Two young men are ineffectual individually, but when together become violent criminals. They break into a wealthy farmer's home only to find that there is nearly no money at the home and murder the entire family to avoid identification. The first part of the film details the search for them, the second, their trial and execution. Taken from the actual events chronicled by Truman Capote in his book. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
The "Jenson"/"Narrator" characters are based on the author himself, Truman Capote. Capote went to Kansas soon after the murders to cover the manhunt and to interview those who knew the Clutter family. After the apprehension and conviction of killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, Capote became a major part of the killers' lives while they were on death row, forming a particularly close bond with Smith. Smith gave most of his belongings - drawings, books - to Capote. Capote was present at the executions and witnessed the carrying-out of Hickock's sentence, but couldn't bear to watch Smith die, and left the room before he was brought in. See more »
In the court, the quote from the Bible is actually Genesis 9:6, not Genesis 9:12. See more »
Remarkable, disturbing film about the true-life, senseless, brutal murder of a small-town family, along with the aftermath, and examination of the lives of the killers, Dick Hickok and Perry Smith.
No matter how much time goes by, or how dated this film may look, it still resonates the utter incomprehensibility of criminal acts such as this.
This really traces multiple tragedies: The tragedy, brutality and senselessness of the murder of the Clutter family, a decent farm family in small-town Holcomb, Kansas; and the wasted, brutal and sad lives of Hickok and Smith.
An interesting point is made in the film: that neither of these two immature, scared, petty criminals would have ever contemplated going through with something like this alone. But, together, they created a dangerous, murderous collective personality; one that fed the needs and pathology of each of them. They push each other along a road of "proving" something to each other. That they were man enough to do it, to carry it out; neither wants to be seen as too cowardly to complete their big "score"; an unfortunate and dangerous residue of the desolate lives they led. These were two grown-up children, who live in a criminal's world of not backing down from dares; who constantly need to prove manhood and toughness. in this instance, these needs carried right through to the murder of the Clutters.
The film contains a somewhat sentimentalized look at the Clutter family, but the point is made. These were respected, law-abiding, small-town people, who didn't deserve this terrifying fate. The movie also gives us a sense of the young lives of Hickok and Smith. Perry Smith, whose early life was filled with security and love, but watched in horror as alcohol took his family down a tragic path. Hickok, poor and left pretty much to his own devices, not able to see how he fit in, using his intelligence and charm to con everyone he came into contact with.
An interesting, and maybe the first, look at capital punishment, and what ends we hope to achieve. Is this nothing more than revenge killing for a murder that rocked a nation at a time when we had not yet had to fully face that there might be such predators among us, or does putting these guys at the end of a rope truly provide a deterent to the childish and brutal posturing of men like these? Is it possible to deter men who live lives of deceit, operating under the radar, believing they fool everyone they come into contact with? To be deterred, you must believe it's possible you will be caught. Is it possible to deter these men who believe they are too clever to be caught?; who have committed hundreds of petty crimes, and got away with them? This was supposed to be a "cinch", "no witnesses".
When caught, Hickok finds he can't charm and con the agents the way he had department store clerks. Smith, who believes he deserves such a fate anyway, who seemed to be the only one who truly grasped the gravity of what they had done, willingly tells the story when he learns that Hickok has cowardly caved in. Hickok blinked first. A silly game of chicken between two immature, emotionally damaged, dangerous men.
Fascinating psychological thriller, telling a story of a horrendous crime in this nation's history. Stunning portrayals by Robert Blake and Scott Wilson. These roles made their careers.
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