MUST END THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14
Wednesday, September 13 – Thursday, September 14:
Directed by William Richert
Starring Jeff Bridges, John Huston, Anthony Perkins, Eli Wallach, Sterling Hayden, Dorothy Malone, Tomas Milian, Belinda Bauer, Ralph Meeker, Richard Boone, Toshirō Mifune and Elizabeth Taylor
Approx. 97 min. 35mm.
This thinly veiled and hyper-paranoiac take on the JFK assassination stars Bridges as Nick Kegan, scion of a fabulously wealthy and powerful family headed by patriarch Huston (hailed “the real delight of the film” by The New York Times), as a character based on Joe Kennedy. Bridges soon finds himself going down multiple rabbit holes while trying to unravel the conspiracy behind the murder of a U.S. president, his older brother.
With an astonishing supporting cast that seems to parody the 1970s vogue for all-star epics like AIRPORT including Anthony Perkins, Eli Wallach, Sterling Hayden, Dorothy Malone, Tomas Milian, Belinda Bauer, Ralph Meeker, Richard Boone, Toshirō Mifune, and a wordless, unbilled appearance by Elizabeth Taylor, as a character inspired by JFK’s mobbed-up mistress Judith Exner.
The film also marked the feature debut of Australian actress and model Belinda Bauer, who plays Bridges’ love interest (and possible conspiracist). Bauer now practices spiritual psychology in Los Angeles.
WINTER KILLS was the directorial debut of screenwriter William Richert (1942-2022), described by Film at Lincoln Center as “a bold, brash uncompromising figure in the tradition of Orson Welles and John Cassavetes.” Richert used his charismatic personality to put together the all-star cast, along with a stellar crew including composer Maurice Jarre (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, DR. ZHIVAGO), production designer Robert Boyle (NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE BIRDS, and other Hitchcock movies), and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, THE DEER HUNTER, etc.).
The story behind WINTER KILLS is as convoluted, mysterious and downright incredulous as the movie itself. The two main producers went bankrupt – one was later sent to a federal prison for drug trafficking, the other tied to his bed by a creditor and shot in the head – and production was suspended for two years while Richert raised the completion money.
With Zsigmond on to another project, additional photography was taken over after the two-year hiatus by camera operator John Bailey, later DP of CAT PEOPLE, THE BIG CHILL, GROUNDHOG DAY, and more, and president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Says Mr. Bailey, “When I saw it back in 1979, I was somewhat flummoxed… but today I see it as not only very relevant but eerily prescient. Huston’s sick, purely transactional personality too closely predicts not only the mores of society today but that of a recent tenant of the White House.”
Though critically acclaimed on first release – with a rave review by Brendan Gill in The New Yorker and two raves in The New York Times (by both Vincent Canby and Janet Maslin) -- WINTER KILLS was dumped by its original distributor, allegedly because of its parent company’s investment in Kennedy family projects. In the early 1980s, Richard Condon, writer of the original novel (along with The Manchurian Candidate, Prizzi’s Honor, etc.), wrote an article for Harper’s called 'Who Killed Winter Kills?’, detailing the film’s many behind-the-scenes intrigues.
Rialto Picture’s new 35mm prints, the first struck in over 40 years, were recently completed by colorist Don Capoferri and Lab Expediter Steven Mitchell at FotoKem in Los Angeles, under Mr. Bailey’s supervision. WINTER KILLS is presented by author/filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, a longtime fan and champion of the movie.
With support from the Ada Katz Fund for Literature in Film
A RIALTO PICTURES RELEASE
“One of the great unsung American films… thoroughly deserving of rediscovery…. Has not lost an iota of its power to shock, amuse, and simultaneously perplex.”
– Peter Sobczynski, RogerEbert.com
“BURSTING WITH A CRAZY VITALITY ALL ITS OWN.”
– Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“The perfect conspiracy thriller for the QAnon era. The fact that Rialto Pictures and superfan Quentin Tarantino are bringing WINTER KILLS back for a theatrical run, complete with newly struck 35mm prints, at this particular moment in time is possibly the least weird thing about the movie and its storied history.”
– David Fear, Rolling Stone
“RIOTOUSLY ENTERTAINING, CHILLINGLY PERCEPTIVE.”
– Brad Hanford, Slant
“Exemplifies one of the best things in life: A WILD TIME AT THE MOVIES.”
– Screen Slate
“FURIOUSLY FUNNY. Almost everyone in WINTER KILLS is larger, meaner or more lunatic than life. The ability to create and sustain a not always disciplined fantasy — a tale that effectively bypasses logic with a reality all its own — is a rare talent… Such a tale is WINTER KILLS, William Richert’s visually slick adaptation of the novel by Richard Condon (The Manchurian Candidate).”
– Vincent Canby, The New York Times
“EVERY INCH OF IT IS GLORIOUSLY ALIVE… Like some intricately embroidered misadventure recounted by a superb, somewhat tipsy storyteller… I turned around and went straight back to the theater and saw the movie again. The fact is that I enjoyed it even more the second time.”
– Brendan Gill, The New Yorker
– Michael Sragow, Rolling Stone
“A MADCAP RIFF… part black comedy, part paranoid thriller, part carnival of mirrors.”
– J. Hoberman, The New York Times