CHICAGO -- A television station aired the Russian roulette scenes of the film, 'The Deer Hunter,' despite a psychiatrist's warning it might inspire real-life imitators and officials say two male viewers shot themselves to death.
Dr. Thomas Radecki said he asked station WFLD-TV to edit the Russian roulette scenes, saying there have been 28 shootings and 25 confirmed Russian roulette deaths in the United States involving peole who watched the movie on TV or videotapes.
Officials Monday confirmed Ted Tolwinski, 26, and David Radnis, 28, had watched the movie, shown on the station Wednesday and Thursday nights.
The men shot themselves at their kitchen tables Saturday by holding partially loaded revolvers to their heads and pulling the triggers twice. Each man hit an empty chamber on the first try, authorities said.
Radecki, a psychatrist and member of the Southern Illinois University College of Medicine faculty, said he wrote to Robert Hartman, general manager of WFLD, a week before the film was shown.
Radecki, also chairman of the National Coalition on TV Violence in Decatur, Ill., said he sent Hartman news clippings about 'Deer Hunter' shootings as well as a letter objecting to the station's airing the scenes in which American servicemen in Vietnam play Russian roulette with Vietnamese for cash in a gambling den.
Hartman said he received the material from Radecki, but found it hard to believe the film caused the shootings.
'We elected to run the movie based on its merits as a motion picture,' Hartman said.