THE AUTHENTIC INVISIBLE STUDIO RELEASE
WINTER KILLS DIRECTOR'S CUT
NOT AVAILABLE ANYPLACE ELSE ON EARTH (so far)
WATCH THE BEHIND THE SCENES
WITH JEFF BRIDGES, JOHN HUSTON, ELIZABELTH TAYLOR, RALPH MEEKER, BELINDA BAUER,
CINEMATOGRAPLHY, VILMOS ZSIGMOND
PRODUCTION DESIGN ROBERT BOYLE
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY WILLIAM RICHERT
AN INVISIBLE STUDIO RELEASE
DVD SHIPS IN 7 DAYS
Cinema: Power Plays
By HP-Time.com;RICHARD CORLISS
WINTER KILLS Directed and Written by William Richert SUCCESS Directed by William Richert Screenplay by William Richert and Larry Cohen
The hottest Hollywood directors know how to make thrillers, comedies, love stories, even the arrant musical. But few have chosen to dramatize what they have learned best: the secrets of power. These are the film industry's true guilty pleasures—the devilish legerdemain of deal making, the bending of a hundred egos to a common purpose, the fine art of humiliating an old friend—and every movie Machiavelli has his own closetful.
In 1979 William Richert, a novice writer director, strode out of Closetland with a pair of black-comic fantasias on the lust for power: Winter Kills and Success.
What happened next would fulfill a paranoid's darkest hopes. With all the good grace of a Mafia don consigning a nosy reporter to cement sneakers in the East River, Hollywood offhandedly dumped Richert's films.
Winter Kills, which twisted an assassination scenario into high-voltage satire, was pulled from release after a few weeks. Success, a screwball comedy on the doppelganger theme, was left to molder in its distributor's vaults. But like the dogged romantic hero Jeff Bridges plays in both these films, Richert did not give up. He got back the rights, recut his movies and is now distributing them himself.
Not every unseen movie is a masterpiece, as Success amiably proves. Its oafish hero Harry (Bridges) cannot seem to get the attention of his pretty, dotty wife (Belinda Bauer). They have sex every Friday;
in between she chats with her cats and practices ballet before her favorite companion, a full-length mirror. So Harry gives himself another life, in the guise of a swaggering gangster named Mack. Suddenly, love and the perfect swindle are his for the daring.
This is a cynical fairy tale that must be told with buoyancy of spirit; Richert's gift is for earthbound madness. The best that can be said for Success is that it allowed him to complete the filming of Winter Kills.
Richard Condon's 1974 novel Winter Kills took off from the shooting of John Kennedy and flew into an orbit of conspiratorial delirium that made the flakiest assassination theories seem like whitewash.
Richert's film starts off from Condon, streamlines the plot and adds a few new quirks. Nineteen years after the event, Nick Kegan (Bridges) follows a zig-zag trail of clues, threats and intuitions to find out who killed his President brother. But who will help him? His father (John Huston), a wily priapic megamillionaire who lopes through his several palaces in flaming red Jockey shorts? Nick's sultry girlfriend (Belinda Bauer again), who may work for a national newsmagazine and then again may be employed by darker powers to lead Nick by the leash of his lust? Perhaps the demented genius (Anthony Perkins) who runs the Kegan empire by computer, storing "black holes of information" until the data can be used to gobble up a company or topple a regime? By the end, Nick can believe only two things: nothing is as it seems, and everybody stinks.
Made for a tidy $6.5 million, Winter Kills has a look and style as lush as its imagination. Nick negotiates with gangsters, seductresses and corporate chiefs in hugely opulent rooms that could reduce their occupants to scheming midgets.
Richert schemed too. Somehow the tyro director persuaded a dozen movie luminaries (including Toshiro Mifune, Eli Wallach, Richard Boone, even Elizabeth Taylor in a wordless but crucial cameo) to appear in his picture, and they add one more layer of texture.
Except for those moments when Richert surrenders to his writerly inclination for verbiage when a gesture would say it better, Winter Kills moves like a house afire. With the exposure this film will get in its second life, Richert may get the chance to light a few more movie fires under an all too complacent Hollywood. — By Richard Corliss