The true story of a callous murder of a prosperous and respected Kansas farmer, his wife and two teenage children by two ex-convict drifters.
Genre: Feature Film-Drama
Release Date: 1-MAY-2007
Media Type: DVD
Chilling Adaptation of Capote's Controversial Novel
Michael R Gates | Nampa, ID United States | 05/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When Truman Capote published his 1966 novel IN COLD BLOOD--a story based on the actual 1959 murder of wealthy Kansas farmer Herbert Clutter and his family--he single-handedly established a new type of printed literature. Factual accounts of real-world crime had made it into print before, of course, but in writing HIS book, Capote combined in-depth journalistic research with the techniques of fiction writing, openly folding the facts of the case into invented dialogue and, for aesthetic purposes, sometimes combining the case's less important actors into single fictional characters. Capote himself referred to IN COLD BLOOD as a "non-fiction novel," and this approach to retelling real-life crimes in a pulp-like literary format would eventually evolve into the true-crime genre that is popular today.Maverick filmmaker Richard Brooks saw the potential of Capote's work as a basis for an aesthetically literate and thematically powerful film and subsequently adapted it for the screen. Producing and directing the film himself, Brooks collaborated with talented cinematographer Conrad L. Hall to create a film that challenged the established Hollywood conception of what movie is supposed to be. Brooks rejected studio pressure to make the film in color, to cast well-known stars in the leading roles, and to soften the story's matter-of-fact depiction of the murders. Instead, he wanted to make a film that, like the novel upon which it was based, seemed raw, hard-boiled, and true to life.In spite of the violent and senseless nature of the real-life murders, Capote's novel was intended to ultimately evoke feelings that would make the reader repudiate support of capital punishment. Having grown close to the murderers during his research, the author attempted to depict them as merely misguided human beings who were deserving of sympathy, understanding, and, above all, mercy. Capote wanted the reader to understand that a state-enforced, publicly sanctioned execution of the two killers would, in effect, simply increase the number of victims in the Cutter murder case by two, and he thought that his pseudo-journalistic approach would disguise his real message in a seemingly objective narrative account of the events. Brooks wanted to retain Capote's underlying intent, and he and Hall both realized that stark, somewhat grainy black-and-white photography would give the film a documentary feel and thereby reflect the novel's pseudo-realistic tone. Brooks also knew that casting big stars as the primaries in the film would skew the audience's perception of both the story and the characters, as would any softening of either the murders or the executions. Brooks was so obsessive about creating a sense of verisimilitude, in fact, that nearly all of the filming was done on location in the places where the events depicted occurred--including the same Kansas house in which the Cutter family was murdered. In addition, six of the actual jurors from the trial of the killers appeared in the film's trial scene, some of the extras in the film were real-life neighbors of the murdered family, and the hangman in the execution scene was THE hangman at the execution of the real-life killers!So Brooks stood firm and got to make the film he wanted to make. And as the writer/director undoubtedly expected, IN COLD BLOOD generated controversy for its gratuitous violence (this in spite of the fact that the killings in the film occur outside the frame), its sympathy for the murderers, and its anti-capital-punishment stance. However, if the film--as well as its source material--has any flaw, it is the fact that it does not achieve its intended socio-political goal. The filmmakers and actors create such a sense of realism in the depiction of the cold-heartedness of the killings and the lack of contrition in the killers that, instead feeling a sense of injustice or cruelty when the murderers are executed, even the most liberal anti-death-penalty members of the audience generally go away feeling as though the killers got their just deserts. Nonetheless, IN COLD BLOOD is a well-made piece of noirish crime drama that has held up incredibly well over the years. As killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, actors Robert Blake--best known for his role in TV's BARETTA in the 1970s--and Scott Wilson deliver riveting, wholly believable performances. Conrad Hall's excellent cinematography does indeed give the film a gritty, documentary feel, and his excellent frame compositions simultaneously give an almost painterly quality to the imagery. Also notable is the jazzy score by Quincy Jones, which generates an early 1960s flavor without being too intrusive to the narrative. IN COLD BLOOD earned Oscar nominations for Brooks' direction, his screenplay, Hall's cinematography, and Jones' score.For the contemporary audience, IN COLD BLOOD might seem more socially or politically germane than ever in light of Robert Blake's relatively recent arrest and pending trial for the alleged murder of his wife. Ever since Blake was taken into custody, one of Conrad Hall's most famous shots from IN COLD BLOOD keeps popping up on TV in newscasts and such. The shot centers on Blake's face the night his character, Perry Smith, is scheduled to be hanged, and as he gazes out a rain-spattered window, the light shining through gives the impression that a torrent of tears are streaming down his face.The DVD from Columbia/Tristar offers relatively nothing by way of extras, but the digital transfer is very good. IN COLD BLOOD is presented in anamorphic widescreen in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and though some filmic artifacts like scratches and dust appear from time to time, there are no visible digital artifacts. The black-and-white photography comes across with what is obviously the intended amount of contrast and graininess. The soundtrack is available in English via Dolby Digital 3.1 SurroundSound and in French via Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono, with little noticeable hiss or distortion. Would've been nice if Columbia/Tristar had included a little bonus documentary about the real murder of the Clutter family, but this is nonetheless a very worthy disc to add to the collection of any film aficionado."
Good adaptation of a great book
JLind555 | 04/28/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" was hailed as a "non-fiction novel"; Richard Brooks' film adaptation is a semi-documentary film. Brooks doesn't sensationalize, however; the blood and gore of four horrible murders is kept to a bare minimum. We hear the gunshots but we don't see the carnage, and we don't need to; the power of suggestion does it all. Brooks keeps the movie strictly on track, from the night of the murder to the discovery of the crime the next morning; the killers' flight across country and the investigation by the detectives of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation which solved the crime and brought the perpetrators to justice.The actors are all competent in their roles and there are some very good performances indeed in the supporting parts. But the outstanding performance in this film is Robert Blake as Perry Smith, and to a lesser extent, Scott Wilson as Dick Hickock. Blake's haunted expression as he says, right before his hanging, "I'd like to apologize. But who to?" makes the viewer feel all the tragedy of a wasted life. The one problem with this otherwise fine screen adaptation is that we see far too little of the Clutters. We don't get to know them as people, their lives, how they interact. They're just people who get murdered one night. In the book they became living characters, people we felt we knew. In the movie, they're almost reduced to bit players. The book is about the Clutters, who were killed by Hickock and Smith; the movie is about Hickock and Smith who murdered a family named Clutter. The book raced along with the speed of a good novel; the film moves at a slower pace, that of an investigative report. If we see too little of the Clutters, we really get inside the minds of Smith and Hickock, and it isn't very nice in there. Shooting the movie in black and white lends to the newsreel quality of the film. It's a stark, bare-bones movie, the right kind of film to depict a senseless crime that ultimately destroyed six lives."
Perhaps the Most Indelible Crime Film Ever Made
JLind555 | 06/26/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Once seen, you will never forget Richard Brooks' haunting adaptation of In Cold Blood. A truer or more shocking story of American crime & punishment has never been told so well, and the film will leave you with more questions than answers. Yet, in terms of the filmmaking, everything works with the absolute precision of superlative craft. Robert Blake and Scott Wilson are unforgettable in the lead roles, each essaying a different kind of loser with brutish physicality and natural dialogue. The inventive jazz score by Quincy Jones is one of the strangest, and perhaps most appropriate, soundtracks ever created for an American studio film. And, most of all, the dazzling B&W cinematography of Conrad Hall is about the best I've ever seen. Images stick with you for days after the final credits roll-- a police cruiser screaming through the desolate Kansas prairie on a bright, cold morning; a cigarette lit in absolute darkness, suddenly revealing the twisted outline of a sweaty hand; a bloody shoeprint illuminated in the momentary glare of a flashing camera bulb; and, most famously, reflected rain 'tears' rolling down the killer's face as he awaits execution. The real miracle is that Brooks was able to preserve the narrative sweep of Truman Capote's 'nonfiction novel' without sacrificing detail. The documentary style and use of actual locations (it is rumored that Brooks even went so far as to use real vials of the victims' blood in a courtroom scene) make this a somewhat creepy viewing experience. But the offhand manner with which American filmmakers deal with crime nowadays neglects the heart of the issue-- murder and death are the ugliest experiences imaginable-- and Brooks glamorizes nothing here (other than the utter innocence of the slain family.) An socially iconoclastic coda to the film, depicting the wait on death row and eventual execution of the murderers, may disturb some viewers even more. To summarize, In Cold Blood is not much fun, but it is one of the most influential and disturbing film experiences of all time."
Great and very compelling movie
His Beat Goes On... | NH United States | 05/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Well I went to bed at 10 pm all excited about getting to bed early. I made the mistake of putting on the TV to see what was on Discovery Health Channel. We I accidently put on a movie channel and I saw the very beginning of this movie and a young Robert Blake. Well at 12:15 I finally went to bed. I could not for a second pull myself away from this movie.
This proves again to me how good movies were in the year 1967. The performances of Blake and Wilson were riveting. When I had conflicting feelings over a character througout the movie then I know they are giving me a performance.
The black/white photography darkens the mood and the photography is magnificent. There are many outstanding cinematic works out there, but "In Cold Blood" ranks at near the top.
I would highly recommend this movie for a quiet evening if you would like to watch a cinematically compelling movie and stellar acting."
It Shines As Bright Today As When It Was First Released
Anna V. Carroll | 10/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When my DVD arrived yesterday I could not wait to take it home and watch it. I saw it when it originally came out in the 60s and I remember being shocked by the gritty black and white photography and the content. This was heady stuff for Atlanta. Robert Blake's performance haunts me to this day, so many years later. As I watched it last night I marveled at the photography, lighting, acting, writing. While only Mr. Forsyth and Mr. Blake are household names today, the other actors and actresses were perfectly cast. The performances are outstanding. I wish someone would bring this glorious masterpiece to the big screen again so the younger generation can enjoy it as we did so long ago. Perhaps they will order the DVD from Amazon.com and see for themselves what I am talking about. Truman Capote at his most brilliant. Robert Blake at his peak. Fascinating piece of film work."