Burgess Meredith made an auspicious film debut in Winterset, bringing to the screen his strangely unsettling intensity -- perhaps a little too unsettling, since Meredith never really achieved widespread audience acceptance, despite his considerable talent. Here, as in many of his other roles, Meredith resembles a bantam rooster, but one that's definitely the number two rooster in the yard. He's wary and wiry, coiled and ready to spring, but always keeping himself in check, knowing that in general he's outclassed. But when the right moment comes, when those searing eyes take a solid lock on someone or something, there's nothing that will stop him. Meredith is just the strongest of an outstanding cast, with particularly notable work from the strangely beautiful Margo and John Carradine. Maxwell Anderson';s play has been tightened and shorn of some of its blank verse; enough remains, however, to give the film an uneven tone in terms of dialogue, and there are several places where the plot turns jar. Director Alfred Santell doesn't resolve the problems in tone, but he does provide a moody atmosphere, greatly aided by Peverell Marley's evocative cinematography and some find editing by William Hamilton. Much of the language makes Winterset dated and a bit difficult to take at times, but it still packs a nice little punch.
by Craig Butler review