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

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Overview

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8.1/10   11,654 votes »
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Release Date:
25 August 1988 (USA) See more »
Tagline:
A softcore movie, Dr. Death, a chocolate milkshake, a nosey blonde and "The Carol Burnett Show." Solving this mystery is going to be murder.
Plot:
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:
Awards:
11 wins & 4 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
One of the Greatest Docs Ever Made See more (55 total) »

Cast

  (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 .... sound re-recording mixer
Samuel Lehmer .... sound effects editor
Samuel Lehmer .... sound re-recording mixer
Sheila McFarland .... sound assistant
Marnie Moore .... sound assistant
Larry Oppenheimer .... sound assistant
Leslie Shatz .... additional sound effects
Randy Thom .... sound re-recording consultant
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
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)
 
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
Felix Olivier .... location scout
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)
 
Thanks
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
 

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Additional Details

Also Known As:
Runtime:
103 min
Country:
Language:
Color:
Aspect Ratio:
1.66 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

Trivia:
Errol Morris spent 2-1/2 years tracking down the various players in the Randall Adams case and convincing them to appear in the film.See more »
Quotes:
Errol Morris:Were you surprised when the police blamed him?
David Harris:They didn't blame him. I did. A scared sixteen year old kid. He would sure like to get out of it if he can.
Errol Morris:Do you think they believed you?
David Harris:No doubt. Must have. They didn't have nothing else until I give them something, so... I guess they get something, they run with it, you know.
Errol Morris:Were you surprised they believed you?
David Harris:I might have been. I don't know. I was hoping they'd believe me, you know. After all was said and done it was kind of unbelievable. But there it is. I've always thought if you could say why there's a reason Randall Adams is in jail, it might be because the fact that he didn't have no place for somebody to stay that helped him that night... landed him where's he's at... That might be the reason. That might be the only, total reason why he's where he's at today.
See more »

FAQ

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33 out of 35 people found the following review useful.
One of the Greatest Docs Ever Made, 6 November 2005

The last few years have been a golden age for documentaries. For better or worse, Michael Moore and his undeniable ability for manipulating the cinematic medium have brought this endangered genre into theaters and living rooms across the country. Most of today's casual moviegoers are relatively new to the non-fiction feature. In the case of director Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line (1988), one film not only managed to free an innocent man from a lifetime in prison, but it also elicited a confession from the guilty party. After collecting dust on video shelves for over fifteen years, this groundbreaking documentary has finally arrived on DVD.

Unless you're a devout cinephile or a video store clerk, you have probably never heard much about Errol Morris. As a member of the former category, I've been a fan of his since first renting The Thin Blue Line more than a decade ago. As I popped in that dusty VHS cassette and sat back, I relished what many critics and documentary purists had been hotly debating: Morris was taking the genre to exciting new places, whether people liked it or not.

As with all successful movies, a good doc needs a good story. In 1976, Dallas County police officer Robert Wood and his partner were patrolling their district late one night. The two pulled a blue car over to the side of the road, most likely to warn the driver of a busted taillight. Moments later Officer Wood was lying on the ground, fatally wounded by a series of gunshots. His partner quickly ran to his aid, but was unable to accurately retain and recall certain information about the killer's vehicle. Was it a Vega or a Comet? Did the driver have bushy hair or a fur-lined collar? These and many other questions emerged during the rushed investigation to bring the mysterious cop-killer to justice.

The film itself opens more than ten years after the murder took place. Randall Adams, an oddly charismatic good ol' boy sits before the camera, revealing what happened that unfortunate evening in late 1976. He admits to having shared a ride with a young kid named David Harris. The two apparently attended a drive-in double feature, where they both drank beer and smoked marijuana. Shortly thereafter, Adams claims to have been dropped off at his motel for the evening. Meanwhile, Morris shows us the aforementioned David Harris, now in his mid-20s, talking cryptically about that night's events. This real-life Rashomon confronts viewers with several versions of "the truth." It's unclear whether Morris instinctively knew the truth was still out there when he decided to pursue this project, but his previous experience as a private investigator seems to have paid off as we witness his off- camera interrogation of these two men.

Adams, responsible or not, was determined guilty by the courts and sentenced to death. Despite having a police record as long as his shadow, David Harris became the primary witness against Adams in the case. His testimony alone might not have hung Adams, but at the last minute a trio of eyewitnesses to the crime emerged to corroborate his story. In the world of Errol Morris, people are a truly strange lot, and his greatest technique is to simply let his subjects talk and talk until their inherent weirdness becomes painfully evident. Such is the case with the three last-minute witnesses in the Adams case. The more we hear them speak, the greater that uneasy feeling in our stomach and chest becomes. We are bearing witness to a catastrophic miscarriage of justice.

Morris employs a bottomless bag of tricks in this landmark film. While much of the film does rely on the presence of talking heads, he adds other elements to the mix, such as old movie footage, a haunting score by renowned composer Philip Glass, and the granddaddy of documentary no-no's: dramatic re-enactments. The latter tends to be the most challenged aspect of The Thin Blue Line, but Morris uses it fairly and wisely. He tells this twisted tale in ways few people could. A shot of a swaying timepiece or a concession stand popcorn machine suddenly amount to much more than what we're simply seeing on the screen. All of these pieces are being put together, little by little, in the hopes that by the end we will see the bigger picture.

When this movie was released in 1988, it was marketed as a non-fiction film, because the word "documentary" was thought to scare off ticket-buyers. The studio's attempts to pass it off as a murder mystery failed, but the movie made a minor splash once it hit video. It picked up plenty of awards from festivals and critics groups, but the Oscars didn't even bother nominating it. In fact, the Academy didn't so much as nod in Morris' direction until early 2004, when they nominated The Fog of War, his powerful, relevant look at former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. That film and Morris' two previous masterpieces, Mr. Death and Fast, Cheap & Out of Control have been available on DVD for some time. His first three films, Gates of Heaven, Vernon, Florida, and The Thin Blue Line, were recently made available either individually or in a 3-disc box set. All six of these films are unique, intriguing portals into Mr. Morris' strange universe, which is not so distant from our own. If it's dramatic situations, reality TV, or simply a great movie that you want, look no further than The Thin Blue Line. As one of the greatest documentaries of our time, it is all these things and so much more.

Rating: A

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Message Boards

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Recent Posts (updated daily)User
What became of the female officer? firemanbob
Timeline Shift pdjjwillson
I am livid and scared as hell anxs
Another documentary about racist cops whose case falls apart in court phantom_tollbooth
Crucial factor that I feel is missing... (Can someone explain?) tdsada001
Did Adams sue Morris? donwithnoname
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