8.1/10
17,884
64 user 56 critic

The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Crime, Drama | 25 August 1988 (USA)
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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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Randall Adams ...
David Harris ...
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 ...
Hootie Nelson ...
Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Dennis Johnson ...
Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Floyd Jackson ...
Edith James ...
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 »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

25 August 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

På en skör tråd  »

Filming Locations:


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Box Office

Gross USA:

$1,209,846
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 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

Melvyn Carson Bruder: Prosecutors in Dallas have said for years - any prosecutor can convict a guilty man. It takes a great prosecutor to convict an innocent man.
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Crazy Credits

Drawings from the Bender Visual Motor Gestalt Test © 1946, American Orthopsychiatric Association Inc. and Lauretta Bender, M.D. See more »

Connections

References The Carol Burnett Show (1967) See more »

Soundtracks

Metamorphosis
Written by Philip Glass
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
If there was ever a hell on earth...

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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