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The Thin Blue Line (1988)

8.1
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 11,138 users   Metascore: 79/100
Reviews: 55 user | 42 critic | 12 from Metacritic.com

A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas.

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Title: The Thin Blue Line (1988)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Randall Adams ...
Himself
David Harris ...
Himself
Gus Rose ...
Himself (Homicide Detective in Dallas)
Jackie Johnson ...
Herself (Homicide Detective in Dallas)
Marshall Touchton ...
Himself (Homicide Detective in Dallas)
Dale Holt ...
Himself (Internal Affairs Investigator in Dallas)
Sam Kittrell ...
Himself (Police Detective in Vidor)
Hootie Nelson ...
Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Dennis Johnson ...
Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Floyd Jackson ...
Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Edith James ...
Herself (Defense Attorney)
Dennis White ...
Himself (Defense Attorney)
Don Metcalfe ...
Himself (The Judge)
Emily Miller ...
Herself (Surprise Eyewitness)
R.L. Miller ...
Himself (Surprise Eyewitness)
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Storyline

Errol Morris's unique documentary dramatically re-enacts the crime scene and investigation of a police officer's murder in Dallas, Texas. Briefly, a drifter (Randall Adams) ran out of gas and was picked up by a 16-year-old runaway (David Harris). Later that night, they drank some beer, smoked some marijuana, and went to the movies. Then, their stories diverged. Adams claimed that he left for his motel, where he was staying with his brother, and went to sleep. Harris, however, said that they were stopped by police late that night, and Adams suddenly shot the officer approaching their car. The film shows the audience the evidence gathered by the police, who were under extreme pressure to clear the case. It strongly makes a point that the circumstantial evidence was very flimsy. In fact, it becomes apparent that Harris was a much more likely suspect and was in the middle of a crime spree, eventually ending up on Death Row himself for the later commission of other crimes. Morris implies ... Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A softcore movie, Dr. Death, a chocolate milkshake, a nosey blonde and "The Carol Burnett Show." Solving this mystery is going to be murder.


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

25 August 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

På en skör tråd  »

Box Office

Gross:

$1,209,846 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Was rejected by the Oscars for Best Documentary category in 1989 because it was considered to be a fictional film due to its scripted content. See more »

Quotes

Sam Kittrell: In talking to David you don't ever feel hostile feelings coming from him. I have never seen David any way other than cordial, friendly to me as he could be, "Yes, sir," "No, sir," never disrespectful. So I've never seen the bad side. I've seen the results of it, and I've talked to him about it, and he's aware of the results of it - he remembers the bad side. But I've never seen him committing a crime or in a violent or volatile state.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In memory of my brother Noel Ian Morris (1942-1983) See more »

Connections

Featured in Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

 
If there was ever a hell on earth...
30 December 2007 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews

I grew up in a society that strongly believes in the death penalty - a religion injunction based on the Islamic code of justice. I remember being told a story (don't know if its true) of how the US President visited Saudi Arabia and on the last day of his visit he was treated to some public be-headings. When he questioned the morality of it, his host informed him that the handful of criminals punished represented the entirety of the criminal population for the past one year. The moral being that harsh punishments prevent crimes and caring too much about the aggressor leads to high crime rates. I personally lost faith in the prison system many years ago after reading about the Milgram and Stanford Prison Experiment findings. A harrowing Australian movie, Ghosts of the Civil Dead made me detest the prison system even more. In recent years Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have left a bad taste in the mouth. So, is the answer really the death penalty and other physical measures that can't be reversed? After seeing The Thin Blue Line I just don't know. This film has really affected me.

An innocent hitch-hiker, and from what I saw in the documentary a decent man, is caught at the wrong time in the wrong place - a former sundown town called Vidor, Dallas County. He is implicated in the murder of a cop and is obviously innocent of the crime. The entire legal system of Vidor is bent to prosecute him. The reason: the real killer is a 16-year old and there's no benefit in finding him guilty because he can't be given the death penalty. Randall Adams, in his 20's, can and must be punished because he's a stranger to these small-minded bigots and someone must pay! Shocking that people can think that way. It makes The Ox-Bow Incident and issues it raised 70 years ago valid even today. This was no more than a judicial lynching.

Fortunately, in this case Randall Adams' case was reopened and he was acquitted and released, in large measure due to this documentary and the scandal it caused. The story is exceedingly well told and the end with the tape recorded last interview with David Harris is chilling. I can't say that after watching this I still have a clear opinion of what punishment should fit a crime, but it has certainly made me question the validity of the mentality present in so many Muslim countries. Who is to say there can be no similar travesty of justice there?


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I am livid and scared as hell anxs
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