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The People Vs Paul Crump

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Editorial Reviews

Before going on to direct sophisticated genre films like The French Connection, The Exorcist, and Killer Joe, William Friedkin made one of the most powerful documentaries you ve never seen. On March 20, 1953, five black men robbed a meatpacking plant in Chicago s Union Stock Yards of $20,000. Their getaway went awry, and a security guard was shot and killed. Within a week, all five men were arrested. Four received jail sentences and were eventually paroled. The fifth, Paul Crump, then 22, confessed under questionable interrogation tactics, then retracted, only to be convicted and sentenced to the electric chair.

After 14 stays of execution, Crump met Friedkin, then a local television director, in the Cook County Jail. Friedkin so believed in Crump s innocence and his worth as a human being that he and his cinematographer Bill Butler (One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest) took to the streets with lightweight cameras to appeal for Crump s return to society. The resulting film contributed to the commutation of Crump s sentence, earned Friedkin several major awards, and launched his Hollywood career.


Product Details

  • Actors: Paul Crump
  • Directors: William Friedkin
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Restored
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: FACETS
  • DVD Release Date: May 27, 2014
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • ASIN: B00IOOE5LY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,566 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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Format: DVD
Before The Exorcist, and before The French Connection, there was The People vs. Paul Crump—and before that, in 1953, there was the historical Paul Crump, a robbed food plant in Chicago, a murdered security guard, and several beaten employees. William Friedkin’s first film is a documentary noir that explores the case of Paul Crump, one of the five men arrested for the aforementioned crimes. But Paul Crump is not only a film about Paul Crump and his probable innocence of the crimes he was almost executed for five times—the film interrogates ideas about how to treat criminals and how to evaluate crime that have been ingrained in the United States (and indeed, in countries across the globe) since its birth. In a touching reversal of expectation, the prison warden gives an interview for the film in which he talks about how there ought to be a paradigmatic shift in favor of emphasizing the rehabilitation of prisoners, rather than of the punishment of prisoners. When the warden continues to talk at length of how Paul Crump had transformed while in prison (he even went from being barely literate when he first entered the cell to having written a book, Burn, Killer, Burn!, that was lauded by the likes of Gwendolyn Brooks), we must ask why Crump hadn’t been worthy of the warden's praise all along, and what systems of oppression were at work to produce a man that needed rehabilitation in the first place.

The People vs. Paul Crump borders on docudrama at times, with its many reenactments that punctuate the conversation between Paul Crump and Daily News reporter John Justin Smith—you can tell that this is a work of a soon-to-be Oscar-winning director and of Bill Butler, a cinematographer who would go on to shoot Jaws.
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