Based on the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree of the 1958, in which a fifteen-year-old girl and her twenty-five-year-old boyfriend slaughtered her entire family and several others in the Dakota badlands.
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Kit Carruthers, a young garbage collector and his girlfriend Holly Sargis from Fort Dupree, South Dakota, are on the run after killing Holly's father who disagreed with their relationship. On their way towards the Badlands of Montana they leave a trail of dispassionate and seemingly random murders. A very intriguing narrative without judgements, and lacking the usually sensational approach of this genre. Very good acting and directing, and beautiful photography. The script was based upon the true story of the Charles Starkweather and Caril-Ann Fugate murders in 1958. Written by
Theo de Grood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Although Charlie Starkweather had been executed when the movie came up for production, Caril Fugate was still alive and facing parole, prompting the filmmakers to change the names of the principal characters to avoid a lawsuit. See more »
At the end,when Kit surrenders he raises his hands straight up at first, but three seconds later they are slightly risen and bended over his head. After another two seconds they are back to their initial position. During this sequence the distance between him and the Cadillac changes as well. See more »
[voice over narration]
My Mother dies of pneumonia when I was just a kid. My Father kept their wedding cake int he freezer for ten whole years. After the funeral he gave it to the yard man. He tried to act cheerful but he could never be consoled by the little stranger he found in his house. Then one day hoping to begin a new life away from the scene of all these memories he moved us from Texas to Port Dupree, South Dakota.
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In January, 1958, nineteen-year-old Charles Starkweather and fourteen-year-old Caril Ann Fugate went on a murder spree in Nebraska and Wyoming. Eleven innocent people died. Most, though not all, of the killings were random. Starkweather and Fugate's story "inspired" several films, including this one.
In "Badlands", the pair's names were changed to Kit Carruthers (Martin Sheen) and Holly Sargis (Sissy Spacek), and their ages were altered slightly. From what I have read, Starkweather and Fugate were emotionally detached and casual about the killings, especially Charles, once the initial murders had occurred. Both Sheen and Spacek do a good job of mimicking this nonchalant attitude. At various points throughout the film, Holly narrates the story in an emotionless, monotone voice. It's like she's reading a diary of what happened as we, the viewers, watch movie footage of the events.
The film's title is appropriate, given that the characters' inner lives must surely have been wastelands, and given that the film's plot takes place mostly outdoors, on the lonesome High Plains, with its brooding and "stark" landscape.
The film's color cinematography conveys a mood of desolation, especially in those scenes that contain little more than the horizon, expansive blue sky, treeless plains, and a couple of lonely desperados. At one point, the color morphs into sepia-tinted images of small town America, as the whole country, in fear, takes up arms against the fugitives, a photographic change that renders an almost documentary tone to the film.
From time to time, classical background music accompanies the senseless violence, a cinematic contrast so "stark" as to make the film surreal. And, of course, the sequence toward the end where Kit and Holly, with car radio on, dance in the headlights as Nat King Cole sings "A Blossom Fell", is truly mournful and haunting.
"Badlands" is incredibly understated and low-key, as detached as the characters portrayed. Director Terrence Malick conveys a simple, uninvolved story, packaged in a film that makes no effort to communicate either symbolism or thematic depth. Nor does the film render judgments about the characters or events. It's an approach that probably wouldn't work today. But it is effective, and through the years the film has gradually become more respected as an excellent character study of 1950's teen rebels without a cause.
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