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
The picture was the Closing Night Film of the 11th New York Film Festival in 1973. See more »
The passenger train that passes Kit and Holly on the trestle is pulling Amtrak cars. Amtrak was not established until 1971, and this film takes place in 1959. 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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"Saw her standing on her front porch, just a-twirling her baton..."
The serial killer genre is the most overdone in modern cinema, but director Terrence Mallick took a real life story to make his powerful debut, 'Badlands'. He even toned it down, his interest being not in presenting a picture of pure (and wholly artificial) evil but rather in portraying a wholly human story. Murder is depicted here in all its banality - people shot (off-screen) through locked doors, by a young man acting for wholly normal motives but without the customary restraints on behaviour that we term morals. The result is a haunting, though occasionally pretentious, study of individuals drifting beyond the bounds of civilisation, their physical location (America's still-wild west) symbolically matching their mental isolation. Sissy Spacek is particularly good as the ordinary girl just along for the ride. A fine film, 'Badlands' is also genuinely disturbing, in a way that Hannibal Lector could only dream of.
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