Academy Award® winner* Mary Steenburgen and Roddy McDowall star in a pulse-pounding thriller in the tradition of the legendary master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. "You'll find yourself on the edge of your seat" (Los Ange... more »les) with this bone-chilling tale of deception, blackmail and murder in which no one is who they seem to be and any mistake could be your last. When actress Katie McGovern (Steenburgen) is summoned to an isolated estate for a screen test, she finds that her mysterious hosts, Mr. Murray (McDowall) and Dr. Joseph Lewis (Jan Rubes), have plans for her'that have nothing to do with acting! And when the deadly money-making scheme erupts in a firestorm of double-crosses and cold-blooded murder, Katie realizes she has only one chance at survival: She must turn the tables on her enemies by giving the performance of her life! *1980: SupportingActress, Melvin and Howard« less
R. Gawlitta | Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA | 12/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's a cold, snowy, blustery Saturday evening here in Wisconsin, and I thought this would be the best movie to put on as I settled in for a cozy nite. I've had the film for a while; the MGM/UA dvd has a dual-disc, with full-screen on one side and widescreen on the other. The Widescreen side doesn't seem to play. Still, it's fun to watch Mary Steenburgen chew up the scenery, in multiple roles. "Dead of Winter" isn't a great film on the levels that film purists demand, but it was well thought out by director Arthur Penn. I won't blab away the plot, but things are pretty creepy throughout, and Mary is a fine heroine. I've always been a huge fan of the late, great Roddy MacDowell. I was always hoping he would get an Oscar nomination before he left us. He was a little over the edge here, but I thought he was great in "Fright Night". There's no doubt he would've won the Supporting Oscar for "Cleopatra" (1963), but Fox submitted his name to the Academy as Best Actor instead, and he got ripped off. Jan Rubes is especially convincing as the old man with alterior motives. William Russ was a handsome romantic interest, though his involvement was minimal, and I don't think his career went anywhere after this. Too bad. This film takes on its own character, and runs with it. Creepy, scary and loads of fun, especially on a blustery winter nite. Chills galore!"
Dead of Winter
Matthew Gladney | Champaign-Urbana, IL USA | 11/21/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I shouldn't like "Dead of Winter" as much as I do. It has some faults, a few of them glaring. But, however many faults the movie has, it still grips me, and evokes the fear and suspense necessary for it to qualify as a taut thriller. You have a claustrophobic setting, disturbing older men, a woman in distress, and murder. These ingredients come together to make for a very interesting hour and a half. At the very least, I found myself entertained.The film starts out with the murder of a woman in an abandoned parking lot on a snowy winter's night. Next we are in New York City, where we are exposed to the struggling actor's life of Katie McGovern (Mary Steenburgen). She is just looking for that one good role (with good pay, of course). After she does well at an audition, the man hosting it, Mr. Murray (Roddy McDowall), invites her upstate to an isolated country house, in order to do some test screening. Katie agrees. She tells her boyfriend she will call him once there, and is off. Once Katie arrives at the house, she is introduced to the man in charge, Dr. Joseph Lewis (sinisterly portrayed by Jan Rubes). Uneasy things begin to occur (the phones lines go dead, and the car won't start), and soon Katie's world turns upside down as the two older men begin to unveil their frightening plan upon the unsuspecting actress.There are things to knock about "Dead of Winter". Many of them involve aspects of what film critic Roger Ebert has termed "The Idiot Plot". This is where characters are in certain situations that go on for far too long because, instead of doing the sensible thing, they act with fairly bad judgement, thus enabling the movie to exist and continue on. A few examples: Why go hours upstate to an isolated house for a screen test? Why believe that an old *doctor* is in charge of casting a movie? Why, when you see that the two men whose house you are in have thrown your driver's license in the fireplace, do you act casually, as though nothing is wrong? I won't go on, as I don't want to give away too much of the film. Suffice it to say, you will need to suspend some disbelief, and just go with the flow.There are many good elements about "Dead of Winter". The direction by Arthur Penn is steady, and moves along at a good pace. The casting is great. Mary Steenburgen, Roddy McDowall, and Jan Rubes are all perfect in their roles. The setting is superb - an old, wood interior, victorian style house in the middle of the countryside. A fierce blizzard snowing-in the hapless actress. All of the elements come together very well.Some night, when the wind is howling outside, the snow drifts are accumulating around your house, and you're feeling just a wee bit isolated, decide on a good night of suspense, and watch this movie. Watch it, in the "Dead of Winter"."
A must see if you love thrillers!
Matthew Gladney | 02/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can't say enough about this movie. From the very first scene all the way to the very end. It pulls you right in from the start and doesn't seem to let go. I think the snow storm really adds to the mood. The house is just the perfect setting. I love Roddy McDowall - he is perfect for his part. Actually everyone in it is. Jan Rubes who plays Dr. Lewis is spectacular! It is a movie that could really happen. The first time I saw it was during a snow storm in 1991 (which really added to the mood) and I taped it from tv, I have watched it at least a dozen times and now own it on V.H.S. and D.V.D. Just when you "think" you know what might happen the unexpected does. I wish they would come out with a sequel to this although I don't know how they could top it. If you have not seen this movie - I am not even going to say rent it, BUY IT! You won't be disappointed!"
A Haunting, Resonant Movie In A Claustrophobic Atmosphere!!
John Baranyai | 05/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In this movie Mary Steenburgen plays an actress named Katie who is offered an audition in a new movie. To audition for this part Katie travels to a lonely mansion accompanied by Roddy McDowell. Things however are not what they seem to be. For you younger people reading this that will be the first thing you learn in Sociology 101 when you get to College. Katie soon finds herself trapped in the role she has to play and the snow is piling up outside which makes escape impossible. This movie is enhanced by the presence of the late Roddy McDowell who I believe never gave a bad performance in his entire acting career. 5 stars for this gem of a Horror movie."
A Mid-Winter's Tale Of Murder, Schemes And Terror
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 05/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Katie McGovern (Mary Steenburgen) is about to encounter a lot of problems. She's an aspiring actress who answers an audition call held by Mr. Murray (Roddy McDowell). She passes and agrees to journey to upstate New York where she'll prepare herself for the part and make an audition tape. She and Mr. Murray head north in a bad snow storm. After a long drive, they reach their destination, an old, isolated mansion where their host is an elderly, wheel-chair bound psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Lewis (Jan Rubes). Over the next few days, Katie will master her part for the video recording which will be sent, she's told, to a film director. She learns the speech patterns and vocal mannerisms of a woman who looks like her. She's told this woman was the star of the film but had a break down and will have to be replaced. She makes the tape to the great satisfaction of Dr. Lewis and Mr. Murray. So far, so good. Then Katie discovers some photographs of the actress, very dead. The car, the only way back to civilization, won't start. The phone lines are out. She appears to be drugged part of the time. She tries to escape through the snow but is tracked down and forcibly returned by Mr. Murray, still the soul of politeness as he forces her back. She makes her way to the attic, a gloomy place stuffed with boxes and chests. She nearly steps in a huge bear trap. And in a chest she finds the body of the person she was trained to imitate. One morning she awakens from a drugged sleep and sees fresh blood stains on her pillow and the sheet...and sees a bandage on her hand where one of her fingers has been cut off. Then she learns the dead woman has a wealthy sister who also looks like her...and who is walking into the mansion for a meeting with Dr. Lewis. Katie McGovern is going to have to be ruthless and smart if she's going to survive the day.
The story is a nice, complicated tale of murder, blackmail, and things that go bump in the night, especially in the attic. Steenburgen is an actress who is so open and natural that she has a high likeability factor. Even though you know much of the time what to expect, Steenburgen makes getting there nerve-wracking. Roddy McDowell as the obsequious, excitable and murderous manservant to Jan Rubes does a very nice job. Rubes turns in a solid performance as a ruthless murderer who can lie to your face and make you believe it.
The movie has some holes in the story, but it's such a well-handled genre piece -- the spooky, isolated mansion, the heroine in distress, the things that jump out -- that, in my opinion, it's a lot of fun. Arthur Penn has done some first-rate films (Bonnie and Clyde, Little Big Man). He knows how to keep a story moving and how to build atmosphere. One of his best films, Night Moves, is going to be released on DVD soon. The DVD picture is just fine."