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A Great Suspense in One of the Best Performances of Mary Steenburgen
claudio_carvalho18 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
In New York, the unemployed actress Katie McGovern (Mary Steenburgen) is invited to an audition to replace the actress Julie Rose that had a nervous breakdown in the middle of a filmmaking. She gets the job and travels with Mr. Murray (Roddy McDowell) to a remote manor upstate to meet the producer Dr. Joseph Lewis (Jan Rubes) that prepares footage with a test to be sent to the director. She is lodged in the mansion but when Katie sees her driving license burning in the fireplace, she finds that all her documents and credit cards are missing from her wallet and the telephone line is actually cut off the wall. Sooner she finds that she was lured by the two men and is trapped in the house in a blackmail scheme.

"Dead of Winter" is a great suspense in one of the best performances of Mary Steenburgen in a triple role. Despite a couple of bad reviews, the theatrical and claustrophobic dark story of murder, greedy, blackmail and a stiletto is one of the best thrillers of the 80's. The few external locations are awesome and unfortunately the VHS does not highlight the cinematography. This is the fourth or fifth time that I watch this film and I still like it. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Morte no Inferno" ("Death in the Hell")
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A Solid Little Thriller
DEAD OF WINTER is a fine 1980s thriller with a solid, small cast. The plot centers on a naive actress, played well by Mary Steenburgen, who accepts a job on a rather hush-hush production. She is told that she is to replace a troubled actress who walked off set, however, she never quite makes the set. Instead, she is taken to an isolated mansion where eccentric millionaire Jan Rubes claims to be the film's producer. Mary does everything Rubes and his assistant, Roddy McDowell, ask of her because she views this as her big break.

But things aren't what they seem in the mansion. With a blizzard raging outside, Steenburegn is essentially trapped indoors with two men she hardly knows who may or may not be working on a movie. Mary makes a few shocking discoveries while she wastes time in the mansion, locating photographs of a dead woman that Rubes claims to be the actress she is to replace. Mary and the deceased actress bare a striking resemblance and as time rolls along, she feels that their machinations are devious and that her life is in danger.

STORY: $$$ (The story doesn't really offer anything new. There are a few moments when you'll ask why Mary's character does the things that she does, but all in all the script isn't too bad. The screenplay builds enough terror and offers jolts in the right places. Also, from the beginning of the film, we know Mary Steenburgen's character is desperate so her going along with the game seems justifiable).

ACTING: $$$$ (Mary Steenburgen essentially plays three roles in this film: the main character, the murdered actress and the murdered actress' sister. She does a fine job in all three roles and effectively turns off the naive aspiring actress role when she has to play the calculating sister of the dead thespian. Roddy McDowell is a treat as always in his role as Jan Rubes' sidekick and Rubes, confound to a wheelchair, is exceptional is his role of eccentric man of means. When he chases Mary up the stairs, walking for the first time in years, he'll give you the willies).

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A wintry tale that is guaranteed to give you the shivers...
Doylenf10 October 2006
Once upon a time (1945 to be exact) there was a B-film from Columbia called MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS starring Nina Foch, Dame May Witty and George Macready. It caused quite a stir even though it played the lower half of double bills and lasted a mere 65 minutes.

DEAD OF WINTER is rather transparent in borrowing from MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (the heroine's name is Julie Rose, for example), and it has taken the original material, expanded it with some clever additional plot lines, taken the Cornwall atmosphere and transported it to wintry New England for a weather-beaten effect, and turned out a smart little thriller that will give you plenty of winter chills no matter what the temperature is outside.

It's another one of those tales where nothing is what it seems. A pretty young actress (MARY STEENBURGEN) is a down on her luck gal who accepts the offer of a film test from a producer (RODDY McDOWALL) who invites her to his secluded mansion where the test will take place. Sure, it's an unbelievable plot contrivance, but that's part of the fun. Nothing is to be taken too seriously from this point on.

When a series of rather unpleasant incidents take place, the woman realizes she is in a trap, but neither she nor the audience understands why she is there and what the purpose is of keeping her prisoner.

STEENBURGEN is excellent as the frightened woman (who should have had more common sense than accepting such an offer), and McDOWALL's polite cat-and-mouse game with her is fascinating as it unfolds. It's a creepy film, filled with authentically wintry atmosphere and it builds toward a surprising and violent climax.

Under Arthur Penn's direction, this expanded version of the B-film is every bit as cleverly plotted and written, no matter what some of the other commentators here have said. It's an atmospheric mystery that's guaranteed to give you some satisfying wintry chills--and then some.
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Glad I watched this one on an exceptional hot summer night
Joyce Hauchart31 July 2001
The critics for this movie in the local newspaper and also on IMDB said this movie is a give away thriller. I totally disagree. It may be true that it takes too much time before we are confronted with the new personage Steenburgen has to play, but overall this is a nice Mousetrap. The actors are very well casted on I was sometimes surprised with the plot twists. Music helps keeping up an eerie atmosphere. Don't watch this movie if you're alone at night
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Old-Fashioned Thriller
telegonus21 April 2005
This Arthur Penn-directed remake of My Name Is Julia Ross represents yet another attempt to revive an old Hollywood formula, in this case the lady-in-distress thriller. There are of course some new, kinky wrinkles in this film, which has some grisly moments. For the most part the movie worked well for me. Mary Steenburgen makes an attractive and sympathetic heroine as a woman trapped in a snowbound mansion by two very strange men. There are some shocks along the way but in the end the movie is fairly conventional, a technical exercise, if you will, featuring some good, offbeat performances. The movie, in other words, delivers the goods, and is unashamedly old wine in a new bottle. It's no classic, but if its genre appeals to you, it's reasonably effective in its quiet way.
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Excellent Pennmanship
cstotlar-15 April 2009
In terms of camera work, lighting, pace and direction in general, this is a fine piece of film-making. Penn knows all the bells and whistles as usual and Mary Steenburgen is quite amazing in her roles. I'm put off as I am so often by the many critics who look to film for verisimilitude (the "if it couldn't or wouldn't ordinarily happen in real life" brigade) that sets us so far behind our European counterparts. The film has a remarkable sense of entrapment and claustrophobia in the dead of winter in the middle of nowhere. As far as whether the events really could happen like that, I suppose I was more interested in the style, craftsmanship and general concept than of probabilities or even possibilities. The camera work and rhythm at the end of the film are magnificent. As for the "damsel in distress" nonsense, how many thousands of movies fall into that genre anyway? Are they all uniformly bad because they use a successful formula? This is the kind of movie where it's fun to sit back and enjoy the fireworks without bothering about split infinitives and the like.

Curtis Stotlar
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A Showcase For Steenburgen
ccthemovieman-115 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"Routine" is the best word to describe this thriller about a woman trapped in an English house. But, overall, it entertains which is why I still give it a "7."

Mary Steenburgen yells and runs up and down stairs a lot. Yes, there are plenty of holes in the story and scenes where you say to yourself "Why are you doing this?" or "Why don't you do the sensible thing and do ---(whatever)?" It can be a tad frustrating as our Damsel In Distress, "Katie," can't seem to figure things out for a long time.

No matter, I enjoy looking at young Steenburgen's face. She has always fascinated me; that face and soft voice. Roddy McDowell and Jan Rubes co-star as "Mr. Murray" and "Dr. Lewis," respectively, the men who imprison her, and there is a weirdo named "Eveyln," but this is Steenburgen's movie.

There is a nice twist at the end, a clever way our heroine discovers to escape her lunatic kidnapper. It changes the film from being somewhat dumb to somewhat intelligent. I won't say how but it's not spoiling things to say she wins out in the end. That's always the case in films like this.

They say this is a re-make of the 1945 film, "My Name Is Julie Ross," but I've never seen that. Does anyone remember Samanatha Egger in a similar trapped-in-the-English house-movie in 1965 called "The Collector?"
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domino100326 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Mary Steenburgen gives 3 good performances. She plays Katie McGovern, a struggling actress that auditions for a juicy role. The requirement, according to Mr. Murray (Roddy MacDowall), would be for her to come to a house (during the dead of winter) to meet Dr. Lewis (Jan Rubes). Both liking what they see, they have her make a screen test tape in which she is playing a woman named Julie Rose. Supposedly, Julie had a breakdown and left the production. Dr. Lewis and Mr. Murray, however, know the truth: Julie Rose is actually dead, murdered by her sister Evelyn, whom she had been blackmailing. Katie soon realizes what's going on and becomes a prisoner in the house. She also realizes that Evelyn will kill her because she thinks that Julie is still alive.

This was a very interesting movie. Typical locations (A house in the middle of nowhere and a snowstorm)and a typical plot (A woman that should know better. Come on: wouldn't YOU check out the phone number BEFORE you went with someone you DON"T know?) A lot of interesting twists throughout the film and a great performance by the late MacDowall (CREEPY performance). There were some weak areas in the film, but a lot of creepy parts (Especially the part where Steenburgen wakes up with a "surprise").
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Classy thriller
Woodyanders7 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Struggling actress Katie McGovern (an excellent and appealing performance by Mary Steenburgen) is summoned to a remote country estate to do a screen test for the crippled Dr. Joseph Lewis (superbly played by Jan Rubes) and his obsequious servant Mr. Murray (Roddy McDowall in peak urbane and unctuous form). However, Katie eventually discovers that she's being used as a pawn in an elaborate blackmail scheme. Director Arthur Penn relates the gripping story at a steady pace, makes extremely effective use of the bleak wintry setting, builds a good deal of tension as well as a strong feeling of chilling isolation, helplessness, and claustrophobia, and handles the startling moments of surprisingly brutal violence with admirable taste and restraint. The clever script by Marc Shmuger and Mark Malone keeps the viewer guessing with its crafty twists and turns. The sterling acting by the tip-top cast helps matters a whole lot: Steenburgen does stand-out work in three roles, Rubes and especially McDowall excel as a pair of deeply creepy and devious villains, and William Russ makes a favorable impression as Katie's concerned husband Rob. Jan Weincke's glossy cinematography gives the picture an impressive polished look. Richard Einhorn's elegant score does the subtly spine-tingling trick. A worthwhile movie.
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A Remake of "My Name is Julie Ross" 1945
whpratt120 April 2007
Enjoyed the 1945 film, "My Name is Julie Ross", 1945 starring Nina Foch, which was a great thrilling film for 1945. However, this 1987 remake held my interest from beginning to the very end. It was full of horror, thrills and plenty of chills in a very winter time of year with plenty of snow and howling winds and a creepy old home. Mary Steenburgen, (Julie Ross) plays the role of a struggling actress and tries out for an audition and secures the acting position and is required to stay in the producers home. Roddy McDowell, (Mr. Murray) guides Julie Ross into a large spider web of murder, torture and secret panels in the walls and plenty of blood. Jan Rubes, (Dr. Joseph Lewis) plays the so called doctor and producer who simply adores Julie Ross and simply does not want her to leave and go home to her husband. Mary Steenburgen gave an outstanding performance along with the great former actor, Roddy McDowell. Enjoy
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A Winter's Tale
sol-kay19 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
(Some Spoilers)We see right away that there's a lot more to the movie "Dead of Winter" then just an out of work actress looking for a part in a new film. A woman alone and driving out in sticks on the New York State Canadian border is attacked from behind in her car and strangled as her left ring finger is for some unknown reason, at that time, amputated by her killer.

Things start to jell later when we see actress Katie McGovern, Mary Steenburgen, going to audition a part for a movie and the theatrical agent Mr. Murray, Roddy McDowell, whom she's auditioning the part for just goes completely overboard with her both looks and acting ability. Getting the part on the spot Murray tells a very happily surprised Katie that she'll have to travel with him upstate to see the movie's director a doctor Lewis, Jan Rubes, whom Murray works for as a manservant. We later find out that Dr. Lewis is also a retired psychiatrist who's treating Murray as a patient.

It becomes quite clear that Katie is somehow being substituted for, what may very well be, the woman we first saw in the film who was brutally murdered. As the truth starts to sink into Katie's head about the real reason for her being picked by both Murray and his "Master" the wheel-chair bound Dr. Lewis. Murray & Dr. Lewis are trying to fool Evelyn the sister of the murdered Julia Rose the woman killed at the start of the movie*****SPOILER*****, both parts Evelyn & Julia also played played by Miss Steenburgen, into thinking that Julia is still alive!

There's also something that has to do with a suite-case filled with hundred dollars bills that we saw Julia take out of a locker and is later taken from her by her unknown murderer but it just disappears and is never seen or heard from again as if it never was there in the first place!

It's when Katie starts to ask too many questions about the part that both Murray and Dr.Lewis have for her in their new movie that she realizes that the part she's to play is that of the murdered Julia Rose! This in an effort to convince her hateful and conniving sister Evelyn that she's still alive.

It's never explained in the movie for what all this maneuvering around on both Murrays and Dr.Lewis' part have anything to do with anything that supposed to be going on in the movie? Did they have something going with Evelyn in murdering Julia or were they trying to fool Evelyn, who seemed to want her sister Julia dead in the first place, into thinking that Julia was alive. Finally what happened to the suite-case loaded with cash Julia had on her and even more who was the person who both murdered Julia and took the money?

The remainder of the movie "Dead of Winter" has Katie running and fighting for her life in an effort to save herself from these three murderous lunatics, Murray Dr. Lewis & Evelyn. The cops in the area, who aren't that interested in doing their job, aren't much help either as the desperate and injured, by having her ring finger chopped off, Katie runs for her life from both Murray & Dr. Lewis.

The ending really saved the movie from being a total disaster by having a "Wait until Dark" like ending in reverse with the crippled would-be psycho-killer Dr. Lewis, stumbling and bobbling all over the place, trying to get his hands on and murdering Katie.

Katie having had no trouble earlier dispatching the infirmed Dr.Lewis' healthy but somewhat brain-damaged manservant Mr. Murray has to fight for her life in holding the far older and much less mobile mad doctor. Even Dr. Lewis getting a knife in his back and stepping on a bear-trap was not enough to slow the old and crazy guy down.
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Well done thriller of 80's
nexus-3729 June 2015
I didn't know what to except, reviews didn't give a clue what I'm going to watch.

Well first of all, big minus for the beginning, somewhere in 10 minutes or so you get the idea of whole movie. Don't get me wrong, this was very interesting and very well acted and all, nicely put together, and the ending was little twist that saved a lot.

Few parts doesn't make any sense in the movie but that didn't bother me. It was lovely to watch the whole movie with huge interest for the ending.

Truly worth of watch if you can handle thrillers and 80's style doesn't bother you.

And for the last words, this was pretty original for a thriller.. legendary maybe. Now I got lost in nostalgic, enjoy!
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Surprisingly old-fashioned thriller
Wizard-830 March 2003
Even for 1987, "Dead Of Winter" still comes across as surprisingly old-fashioned. In fact, it reminded me a lot of those early 1970s made-for-TV movie thrillers. Those who enjoy such movies will find this seeming tribute nicely nostalgic.

However, unlike those made-for-TV movies of that era, DOW does not run a lean 75 minutes or so. It runs 100 minutes, and in this case less definitely would have been more - the movie clearly could have been tightened somewhat. However, there are hints that the rough unedited cut possibly had the answers to some glaring holes in the plot (like: Why does our heroine go outside at one point to hike for a long distance WITHOUT PUTTING ON A COAT?) There are also a few other instances where she could have saved herself from her predicament had she just used some common sense.

By the way, if anyone knows why this movie was rated "R", I'd appreciate hearing the explanation. Everything in the movie - even the blood and language - is pretty tastefully presented, and doesn't seem to deserve even a PG-13 rating.
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A truly frightening film!
JohnHowardReid22 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Film Noir is still a stable but popular item, not only with connoisseurs but also with the general public and especially with the younger generation of moviegoers.

As if to prove that not all the most intriguing of Hollywood's flirtations with noir and mystery lie in the past, "Dead of Winter" (1987) presents a most convincing Mary Steenburgen in three brilliantly contrasted roles, plus Roddy McDowall in his most involving part since "Kidnapped" (made way back in 1948).

A truly frightening film, "Dead of Winter" revolves around an ingenious script that the pacey and forceful direction by Arthur Penn endows with a mind-numbing reality.

The M-G-M DVD rates 10/10.
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gridoon22 August 1999
Engrossing, sometimes gruesome thriller with an atmospheric music score and exceptional performances (McDowall's nervous acting style reminded me a lot of Anthony Perkins). But, like many thrillers, it's is a little weak on plot. It reveals all its secrets earlier than it should, and the film, after those revelations, becomes rather standard.
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Hammy distress thriller holds the audience hostage...
moonspinner5525 November 2006
Actress Mary Steenburgen, desperate for work, accepts a job "acting" for a couple of old coots living in an isolated manor; turns out they need her to complete an outlandish blackmail plot (which of course will leave their hired victim expendable). A good cast and a fine director end up wading through a murky story that is, by turns, manipulative and downright foolish. Though not particularly violent, the film--a box-office failure in 1987--is pushy and ugly, exhibiting no sympathy for either Steenburgen nor the audience (both are trapped). Loosely based on the legendary short film "My Name Is Julia Ross", which did the whole thing much better in half the time and on half the budget. * from ****
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A great thriller, but not one of the best Arthur Penn's movie.
Vince-4026 February 1999
Warning: Spoilers
I really think that this film works. I think that it is difficult to not enter the story. Mary Steenbergen is really good in her 3 roles, the victim, the villan and a very dead corpse. Roddy McDowell is great too and Jan Rubes is also credible. Arthur Penn's direction is good. The movie is based on the 1945 film "My Name Is Julia Ross" by director Joseph H. Lewis. We can call it an unofficial remake, but I would like to say that it is an homage to the movie. There are some great scenes: when Katty calls his husband and tell him that Dr. Lewis and Mr. Murray cut off one of his finger, I really like that scene. It is my favorite. Another intense moment is the final, when the piano start. When you compare other classic of Penn (The Miracle Worker, Bonnie and Clyde, The Litle Big Man), Dead of Winter seems silly, but I think that in Dead of Winter, Penn shows us that he once was a great director.
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Sleuth cum Hitchcock.
dbdumonteil31 August 2002
A cross between Anthony Shaffer's "sleuth" (adapted by JL Mankiewicz)and Alfred Hitchcock,this movie took Penn's enthusiasts by surprise.What?It's not the misfit pit against the whole world,as in "the left-handed gun""the chase "Bonnie and Clyde" "The miracle worker" "little big man" "Alice's restaurant" ?Well,you've got to forget all you know about Arthur Penn and then you can enjoy this Grand Guignol!It's all blood and thunder!

Hitchcock's countless fans will relish with the numerous quotations:"suspicion" (the glass of milk!),"rear window"( the leg in plaster!) and "psycho" and "vertigo" here there and everywhere;besides the cat and mouse play and Mary Steenburgen's three(you read well!)parts reminds me of "sleuth".The cinematography recalls Roman Polanski's style sometimes ,which seems appropriate,since the heroin experiments claustrophobia.Hats off to the actress,it was not an easy task and she pulled it off with maestria.The supporting cast,featuring an unctuous Roddy MacDowall and a good-natured Jan Rubes ,is up to par. Forget any plausibility,and you will admire the marvelous snowbound house ,you will get some scares when MCGovern finds they cut one of her fingers during the night!This is the kind of thriller we desperately need nowadays when all we have got is routine serial killer,drug affairs , endless trials,and supercops(do you think that "die hard" is realist?You're pretty naive if you do).

Penn's next movie "target",although it did feature his favorite actor Gene Hackman was another offbeat work in his canon and definitely less entertaining than "dead of winter" ,this frenzied extravaganza.
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A Young Woman Is Oblivious of Her Peril
romanorum121 January 2016
On New Years Eve, a woman (we later learn that she is Julie Rose) drives in the snow to an almost deserted bus terminal where she removes a cash-filled briefcase from a locker. After she returns to her car in an empty parking lot, she is strangled by a lone assailant. Then the scene shifts to an apartment of an out-of-work actress Katie McGovern (Mary Steenburgen) and her husband.

Katie answers an ad for an actress and eventually passes the audition held by creepy-looking Mr. Murray (Roddy McDowall). Murray drives Katie in a snowstorm to an isolated country mansion in northern New York state for a screen test. At the mansion she meets a polite old gentleman, Dr. Joseph Lewis (Jan Rubes) in a wheelchair. He tells her that she is needed as a double in a new movie for an actress who was replaced because of job stress. So Katie studies the pictures of the woman and also alters her appearance until a video is made of her. But we find out before the 45-minute mark that something sinister is afloat.

The feeling of tension is increasingly felt when Katie gradually discovers that all is not as it seems. She discovers pictures of a dead woman that looks like her. Then Katie finds her own identification documents, like her driver's license, being burned in a fireplace. Supposedly the snowstorm has knocked out the telephone lines; later she finds the inside line cut. But the telephone in the attic works well, but why is there even a phone in the attic? Why doesn't the car start when it is needed? What's with the two-way mirrors? Incidentally, why can't the two investigating cops possess at least one brain between them?

PLOT EXPLANATION: The two men only hired Katie because she happens to be an exact double of the dead woman in the first scene. There is a blackmail plot that involves two sisters, one of whom (Julie Rose) married and murdered for money. By coincidence she later became a patient of Dr. Lewis. The other sister, Evelyn, later had Julie murdered in that parking lot, and had her left ring finger removed. Lewis and Murray want to convince Evelyn that Julie Rose is still alive. They will only release her (Katie) over to Evelyn if they get the stashed money. And when Katie's usefulness dissolves, it's probably the end of her life. The ending will not be disclosed here.

The movie does have several surprising and tense moments, such as when Katie discovers a body on more than one occasion. Another tense scene has Katie clawing her way up an icy hillside in a blizzard. There is tension when Evelyn arrives. In addition to all of this, there is one rather shocking moment when Katie awakens to find blood on her sheets. But why does Katie act so stupidly at times, especially when a disabled and unsteady man chases her up the stairs? Before that, our protagonist never even noticed the city name on the sleeve patches of the cops.

Mary Steenburgen plays all three female roles: Julie Rose, Evelyn, and Katie. Roddy McDowall and Jan Rubes are sufficiently menacing and evil; McDowall is especially obsequious. Despite its flaws, this is a suspenseful and well-crafted thriller.
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Not bad for what it is...
gtylerpayne6 June 2015
I was torn between giving a 6 or a 7. Really I would say this is about a 6.5. It's an entertaining movie, there is no doubt about that. It is suspenseful and has a nice pace. The score, acting, setting, camera work... all that is fine if not good.

There is nothing really new here. I can't think of any other movies that have the exact same plot, but yet it all still seems very familiar. Reminds me of other better movies like The Shining. It has few nice little twists and turns and never gets boring, but it's also not terribly memorable.

One thing that it suffers from, in my opinion, is the same problem I had with the first Friday The 13th movie, an old crippled man who can barely walk just isn't all that menacing. Just like in Friday the 13th when you find out the killer is an old grandma, it just becomes a bit less scary.

It seems as though not many people have heard of this movie, and I suppose that is because there is nothing that really stands out about it, but if you like horror, suspense, mystery movies, then you will most likely enjoy this.
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fmwongmd21 November 2018
Well acted,well directed, suspenseful thriller. Mary Steenburger at her best.
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Dead of thought
masterjk223 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
What a stinker. The only reason I bothered to watch until the end was to see Steenburgen and see how bad it could get. Pretty bad. Steenburgen is supposed out of work actress, living in NYC. Maybe she just moved there from Klamath Falls. It never occurs to her to get any real names, addresses or verify anything... just like a New Yorker, right? It was filmed in 1987, not 1927, when people might have been a little more trusting. So off she trots with one of the bad guys, not having been paid one dime yet. She arrives in the lovely house, gets a tour and goes to bed. Next day, the big shoot. She knows her lines. She's "hired." But when she tries to call home, the phone lines are dead. Next day, the car won't start. Then she see that her driver's license is burning in the fireplace and finds all her identification is missing. What to do. Now I realize that she's under a lot of pressure. But trying to run out of the house while the two evil doers are still puttering around and then running up a hill in a snow storm, leaving tracks all the way seems... dumb. Later having lost only a finger so far, when the evil ones leave the house trying to find her, she kills her "sister" (not), manages to change clothes with her, dump her in the window box and then wander around the house in her mink coat instead of just leaving (the "sister" arrived so she must have had a car or did she come by broom?) Meanwhile, the Keystone cops are getting an earful from her husband and are on the way... they had failed to figure out anything the first time, they believe the "dr." was treating her. Later, back in the attic, the movable body has once again appeared in a closet. Now stop a minute. This body is of the woman who Steenburgen was supposed to impersonate and she's been dead about 10 days... no embalming. Whew! No one smelling anything yet? This movie has one of the worst plots I've ever scene in this genre. I'm surprised that Steenburgen allowed her name to appear. Where the credits list her with her three roles, it should have listed the actress as "Madame X". Obscurity is best sometimes.
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Directors ignore Hitchcock at their own peril.
grizzledgeezer1 January 2018
Alfred Hitchcock is arguably the greatest director of the sound era (D W Griffith holding the comparable honor for silent films). It's unlikely this will ever change.

Hitchcock famously said "The director's job is to manipulate the audience." This is critical in a thriller or suspense film, but Arthur Penn fails to do it consistently. The story unfolds at a too-leisurely pace, without the fluctuating tension that would keep the audience on the edge of its seat. The audience has to be thoroughly confused as to the motivations of the doctor and his assistant, but not enough is revealed (or even suggested) to create viewer tension that parallels the heroine's.

The director isn't obliged to interpret a script literally, but too much of Penn's direction is annoyingly literal. Hitchcock's success in repeatedly confusing the audience throughout "Psycho" owes a much to his working closely with Joseph Stefano to create exactly the right situations and dialog to produce the desired effects.

"Dead of Winter" isn't a terrible film -- just a disappointing one.
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Pretty poor
preppy-322 April 2007
Out of work actress Katie McGovern (Mary Steenburgen) takes a job that takes her from NYC to Canada. She is to replace an actress named Julie Rose who walked off the set of her movie. She finds herself in an isolated mansion with Dr. Joseph Lewis (Jan Rubes) and sinister butler Mr. Murray (Roddy McDowell). She also discovers she's a pawn in a deadly blackmail scheme.

I vaguely remember seeing this in Boston on opening night in 1987. I had just seen another bad thriller ("Black Widow") and thought this couldn't be as bad as that one was. I was right--it was worse! A VERY loose remake of "My Name is Julia Ross". That 1945 thriller didn't need to be remade...but when did that ever stop Hollywood? This is a slow and dull movie with a very mean streak--we almost see a woman's finger cut off in the first 15 minutes! It's hard to believe director Arthur Penn did this one. The plot becomes needlessly convoluted (and stupider) as the movie goes on. There are plot holes galore (the reaction of the two policemen was incredibly dumb) and the ending is truly laughable.

Steenburgen, McDowell and Rubes are all good--but even their considerable acting talents can't save this. A career low point for all involved. This was (understandably) a big bomb. I give it a 3 for the acting, some good direction and beautiful scenery (shot on location in Canada).
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Awful says it all. Ridiculous plot but Mary S. is pretty good.
easy_eight11 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Awful says it all. I switched to another channel when the police came and did not take Mary S. with them to the police station and did not try to verify her story.

And if she had called 911, they would have been able to trace the call.

The movie is ridiculous. Another failed attempt by Hollywood to present a credible storyline.

If you think about most movie plots and break them down, they just do not make sense. Pure entertainment and fantasy. I like to be challenged mentally when I watch a movie and more often than not the challenge is to figure out why plot is ridiculous. But many people simply go to movies because they have nothing better or more interesting to do and let the movie makers do their thinking for them. It surely is still a good excuse to sit and eat a big container of popcorn and a Diet Coke with your significant other and friends even if the movie is awful.

When you think about moviegoers as educated consumers, you can see why most of what comes out of studios today is garbage. On the other hand, there are enough rare exceptions to keep our interest. This is one of the throw-aways.

However, Mary does do a nice job of acting. Her mistake is not throwing the script back at the filmmaker and asking for a rewrite. On the other hand, she probably had fun making the movie and got a big paycheck. But it surely was a waster of talent and money.

Also, another reviewer mentioned that the Director took over from a neophyte who got fired. It does seem like a half-hearted attempt by the Director to clean up a pretty awful mess. Of course, he got paid for it, so the only ones who suffered are the investors and the viewers. I had the good sense to switch channels. Fortunately, I did not pay to see this trash in a theater.
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