Or, The big movie that couldn't.
When I snagged it from a combing of the library shelves in preparation for a few days off, I was surprised that I had not seen this particular Jeff Bridges film, as I am a fan and try to see most of his, and then more surprised at the big deal cast, and the fact that it was ostensively (odd, MS Word doesn't know that word) about the JFK assassination, based on a big novel from a renowned author. If it had any better of a pedigree, it would've gotten an honorary "best of show" at the Oscars ® in 1979.
Apparently, this movie spent about two weeks in theatres in only a few towns. All the folks - the stars, director, etc. - all register their surprise at the flop. They all gave heart and soul to make it.
Actually, they went so far as to stop production because no one was getting paid, and the crew went off to Europe to make a cheap, audience-pleasing quickie - The American Success Company (unavailable as far as I can tell) - the finance the completion of Winter Kills.
How it is as a flick? Well it starts out like the movie it is - splashy, glossy, big-deal. It thunders along nicely for a while. It has a rather shocking sex scene that would garner it an NC-17 rating today as the woman's boobs flop back and forth while Jeff Bridges pounds away (the ratings boards actually counts thrusts, and there are a multitude here), and she screams orgasmically so loudly that Bridges has to cover her face with a pillow. For a moment I couldn't believe I was seeing such a graphic scene from such an old movie. Usually movies from that time that have a scene that blatant got eviscerated by the press.
It takes a serious left turn in the third act when Bridges goes and visits Norman Bates - woops, I mean Anthony Perkins - in the secret super-computer lair that borrows a lot of its set design from Forbidden Planet. It's a major movie faux pas to have Norman provide the answers to all the mysteries thus far in a big gushing regurgitation of exposition. At least Jeff Bridges breaks his arm with a crowbar for the offense. We learn in the extras that in fact Bridges did break Perkins' arm in the shot, but Perkins cowboyed up and finished the scene without anyone on set knowing he was standing there with a smashed femur.
The ending is a big muffled fart. We know by now who the villain is (which I'd guessed in the first act, way before Perkins spills the beans), and so the final scenes are just kinda silly.
If you see this at all (for the sex scene at least - you know who you are), you'll find the documentary on the film better than the film itself.