The film director Michael Winner was seriously ill in hospital yesterday with a mysterious complaint that may require his infected left leg to be amputated.

Doctors said Winner, 71, who fell ill while on holiday in Barbados, was making "good progress" after he was admitted to intensive care in the private London Clinic on Harley Street.

But an aide to the veteran director, who has become better known as a food critic in recent years, said it was still unclear whether his leg would be amputated.

Winner had initially told his friends that a reaction to drugs given to him for a fever while staying at an exclusive resort in the Caribbean island had caused large blood blisters to form on his leg.

Speaking before his condition worsened, he said: "Unfortunately, I had an absolutely dreadful reaction to the antibiotics and I came out in enormous blood blisters on my left leg.

"They covered the entire inside of it and each was five inches long. Then they all burst and I was rushed to hospital, sirens blaring."

Winner returned to London this week on a commercial flight after his condition improved sufficiently to avoid the need for an air ambulance.

However, he became seriously ill on his return to Britain and was soon admitted to the £1,000-a-day London Clinic.

In a statement, the hospital said: "Mr Winner remains an in-patient. His condition is under constant review and he is making good progress."

Winner, who was educated at Cambridge, is understood to have taken badly to the suggestion that his leg may have to be amputated to save his life, telling doctors that he would rather die than lose the limb. An aide said last night: "He is making progress but we still don't know what will happen with regard to the leg."

Winner, who is best known for the Death Wish series of films which starred Charles Bronson as a vigilante, had been on a Caribbean holiday costing a reputed £85,000 with his girlfriend, Geraldine Lynton-Edwards, a former actor and dancer.

The movie mogul and critic, who owns a mansion in Holland Park, west London, is a frequent visitor to the winter celebrity haven of Barbados, mixing with other regulars such as the Pop Idol millionaire Simon Cowell and the billionaire entrepreneur Sir Philip Green.

Before his condition deteriorated, Winner had shown his famously low tolerance for food that he considers unworthy.

While in the Bayview hospital in Barbados he arranged for the kitchen at the hotel where he was staying to send his meals to him by taxi.

He said: "It's horrible here. They're doing their best, but the food is disgusting."

Winner, who describes his favourite dish as scrambled eggs with Beluga caviar, is said to be suffering from a long-term condition which may be contributing to his illness.

He has fallen seriously ill twice before. He had a triple heart bypass in 1993 and suffered a haemorrhage four years ago caused by blood-thinning drugs.

Writing shortly after his 2003 illness, he said: "Tragedy nearly engulfed me this week. But I was saved to carry on and share my life with you."

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