Tuesday, March 12, 2013

John. Heard.

This post has been prompted by the completely surprising, stealth DVD release of Chilly Scenes of Winter (paired with John Heard's other great starring picture Cutter's Way on a budget DVD), which I just discovered today doing some Google image searches.  John Heard is a highly capable character actor known to most by face, if not name, and as "the dad from Home Alone" and "the douchebag yuppie in Big."

Long before that, Heard proved he had the chops to deliver a sensational leading performance, when given the opportunity, as well as the ability to pull off the chameleonic types of role shifting normally reserved for the likes of De Niro and the son of De Niro.  In Chilly Scenes of Winter (formerly known as Head Over Heels), Heard is a Salt Lake City government worker obsessed with his former girlfriend (Mary Beth Hurt).  In his role as Charles, he is alternately funny, pathetic, annoying, sympathetic, mean, and unlikable.  As much as this is a romantic drama, with comic elements, the script allows for Heard to go to some pretty dark places and say some things that we don't normally hear leading men say.

A couple years later, in Ivan Passer's Cutter's Way (formerly known as Cutter and Bone), Heard is the conspiracy-obsessed, angry, belligerent, often vile double amputee Vietnam vet Alex Cutter. Cutter and Charles don't share much, particularly physically, but they do have a one-mindedness--an obsession--that carries them through each film and a streak of crazy (Cutter's is more overt).  It's to Heard's great credit that he pulls off both of these performances absolutely convincingly and that he has the audience's sympathy (he has mine, at least) by the end of each film, even though he does do and say some rather objectionable things.

Aside from both films starring Heard, both were released by United Artists to poor business and reviews and later re-released by UA Classics, under new titles, following demand from audiences and critics.  Chilly Scenes was a cult movie in the latter glory days of the midnight movie and repertory circuit, just before home video hit big. This is evidenced by its inclusion in Danny Peary's Cult Movies 3, as well as the picture above at the old St. Marks, showing the very John Heard double bill now available on the DVD at the top of this article. It was this vocal cult, in cities such as Boston, that prompted UA to re-edit, re-title, and re-release Head Over Heels as Chilly Scenes of Winter.  In the years since, and this is totally based on anecdotal evidence, it seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle, probably due to its prolonged absence on DVD and the fact that it's a romance without a lot of the genre trappings that go with the cookie cutter definition / stereotyping of "cult movie."

I wrote about Chilly Scenes and its lack of a DVD a few years back for Moon in the Gutter.  Now, here it is, albeit in very modest form.

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