Mary Steenburgen is first-rate as the struggling actress hired by an unusually accommodating casting director (Roddy McDowall) to audition as a double for an actress removed from a film-in-progress because of an alleged nervous breakdown.
She’s taken to the isolated country estate of a psychiatrist-turned-producer during a violent snowstorm (hence the title Dead of Winter) where she undergoes a complete makeover until she – quite uncannily – resembles the stricken actress.
Little does she know she’s become the patsy for a couple of blackmailers who have bumped off the other actress, as revealed in the very first scene of the film.
Suspense is built artfully around her gradual realization that she’s trapped with a sly shrink and his obsequious factotum, McDowall, considerably more malevolent than he first appeared.
Steenburgen and McDowall are the adversaries to follow, even though it would seem more likely that the wheel-chair bound doctor (Jan Rubes) should be the one to watch. Rubes is simply not sinister enough to be the mastermind behind this scheme.