Film Directors With Their Trousers Off #2
John Huston lets it all hang out in WINTER KILLS.
Good film. The background to it may be a slightly better story than the film itself. The executive producers were dope dealers, one of whom got whacked by his associates when the film ran over budget and he couldn’t pay his debts (the perils of producing — see also THE COTTON CLUB), the other picked up a forty year prison sentence. Director William Richert (who plays the Falstaff figure in MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO) went to Germany and made another film in order to raise the cash to finish this one — a risky proposition but, incredibly, one that worked.
The DVD is worth getting purely for Richert’s extremely ebullient presence in the documentaries and commentary. The film, a blatant Kennedy assassination roman a clef with an all-star cast (the Kennedys Kegans are so powerful they have Toshiro Mifune as houseboy!) is mostly quite amusing (Anthony Perkins’ way of continuing to talk while he hangs up the phone is award-worthy) and occasionally naff — the maid turns out to be a hit-woman, trying to bundle young Keegan (Jeff Bridges, bright and charming) off a balcony, and during the struggle her top rips open. She flees, and Bridges calls down to the front door to have her stopped. I thought this was a set-up for some kind of humour: the staff think he’s just being a typical Kennedy Kegan, raping the help, and she gets away, but NO, it is merely a gratuitous bit of non-consensual nudity. Not good. Offensive, really.
But elsewhere there’s Sterling Hayden as, presumably, Howard Hughes, there’s Dorothy Malone, Huston himself as a memorably malevolent Joseph Kennedy Pa Kegan, and Richard Boone, whose face looks posed on the brink of explosion. I’d been only dimly aware of Boone before, but in this and THE KREMLIN LETTER he’s quite compelling, although you do wince whenever any part of his vast, swollen beetroot-sculpture of a countenance intrudes upon the frame.