In Cold Blood
Release Year: 1967
Director: Richard Brooks
Writers: Richard Brooks (screenplay), Truman Capote (based on his 1966 true crime novel In Cold Blood)
Starring: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson, John Forsythe, Paul Stewart, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Jeff Corey, John Gallaudet, James Flavin, Charles McGraw, Will Geer, John McLiam
Rating: Nominated for 4 Oscars: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Score. Nominated for 1 Golden Globe: Best Motion Picture – Drama.
Sunday Classic #261, week 25 2019
A failed robbery turns into the brutal murder of a family in rural Kansas. The two killer elude justice for a while and slowly come to terms with the repercussions of their act.
Based on Truman Capote’s famous book of the same name, this stark and chilling film follows the ups and downs of two killers through planning a robbery, butchering a family, escaping the law, and finally facing up to their crime. Made only a year after the release of the book and eight years after the actual murders, the film has a sense of indecency about it that mars the otherwise ingenius technical execution. Blake (Lost Highway, 1997) and Wilson (In the Heat of the Night, 1967) portray the two very different killers with gusto; Blake especially capturing the divided nature of Smith very well, but the director does somewhat overdue the sympathetic angle. These are cold blooded killers regardless of how conflicted they feel about it.
It is quite surprising that the film remains so shocking 50 years down the line. When the murder of the fanilly is shown to us in detail, it is a nail-bitingly intense and spine-chilling sequence. The fact that the scene was filmed in the actual Clutter home and that actual family photos of the Clutters can be seen in the background, only enhances the sense of realism, but also the sense that there is something not right about watching it as entertainment. On the other hand, the film seems to far removed from the documentary style to be taken as anything else. Technically superb, but morally dubious, this film is as controversial as its literary source but perhaps less so 50 years down the road. Recommended.
The Jensen and Narrator characters are based on Truman Capote, who went to Kansas to cover the manhunt and interview the two murderers. The result was In Cold Blood, often credited with being the first true crime novel.
The two pairs of eyes on the movie poster belong to the real killers, not the actors portraying them.
The locations used for the film are the actually placed where the events took place, including the courtroom and the Clutter family home.
Picture Copyright: Sony