A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
It's the late 1950s. Mid-twenty-something Kit is a restless and unfocused young man with a James Dean vibe and swagger which he has heard mentioned about him more than once. Fifteen year old Holly has a somewhat cold relationship with her sign painter father, if only because she is the primary reminder of his wife, who died of pneumonia when Holly was a child. The two meet when Holly and her father move from Texas to the small town where Kit lives, Fort Dupree, South Dakota. They slowly fall in love, something about which she cannot tell her father because of their age difference and Kit coming from the wrong side of the tracks. When he tries to take Holly away with him, Kit, on an impulse, shoots her father dead. After letting the initial emotions of the situation settle down, Holly decides voluntarily to go with Kit, they trying to make it look like they committed suicide in a house fire. But they soon learn that their plan did not work, there being a bounty on their heads. As such,... Written by
Charles Starkweather had been executed by the time the film started production, but Caril Fugate was still alive and facing parole. The filmmakers changed the principal characters' names to avoid a lawsuit. See more »
In the scene where Kit records his confession on a record, he places coins in the machine and then flips the switch from 78 rpm to 45 rpm. The instructions above the switch clearly says "Before Inserting Coins Select Recording Speed." If he were following directions he would have flipped the switch then inserted the coins. See more »
[voice over narration]
My Mother dies of pneumonia when I was just a kid. My Father kept their wedding cake in the 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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BADLANDS is an intelligent little film. We're given characters and situations and left to make our own conclusions. Based on an actual young couple who went on a killing spree across the southwest in the late 1950s, the story has two young people doing their own thing with precious little in the way of ethics to guide them. It's interesting to note that both these kids substitute their own fantasies for any sense of order or responsibility that society may have to offer. The turning point comes when Kit and Holly decide to shuck their semblances of normal life for whatever their fantasies provide which, unfortunately, can't sustain them. Sheen's Kit is full of swagger and bravado; it's almost easy for someone to see him committing robberies and serial murders. Spacek's Holly is more intriguing: a soft, vanilla, invisible girl from a respectable, emotionally detached home, she seemingly possesses little in the way of what one would associate with a violent criminal. Yet, she accompanies Kit, with nothing in the way of reservations or regret. The chance to fulfill her vapid, movie magazine fantasies, if only by hiding out in the woods and applying makeup, seem infinitely more palatable than her dull existence twirling batons in her yard(it's interesting to note that one of the few things she takes away from her home is a highly romanticized, Maxfield Parrish print). These misguided illusions, along with her adolescent love for Kit, keep her going to the end. A worthwhile exploration of the bland, vacant American sensibility that values appearances or passive, benign behavior over real ethics and personal morality. And definitely more relevant as the years have passed.
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