peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2024 05 13 WinterKills

Winter Kills (1979)

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Prompted by Peter Sobczynski giving it a four-star review in 2023. J. Hoberman reviewed it at the same time; apparently its rerelease was sponsored by Tarantino. Based on a novel by Richard Condon (Prizzi's Honor, The Manchurian Candidate), directed and co-written by William Richert. The project pulled a stellar cast but squandered them by being overly difficult to follow.

The framing story is straightforward: more than a decade after his brother, the President, is assassinated, straight man Jeff Bridges (RFK, sort of) gets dragged into a series of set-piece conspiracy theory expositions. Initially the tone is dead serious but by the time we meet John Huston, playing Pa Kegan (Joe Kennedy), things are definitely screwy. (He has most of the good lines here. He gets his blood changed six-monthly with the kids from Amherst. He spent 11M USD to install his son in the White House — what a bargain!) This prepares us for Sterling Hayden hunting Bridges off his property with tanks and other World War II surplus vehicles and munitions. Eli Wallach played a handsy small-time fall-guy hood straight and deadpan. Anthony Perkins didn't get out of first gear as a psychotic expositor in a panopticon. Belinda Bauer had a When Harry Met Sally scene with Bridges. Liz Taylor in a severe cameo. It's never clear why anyone would help Bridges, why he's investigating, if this is a spoof, a satire or something else, if there's a point to it at all.

I can only wonder what it could've been if Huston had directed it; we get the odd whiff of his far more coherent The Man Who Would Be King.

Janet Maslin. Vincent Canby at length at the time. Roger Ebert (half everything) and Gene Siskel (very confusing, unfairly harsh on the Kennedy family). Wikipedia has all the details.