One from the to watch pile…
Dead of Winter (1987)
Film: There are several actors and actresses whose work I will watch no matter what, even if friends tell me not to bother, or if online reviews are low, or even if the tale suggested by the synopsis on the back of the DVD/ Bluray/ VHS/ whatever doesn’t sound to my taste. There are many different reasons why I like these performers: acting skills, appearance et cetera but I’ll always keep an eye out for them.
Scarlett Johansson would be one at the top of that list for reasons that I don’t necessarily want to go into here, but certainly in my top ten is a gentleman by the name of Roddy McDowall, star of films such as Planet of the Apes, Class of 1984 and Fright Night, not to mention the TV series The Fantastic Journey, which I loved as a kid, and many, MANY cartoon voices, like The Mad Hatter in Batman The Animated Series.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was in this flick, as the only reason I nabbed it was it is part of 88 Films’s Slasher bluray collection (number 8) and being an OCD completist wherever possible, I had to buy it. The bonus was Mary Steenburgen’s star turn: I’d only ever seen her, where she had been memorable, in Back to the Future 3, so I wanted to see if she was capable of something other than the gentle spoken, sweet wife of Doc.
Struggling New York actress Katie McGovern (Mary Steenburgen) lands an opportunity for a job after an audition with the pleasant, but odd Mr Murray (Roddy McDowall) who seems to be quite captivated by her. He takes her to meet reclusive, retired, and wheelchair bound Doctor Joseph Lewis (Jan Rubeš) who is impressed by Murray’s choice.
Soon she finds herself with her appearance slightly changed and recording a scene on video to send to a director whose lead actress, the spitting image of Katie, has had a nervous breakdown and needs to be replaced, but Katie is uneasy… It feels like she is being held prisoner in Lewis’s house, a feeling which gets greater as time rolls on… And the winter snows kick in… And Murray and Lewis’s motives for her being there are revealed…
Unfortunately, my synopsis makes the film far more exciting that it really is.
This loose remake of 1945’s My Name Is Julia Ross is dull and asexual and is like a very VERY ordinary midday movie, or even after school special. Steenburgen gets a go in multiple lead roles, but she is just so vanilla that every scene she is in droops terribly. Thankfully McDowell’s effete and submissive role lifts some of them, as does Jan Rubeš bonkers reclusive cripple, who seems to be almost emulating Lawrence Olivier’s role in Marathon Man… albeit a Diet Coke, toothless version.
This movie is slow paced and dare I say it, boring, but it’s nothing that a better director could repair, oh, and change all the cast except Roddy McDowall… And the soundtrack is quite weak… Actually, it’s quite terrible: purchase only if you need to fill the space between 7 (Nailgun Massacre) and 9 (X-Ray) in your 88 Films Slasher Collection
Format: This bluray is region B, runs for approximately 100 minutes and is presented in a satisfactory 1.85:1 picture with a decent Dolby 2.0 soundtrack.
There aren’t many extras on this disc other than this stills gallery, which unless it depicts poster art or associated merchandise, I feel is a worthless extra. It’s an animated visual medium for Corman’s sake, don’t just stick a piss-poor selection of images from the film together with some music. It’s lazy and frustrating. This one does at least have one movie poster at the end of the slideshow/screensaver.
This disc also contains trailers for other 88 Films releases Puppet Master, The Pit & The Pendulum, Demonic Toys, Bloody Birthday, Two Moon Junction, Dollman, Blood Sucking Freaks, Puppet Master II, Puppet Master III, Tourist Trap and Castle Freak.
Now the packaging also claims that this has a collector’s booklet by Slice and Dice director and journalist Calum Waddell, but unfortunately mine did not come with this. I’d say I was just unlucky, but I do have another Bluray in this collection by 88 Films which suffered from the same issue. That’s some pretty terrible QC right there. The packaging also claims to have the trailer for Dead of Winter, but it must be extraordinarily well hidden as I could not find it.
It also has a reversible sleeve, but the hidden one is quite bland.
WISIA: No. I wouldn’t have watched it once as nothing on the back cover sounds even slightly appealing, and IMDB’s synopsis isn’t much more alluring, but it being a part of 88 Film’s slasher bluray series, I thought I’d give it a go. That thought was wrong.