. This Blu-ray is Richert’s personal recut.

Nick Kegan (Jeff Bridges) is the son of “Pa” Kegan and half-brother of former U.S. President Timothy Kegan who was assassinated in Philadelphia in 1960. When Nick hears a deathbed confession that alters all of the accepted facts surrounding his brother’s death, he finds himself caught up in a world of conspiracy theories and government secrecy. Through it all, can he find the truth?

Nick’s efforts have him set out on a globe-trotting journey to piece together information from a variety of sketchy subjects. Everyone from a warhawk (Sterling Hayden), to a gangster (Ralph Meeker), nightclub owner (Eli Wallach), tech guru (Anthony Perkins) and a Washington madam (an unbilled Elizabeth Taylor). It eventually becomes clear that that Nick’s own father is part of the corruption. Along the way, there are appearances from a parade of familiar faces: Belinda Bauer, Richard Boone, Dorothy Malone and Toshiro Mifune.

Winter Kills is fragmented and difficult to follow at times. Jeff Bridges puts forth a valiant effort trying to hold it all together in a role that’s partly sympathetic, but unlikeable in some respects. Having been indulged his entire life, Nick has no ambition and a uninformed teenager’s concept of love that’s almost endearing, while at other times he angrily brandishes the family name to threaten those that stand in his way. Jeff Bridges clearly embraced Richert’s ambitions and went with it.

So too did John Huston, who delivers a wonderful performance. Pa seems to revel in the entitled depravity of it all. He’s rude, crude and delighted with himself, “Do you know how many times your brother got laid while he was in office? One thousand seventy-two. And with a schedule like his!” He also has a wit that that can both delight and infuriate. An interesting note, Huston would later film a Richard Condon novel himself, 1985’s Prizzi’s Honor.

 Filmed in Panivision, Kino’s release of Winter Kills is gorgeous. This new 4K makes the cinematography (shot mostly by Vilmos Zsigmond (with John Bailey shooting additional scenes) really shine. Colors are as bright and bold as they could ever hope to be and the image is free of any notable debris. Excellent work.

The DTS Master Audio, mono track sounds clean, clear and concise throughout. It can sound a bit hollow at times, otherwise, the track does a serviceable job.

English subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Audio Commentary with Director William Richert: Richert shares some interesting behind-the-scenes tales!
  • Who Killed Winter Kills? Originally produced for Anchor Bay’s 2003 DVD, this 36-min. documentary has Richert and other cast and crew members (including Jeff Bridges), discussing their memories around making the film. This feature is a must-see for fans of the novel and/or film.
  • Reunion: For nine minutes or so, William Richart and Jeff Bridges reunite to share their memories of Winter Kills and the herculean effort to finish filming on the project.
  • Star Stories: Six minutes of Richert discussing his cast.
  • Radio Spot
  • Trailer

Winter Kills (1979)
Winter Kills

Movie title: Winter Kills

Duration: 97 min

Director(s): William Richert

Actor(s): Jeff Bridges, John Huston , Anthony Perkins , Eli Wallach , Sterling Hayden , Dorothy Malone

Genre: Drama, Thriller

  • Movie
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras