Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Twilight Time - CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER on Blu-ray ""

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Twilight Time - CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER on Blu-ray

CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER (1979; Joan Micklin Silver)
There are certain movies that I can't help but refer to as "Danny Peary Movies". As I've mentioned here often, Peary's books were a huge formative influence on my taste in films at a younger age. That said, there are a bunch of films that he wrote about that I may possibly have found even if I hadn't read his work. Some higher profile Cult and classic films may have undoubtedly crossed my path, but there are more than a handful that I feel I would never know about (nor would a lot of people) if not for the attention that Peary gave them. CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER is one of those movies. It's not a cult movie in the way that say REPO MAN or ERASERHEAD are cult movies, it more falls into the "sleeper" category than anything else. Not a sleeper in the sense that it played a long time and had a slow and building success, but rather a sleeper in that over the years it has continually been found and enjoyed by hardcore film fans (most of whom came across it in a Peary book) and championed by a very passionate fanbase. You see, it's a very interesting and unique romantic film in that its main character (played perfectly by John Heard) is something of a stalker when it comes down to it. His name is Charles and when we meet him, he is in the midst of a personal crisis of not being able to get over his ex-girlfriend Laura (Mary Beth Hurt). Through some fun cinematic devices (breaking the fourth wall, flashbacks, dream sequences), we get a great sense of Charles' obsession with Laura, how they met and how their relationship failed as well as a feeling for who Charles is as a person. Charles is a remarkably singular character in this kind of movie in that he is both charming and spontaneous (so you can see how Laura might have fallen for him), but also unstable and more than a little delusional at times. I won't go into some of the things he does within the context of his mania, but they are both odd and occasionally endearing. I really can't imagine the film working with anyone other than John Heard and the producers of the film felt the same way. Said producers were actually actors Mark Metcalf, Amy Robinson and Griffin Dunne. Known at that time as Triple Play Productions, the trio pursued novelist Ann Beattie for the rights to her book (on which the film is based) and ended up tapping filmmaker Joan Micklin Silver (HESTER STREET, BETWEEN THE LINES, CROSSING DELANCEY) direct. Mark Metcalf had just starred in ANIMAL HOUSE (as the very memorable "Neidermeyer") and parleyed his money from that role into helping get the rights to the book and get the production under way. Metcalf would soon step out of Triple Play though and it would eventually become Double Play (consisting of Robinson and Dunne) and go on to produce such gems as BABY IT'S YOU, AFTER HOURS, and RUNNING ON EMPTY among others). Basically, they made some of my all-time favorite films and I am forever in their debt for doing so.
They got off to a rocky start though as CHILLY SCENES had a somewhat troubled release in that it was released under another title (HEAD OVER HEELS) with a "happier" ending (and some truly awful poster art) which didn't do the movie any critical favors. It wasn't until it was re-released later with that ending recut that the film started to gain more traction and pick up a bigger following. If you only know John Heard from stuff like HOME ALONE and BIG, you are missing out on the truly remarkable abilities he could display as an actor - in my mind one of the great unsung performers of the 1980s. Between CHILLY SCENES and CUTTER'S WAY (both Twilight Time releases by the way), you can get a sense of just how fantastic he could be. CHILLY SCENES also has the benefit of an outstanding supporting cast too - including the also underrated Peter Riegert (who is stellar here), character actor extraordinaire Kenneth McMillan and the legendary Gloria Grahame herself. The ensemble forms an oddball group, an dysfunctional "family" of folks who are trying their best to function in the world despite their eccentricities. As I said, CHILLY SCENES is an amorous tale unlike anything else I've seen and thus has stuck with me from my very first viewing on VHS decades ago. Charles is a tough character in spots and viewed with contemporary eyes, he seems perhaps much more creepy than charismatic - but I cannot help but engage with him nonetheless. What has been fascinating is discovering other fans of the film over the years and how passionate they are with regards to it. Much like Charles' passion for Laura, we CHILLY SCENES people feel similarly about the movie itself. The excellent podcast The Projection Booth recently released an epic episode covering the film and featuring interviews with Joan Micklin Silver and all the producers. I cannot recommend it enough to other CHILLY SCENES people as it paints an excellent portrait of how the film came into existence to begin with. Listen to it here:
With this release, Twilight Time continues to put out movies that are so much in my personal wheelhouse that I can't help but name them as one of my favorite labels across the board.

Special Features:
-Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Joan Micklin Silver and Producer Amy Robinson
-Isolated Music Track
-Original Theatrical Trailer

Buy CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER on Blu-ray here:

1 comment:

beamish13 said...

One of the most brilliant and authentic American comedies of the last 4 decades. Silver is an incredible talent, and I'm so glad that this film and HESTER STREET have both finally made it to Blu-Ray. It's a shame that Twilight Time couldn't score the original ending to the film from MGM, but it does still exist, at least as terrible VHS bootlegs. It's definitely worth contrasting with the conclusions of the novel and final version of the film, as all three are quite different.