Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood; Crime, USA, 1967; D: Richard Brooks, S: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson, John Forsythe

Two ex-convicts, Perry and Dick, take a long car drive to Kansas in order to rob Mr. Clutter, a farmer, because they heard a rumor from an inmate that he keeps 10.000 $ in his safe. At around 2 AM, they storm the house, tie up Mr. Clutter and his wife, son and daughter, but cannot find the safe anywhere. Even though he tells them he has no safe, they kill him and his family, extracting only 43 $ from them. Detective Alvin Dewey starts an investigation of the murder. Finally, Perry and Dick are caught after stealing a car, put on trial and sentenced to death.

Truman Capote wrote "In Cold Blood" not as a 'fictional crime novel', but as a 'factious' novel, almost a documentary depiction of the '59 murder of the Clutter family by Perry Smith and Dick Hickock after years of researching and interviews with the perpetrators themselves. Richard Brooks' adaptation of the latter is a sharp, dark and realistic crime movie, almost uncomfortably modern-actual even today because it did not try to 'polish up' the events. Back in those days, Brooks made a daring move not to show the sole murders at first, but just cut to the next day when Perry and Dick run away - instead, he decided to save the murders for the end, when the story jumps back in a flashback and shows how the Clutters were tied, abused and subsequently murdered in their home: it was an unusual choice then, but today is seems almost modern. Brooks doesn't censor Perry and Dick's dialogues - they openly speak about cheating on a wife up to how "nuns are sexy", with an occasionally clever observation about the society ("It's the national pasttime, baby, stealing and cheating. If they ever count every cheating wife and tax chiseler, the whole country would be behind prison walls!"; "There are two kinds of laws: one for the poor and one for the rich."), which is why the film seems authentic and unsettling. A minor complaint could be raised towards the rather overlong running time and a few tiresome and distracting flashbacks, though the authors wanted to give a three-dimensional portrait of the killers, showing even how they are victims of the society since they just wanted to get some money to pursue their goals. Brooks was nominated for an Oscar for best director and screenplay.


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