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The Thin Blue Line
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The Thin Blue Line (1988) More at IMDbPro »

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The Thin Blue Line -- In 1976, Randall Adams was wrongly sentenced to death for the murder of a Dallas policeman. Errol Morris' stunning documentary exposed the truth of the case and is credited with overturning Adams' conviction.


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Release Date:
25 August 1988 (USA) See more »
A softcore movie, Dr. Death, a chocolate milkshake, a nosey blonde and "The Carol Burnett Show." Solving this mystery is going to be murder.
A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
13 wins & 4 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
Innovative Plus See more (61 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)
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)
Elba Carr ... Herself (Employee at Fas-Gas)
Michael Randell ... Himself (Third Surprise Eyewitness)
Melvyn Carson Bruder ... Himself (Appellate Attorney)
Adam Goldfine ... Randall Adams (Re-Enactments)
Derek Horton ... David Harris (Re-Enactments)
Ron Thornhill ... Robert Wood (Re-Enactments)

Marianne Leone ... Teresa Turko (Re-Enactments)
Amanda Caprio ... Popcorn Lady (Re-Enactments)
Michael Nicoll ... Interrogation Officer (Re-Enactments)
Michael Cirilla ... 2nd Interrogation Officer (Re-Enactments)
Phyllis Rodgers ... Stenographer (Re-Enactments)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Errol Morris ... Himself (Interviewer) (voice) (uncredited)

Directed by
Errol Morris 
Writing credits
Errol Morris 

Produced by
Brad Fuller .... associate producer
David Hohmann .... assistant producer
Lindsay Law .... executive producer
Mark Lipson .... producer
Gary McDonald .... producer: prison interview
Original Music by
Philip Glass 
Cinematography by
Robert Chappell (director of photography)
Stefan Czapsky (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Paul Barnes 
Production Design by
Ted Bafaloukos 
Art Direction by
Lester Cohen 
Makeup Department
Theo Mayes .... key hair stylist: Bruno Le Salon (as Theodore Mayes)
Theo Mayes .... key makeup artist: Bruno Le Salon (as Theodore Mayes)
Production Management
Shelley Houis .... production manager
Steven Stoke .... unit manager
Art Department
Christine Cornell .... courtroom drawings
Daniel Talpers .... assistant art director
Pamela Woodbridge .... property master
Sound Department
Steve C. Aaron .... additional production sound (as Steven Aaron)
James Allen .... dialogue editor
Blaise Dupuy .... assistant sound engineer
Brad Fuller .... sound
Miles Green .... sound recording engineer
Jaime Kibben .... dialogue editor (as Jamie Kibban)
Jeff Kliment .... sound effects editor
Jack Leahy .... re-recording mixer
Samuel Lehmer .... re-recording mixer
Samuel Lehmer .... sound effects editor
Sheila McFarland .... sound assistant
Marnie Moore .... sound assistant
Larry Oppenheimer .... sound assistant
Leslie Shatz .... additional sound effects
Randy Thom .... re-recording consultant: Russian Hill Recoridng
Mel Zelniker .... additional re-recordist
Special Effects by
Matt Vogel .... special effects
Camera and Electrical Department
Michael C. Blundell .... best boy (as Mike Blundell)
Ned Burgess .... additional photographer
Mel Cannon .... second electric
Philippe Carr-Forster .... additional photographer (as Philip Carr-Forster)
Tim Chin .... grip
Mary Cybulski .... second assistant camera
Kenny Davis .... key grip
Mike DePrez .... second electric (as Michel Deprez)
Joseph Dianda .... grip (as Joe Dianda)
John Geisler .... gaffer
Richard Kamper .... assistant camera
Michael J. Latino .... first assistant camera (as Mike Latino)
Sally Roy .... assistant camera
Newton Thomas Sigel .... additional photographer (as Tom Sigel)
Peter Sova .... additional photographer
David Waterston .... assistant camera
Animation Department
Randall Balsmeyer .... animation designer
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Elizabeth Hickox .... wardrober
Editorial Department
Vida Fitzgerald .... editorial intern
Joseph Horowitz .... editorial consultant
Brian Katkin .... assistant editor
Elizabeth Kling .... contributing editor
Michael Kolvek .... color timer
Robert Mowen .... editorial intern
Teresa O'Brien .... post-production coordinator
Bruce Shaw .... associate editor
Lesley Topping .... assistant editor (as Leslie Topping)
Aaron D. Weisblatt .... assistant editor (as Aaron Weisblatt)
Location Management
Felix Olivier .... location scout
Music Department
Dan Dryden .... music contractor (music administrator)
Rory Johnston .... associate music producer
Kurt Munkacsi .... music producer: Euphorbia Productions Ltd.
Michael Riesman .... conductor
Other crew
Ted Bafaloukos .... title designer
Ellen Barrie Aaronson .... production office coordinator (as Ellen Aaronson)
Jay Boggis .... additional interlocutor
Veronica Brady .... production office coordinator
Fred Cassidy .... production assistant
Paul Conklin .... production assistant
Sean Coughlin .... opticals: IP/IN
Anne-Marie Fendrick .... production assistant (as Ann Marie Fendrick)
Richard Guay .... production auditor
Sarah Horowitz .... research assistant
Dmitry Kibrik .... production assistant
Nancy Kriegel .... assistant auditor
Marshall Persinger .... craft service
Dale Pierce-Johnson .... production assistant
Joe Ponzi .... technical consultant
Lisa Schechter .... production office coordinator
Craig Schlichter .... production assistant
Susan Sheehan .... production assistant
Charles Silver .... production consultant
Mark Singer .... additional interlocutor
Chris Strand .... production assistant
Carah von Funk .... production assistant
John Pierson .... producer's representative (uncredited)
George Beto .... special thanks: The Criminal Justice Center, Sam Houston State University (as Dr. George Beto)
Jay Byrd .... special thanks: The Texas Department of Corrections
Phil Guthrie .... special thanks: The Texas Department of Corrections
Robert Hobbs .... special thanks: The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office
Paul McWilliams .... special thanks: The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office
Noel Ian Morris .... dedicatee
Peter Phillips .... special thanks: The Criminal Justice Center, Sam Houston State University (as Dr. Peter Phillips)
Dennis Powell .... special thanks
Randy Schaffer .... special thanks
Jeff Scheftel .... special thanks
Volker Schlöndorff .... special thanks: Bioskop Film (as Volker Schlondorff)
Julia Sheehan .... special thanks
Robert Smith .... special thanks
Fred Strype .... special thanks: The Irving Film Commission
Henry M. Wade .... special thanks: The Dallas County District Attorney's Office (as Henry Wade)
Suzanne Weil .... special thanks

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
103 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.78 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

When Morrisfirst attempted to film Randall Adams, he was suspicious and nervous and stopped talking several times. Morris urged him to continue, saying, "Look, I really believe you're innocent; this is your only chance." According to Morris' account, " So then the cameraman take me aside and tells me I'm debased, and that this is the most disgusting thing he's ever seen in his entire life, and that he will not be a party to it anymore. That I make him sick. And I tell him if I want a moral philosopher, I would hire Emmanuel Kant.See more »
Randall Adams:You have a D.A, he doesn't talk about when they convict you, or how they convict you. He's talking about how he's going to kill ya. He don't give a damn if you're innocent, he don't give a damn if you're guilty. He's talking... about killing ya.See more »
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23 out of 30 people found the following review useful.
Innovative Plus, 7 August 2004
Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA

I can imagine a lot of people sort of nodding off at the idea of a "documentary." High schools show too many, on subjects like the life cycle of the loggerhead turtle. I see people snoozing at the thought of yet another educational non-fiction film.

Well, I guess there was a period when they carried a bit more chic than in recent years. Flaherty made some money. And Mondo Cane, of course, if that was a documentary.

But the whole field seems to have been revolutionized lately by Ken Burns and Errol Morris, the former with "The Civil War" series on PBS and the latter with this film. Morris had made an earlier movie, mostly about an animal cemetery, but the subject seems to have had limited popular appeal.

"The Thin Blue Line" however is about the shooting death of a police officer and the subsequent conviction, imprisonment, and death sentence of an innocent man.

The movie really IS innovative. There is no narration, for one thing. For another, the talking heads we see aren't labeled at the bottom of the screen -- "Chester Smith, Accountant at Robbin, Cheatham, and Frisk Law Firm." Instead, Morris shows us close ups of newspaper clippings and other printed materials which just happen to mention the name of the person we are about to be introduced to. It's a small thing, true, but I can't recall the device's ever having been used before. It's unobtrusive and effective. (That's the sort of thing I mean when I call this film "innovative".) The events are restaged and presented again and again from different points of view, the whole being carefully constructed, like a jigsaw puzzle, but a jigsaw puzzle for children, easy to comprehend.

And it's easy to see why Morris latched on to this topic. Not only is it interesting per se, an investigation into the justice system in Texas, in which almost all the authority figures seem intent on extinguishing forfeited lives, but the actual performers we see on screen are remarkably at ease in the presence of the camera. They smile conspiratorially, practically winking at the camera. They look dramatically towards heaven and say things like, "It's crazy." But all in a pleasant Texas drawl. Nobody gets excited. Nobody breaks down and sobs. (There's innovation for you!) Nobody get angry and shouts at the camera. It's all very smooth.

But although the performances are good, they are still performances. No one seems to admit having made a mistake. Everyone enters his house justified. Randall Adams, the innocent guy who was railroaded into the slams because he was 28 years old and could therefore be given the death penalty, has been in jail long enough to know what he's about when he presents his case. He has a practiced, wounded appearance and manner, although he describes his experiences as if they happened to somebody else. You pick up things in jail, along with the tattoos. David Harris, the actual perp, smiles and shrugs disarmingly, and he keeps saying "I guess" and "whatever." As cool as an ice cube in Sweetwater. He is, in fact, a textbook-perfect example of what used to be called a psychopath. He's pleasant looking, charming, and utterly without any conscience.

In some ways the most interesting character is the spaced-out blonde who claims to have eyewitnessed the killing and identifies Adams as the murderer in court. She's the most interesting because her motives are the most obscure. Everyone else's goals are clear. Adams wants to save his neck. The prosecutor wants another conviction. But this babe is really something.

She's constructed an old TV detective program with herself as the central figure.

Two additional points. One is that the psychiatrist known as "Doctor Death" spent only 15 minutes with Adams in prison before testifying that Adams was an incurable murderer. I'm laughing as I write this. Anyway, Dr. Death gave Adams two tests. The first, which Adams describes as a lot of circles and squiggly lines, is the Bender Gestalt Test which was originally designed to measure brain damage. In the second part of the examination, Adams is asked to explain the meaning of a couple of adages. "A rolling stone gathers no moss," for example. It used to be thought that schizophrenics were given to "concrete thinking" and that they had trouble reasoning abstractly enough to interpret these old sayings. It's not used anymore. One thing always bothered me about it anyway. One of the items is "A new broom sweeps clean", and I could never figure out EXACTLY what that was supposed to mean.

The second point is that Adams was given a new trial and released after this film was shown. In other words, Errol Morris saved Randall Adam's life, which would otherwise have been spent in prison. So what does Adams do after he's out of prison? He sues Errol Morris for having taken advantage of him! In TV interviews explaining his suit, Adams uses exactly the same bewildered expressions and gestures of helplessness that he does in this film. At least those eleven years weren't a complete waste of time because he obviously learned something, or whatever.

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Recent Posts (updated daily)User
Crucial factor that I feel is missing... (Can someone explain?) tdsada001
Why was Harris not Prosecuted after Adams was released? lanfear08
Scripted Bits soundofthetrain
Anti Death Penalty?? wrg6
Perjurers in Adams trial make gigantic slips in film that set Adams free Moviemadness2012
David Harris' Charm jacka-katherine
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