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In Cold Blood
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In Cold Blood is the powerful, true story of a callous murder, based upon the best-selling novel by Truman Capote. A prosperous and respected Kansas farmer, his wife and his two teenage children are wantonly and brutally slaughtered. The murderers are two mindless ex-convict drifters: Perry Smith (Robert Blake) and Dick Hickock (Scott Wilson). Neither of the men are sane enough to regret their crime. The story penetrates the inner workings of the criminals minds as it follows their purposeless meandering through Mexico and the United States in evasion of the law. After more than a year of wandering, the hunted men are finally caught, tried and in a dramatic conclusion condemned to hang.
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The film In Cold Blood was released in the mid 60's, when protest marches and anti-war rhetoric were in their infancy. It recalls Dragnet and Citizen Kane and Edward R. Murrow. It's a film noir with a social conscience, an art film with an agenda, and a police drama and documentary all rolled into one. It's a grimy classic with moments of transcendent beauty and bleak ugliness.
Scott Wilson and Robert Blake were both perfectly cast, and their performances are pure, distilled genius. Despite its age, this story of an America where greed and madness showed its face on Main Street USA is unforgettable, strangely relevant, and should not be missed by those who appreciate great filmmaking.
In the early morning hours of Sunday, November 15, 1959, Herb Clutter, a prosperous farmer, his wife Bonnie, and his two teenage children, Nancy and Kenyon, were brutally slain in their home in Holcomb, Kansas. This horrific crime gained national attention and became the basis for author Truman Capote’s best-selling true crime detective novel “In Cold Blood.” That book detailed the story of how two ex-convicts, acting on a tip from a fellow criminal, traveled 400 miles across Kansas in order to rob the Clutters of a rumored large sum of cash. It also became the basis for the subject of this review: the 1967 film “In Cold Blood”.
The two ex-cons are Perry Smith (played by Blake) and Dick Hickok (played by Wilson). Smith, recently paroled from Kansas State Penitentiary, has just violated the terms of his release by returning to the state of Kansas. Smith is short, stocky, and in constant pain from injuries he received in a motorcycle accident. He has a volatile and violent temperament. His partner, Dick Hickok, is also a paroled ex-convict. He's an extroverted smooth talker who's got a plan to rob and murder a wealthy Kansas farmer.
On the night of November 14, 1959, these two miscreants drive 400 miles across Kansas to the tiny village of Holcomb, where Herb Clutter owns and operates a large farm. Smith and Hickok plan to force Clutter to open his safe, then steal his money and kill everyone in the house. They arrive at the Clutter homestead at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 15th...
...Later that morning, the Clutters' neighbors arrive to pick up Nancy for church. When nobody answers the doorbell, the neighbors go inside, where they discover the grisly results of Smith and Hickok's earlier visit: Herb, Bonnie, Nancy and Kenyon Clutter have been massacred with shotgun.
Local and state law enforcement agencies quickly respond. The lead investigators are Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) agent Alvin Dewey (played by John Forsythe) and Harold Nye (Gerald S. O'Loughlin). Dewey is a local area resident and a personal friend of Herb Clutter's. With meticulous care, he, Nye, and their team of investigators begin the task of searching for clues as to who killed the Clutters...
How do Dewey and his team finally track down Smith and Hickok? What clues do the investigators discover, and what mistakes do the killers make that lead to their capture? What really happened at the Clutter house on November 15, 1959? And what is the fate that awaits Perry Smith and Dick Hickok after their arrest? Watch “In Cold Blood” to find out!
“In Cold Blood” ranks as one of my favorite true crime dramas. This is a masterful movie in nearly every respect. The acting, writing, and cinematography are all superb. Robert Blake's portrayal of Perry Smith is especially noteworthy. Blake effortlessly brings to life the emotional instability and violent tendencies of this psychopathic criminal. Scott Wilson, a heretofore little-known actor, is equally brilliant as the garrulous, ingratiating, but equally violent Dick Hickok. John Forsythe and Gerald S. O'Loughlin bring just the right touch of restrained righteous anger to their roles as Agents Alvin Dewey and Harold Nye.
Richard Brooks wrote and directed “In Cold Blood”. His screenplay is written with intelligence and great respect for the facts of the case. Although the film contains precious little action, it maintains an excellent level of tension throughout its 2¼-hour running time. Brooks' choice of filming “In Cold Blood” in black and white was a master stroke. That, coupled with Conrad Hall's expert cinematography, gives the film a brooding darkness and heightens the sense of 1950s realism.
“In Cold Blood” remains one of the finest true crime movies ever made. It accurately brings to life one of the most harrowing criminal cases in American history. It's brilliantly acted, written, and produced, and a "must-see" for anyone interested in a great true crime story!