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It is a real shame this film is not available on home video, as I found it
to be extremely well done and memorable. It is based on the notorious
Charles Starkweather murder spree of the 1950s, and as a (more or less)
story, it automatically carries a certain level of fascination for
afficionados of classic crime cases.
But this one has much more. It gives the viewer a sense of the complexities of the people involved. Starkweather's jailbait girlfriend, Caril Fugate (Fairuza Balk) comes across as oddly pathetic, the product a wretched home life. As such, she is credible and intriguing. She is docile and submissive but stubborn, as well. While not quite likeable, the viewer can feel some empathy toward her.
Starkweather, on the other hand, is a study in absolute amorality. His purposeless life unravels into madness on screen, with Fugate following, sometimes willingly sometimes out of fear or compulsion.
This is an intelligent film. Much is left to the imagination of the audience. It is a long movie, but absorbing. I recommend it highly.
I remember watching this when it originally aired and taping it because I'm a big Fairuza Balk fan. I just wish it was available on DVD. Everyone involved does a great job. Especially Tim Roth and Fairuza Balk. It made me want to read more about the real story behind the movie. Look for a young Renee Zellweger as Caril Fugate's older sister. I actually like this better than Badlands. Certainly worth watching! They definitely don't make mini-series like this any more. Very gritty!! I wish Fairuza Balk would do more films! There's another Starkweather movie coming out sometime soon, but I doubt it will be as well done. Someone please get this released on DVD!
As a child I remember reading about CarilAnn Fugate in one of those"Whatever Happened To.." books that my mother used to read!Of course she was still in the Nebraska Women's Prison,filing her appeals to her parole board.Some years later a discussion came up in my college psychology class about CarilAnn Fugate's recent release from prison and her apparent "antisocial personality disorder".Then in 1993 she popped-up out of nowhere,calling an angry press conference and venting her wrath over the airing of a TV movie about her "ordeal" as a "child" Naturally,being a movie and crime buff,I became fascinated with the Starkweather-Fugate case!Reading almost anything I could get my hands on about it and even watching "Badlands" and was surprised how close it came to the truth!However,I couldn't wait to finally see "Murder in the Heartland"! Hoping to maybe see the case played out and form some opinion about it for myself! Well...This movie definitely shows the known facts of the murder spree and sticks almost completely to the testimonies and the speculations!Perhaps so much that it leaves the viewer confused about young CarilAnn's actual level of involvement and the harshness of her consequences!Played to eerie perfection by Tim Roth and Fairuza Balk.The harrowing murder spree of Charles Starkweather and CarilAnn Fugate is one that will shock and bewilder!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Saw this and it showed that we may never know the involvement of Caril
Ann Fugate, who was 14 at the time. And was sent to life imprisonment
until her model behavior got her thirty to fifty years with parole.
Which she got in 1976 after serving eighteen years. She has never
talked about the case publicly due to her proclaiming her innocence.
And that is something she will carry to the grave even.
Only she, Charlie Starkweather, and God knew what happened and how she was really involved. That is the question. For those ten murders. Charlie did one murder of the gas attendant alone before the crime spree haunted Nebraska and shocked the nation.
Fairuza Balk plays a naive but misunderstood Caril Ann. She really tries to prove that Caril Ann is innocent. Though Starkweather and others say otherwise. You forget it is Balk the actress and she brings Caril Ann to life really well. Yet so tragic and sad. But when Starkweather tells his side of the story at her trial, he portrays Caril Ann as cold and ruthless. Balk plays good at that too.
Tim Roth, who was in his early thirties in the time. Played 19-year old Starkweather. But despite the age difference, he was way too convincing as Starkweather. He was sadistic and cold as you can get. But also Starkweather was dumb as a rock.(Changing his story seven times after he and Caril get busted for the murders.)And couldn't keep a job it seems. So the only way to earn a living, was to turn to crime.
Brian Dennehy is smart and no-nonsense as Caril Ann defense attorney. And seems to care about her. Randy Quaid is the prosecutor determined to put both Roth and Balk's characters in the electric chair, despite Fugate's young age. Quaid also comes off sympathetic, comforting families of a couple of the victims.
One thing, if you have a sick stomach. Then you may want to turn away at the end of the movie. As it is really gruesome. Won't spoil the ending but it is a very, very gruesome scene in the end. But it's really believable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This isn't shown on TV much and as far as I can tell it's not available
on DVD. I don't know why not, because it's pretty good.
Terrence Malik's "Badlands", a fictionalized parallel, is shown often enough that some of us, myself included, get Malik's poetry mixed up with the real events surrounded the spree killer Charles Starkweather in the late 1950s. Starkweather was a nineteen-year-old ex garbage man who ran off with his girl friend, Caril Ann Fugate (pronounced FEW-gate in Lincoln) and killed eleven people in Nebraska and Wyoming before being caught and executed.
It's difficult to tell who is the more terrifying murderer -- Martin Sheen in "Badlands" or Tim Roth in "Murder in the Heartland." I suppose Sheen is, because he cares so little that he's wildly unpredictable, whereas Roth is a perfectly normal psychopath who gloats over his notoriety and who follows the usual path of building a tiny social structure around himself, creating a model kingdom of his own, in which his captives do exactly what they're ordered to do. If the pieces on the board don't follow instructions, Roth kills them. He kills them anyway, but for a few minutes he gets to look into the horrified eyes of the victim he's pointing his shotgun at. Charles Manson did a much better job with HIS kingdom.
Sheen wasn't the dumbass that Roth is. Sheen's was a far more complicated character. There's a hilarious scene in "Badlands" in which Sheen is lying on a couch in the mansion of a captive family and leaves choice bits of wisdom to others on a tape recorder. "Remember, the majority rules -- but don't ignore the minority."
Roth has this unblinking stare when he aims his shotgun at someone. He never carries the weapon casually, holding it at hip level. Even when the captive is a few feet away, Roth aims the gun carefully, as if at a distant target. The description of Starkweather given by the psychiatrist is accurate. Charlie looks bored much of the time, hungry for stimuli.
Roth is truly unnerving, but then the whole film is above average. The production values are high. Extras abound and the period detail is mostly accurate -- the songs, the cars, the clothing, the general STYLE of the digitally inclined and featureless Midwest with its grain elevators and tractor supply warehouses that has produced its share of bizarre murders -- Starkweather, Ed Gein, Tina Brandon, the intrepid duo of "In Cold Blood."
Science knows virtually nothing about these kinds of crimes. They're preposterous. We can all understand someone impulsively murdering a spouse, a friend, a parent. They're people we care about, whose opinions of us we value, and who are in a position to hurt us. But to kill a stranger just because you CAN?
The reaction of the community is predictable. As the news spreads, everyone panics. The National Guard is called into Lincoln and a curfew is imposed. Military vehicles roar up and down the streets. They're going to find and kill Charlie Starkweather with a Browning .30 caliber light machine gun mounted on a Jeep. Or maybe a tank will run him down. The governor visits the mansion where the bodies of a pillar of the community and his wife have been found. The governor goes ape because Charlie has walked into the home of a prominent citizen and killed two or three people. The governor doesn't make a big deal out of the murder of a garbage man, two teens on a date, the maid, or others of lower "social worth", as the sociologist Anselm Strauss once designated them.
Part I of this miniseries deals with the crime spree; Part 2 deals with the trials. Starkweather gets the chair in an unnecessarily graphic execution scene. Fugate gets life, but is released early. The jury understandably had trouble making up its mind about Fugate. She was only fourteen and in the eighth grade. How culpable could she be? And it's my experience that women do not take up shotguns and deliberately kill people. If my marriage taught me nothing else, it's that they prefer death by lethal insult.
This movie does a fair job of re-telling the Charles Starkweather story but falls short of the original picture starring Martin Sheen. The story itself is quite different and I have to believe the latter is a little bit more accurate. Excellent acting by Tim Roth and Fairuza Balk's courtroom scenes were quite good. Overall a fair movie.
I have only seen the film once. However it had a profound effect on me.Superb acting from Tim Roth and Fairuza Balk and brilliantly directed by Bob Markowitz I could never understand why it never received its due critical acclaim. Maybe Badlands took all the plaudits but I much preferred Murder in the Heartland.Although the haunting music of Carl Orff in Badlands was exceptionally well done.I have always been interested in the Charlie Starkweather and CarilAnn Fugate case and have devoured every book I could get my hands on.As to the expressed innocence of CarilAnn, well I'll guess we'll never know her true involvement. Would anyone know if it has ever been released to the public on Video or DVD Or when it is due to appear on TV again?
Why anybody would want to retell the story of Charles Starkweather so many
years after the events that made him notorious is beyond my comprehension.
Perhaps it was just meant to be a character study: Tim Roth dominates the entire show as a passionate, capricious, and utterly fascinating Starkweather.
The film disturbs me because I doubt that the real Starkweather was so interesting. Contemporary accounts suggest he was a sociopath unable to calibrate his responses to all those negative situations of life: envy, frustration, depression. The director has done a great job; the question is, why.
While this film is not well known compared with Pulp Fiction, even Rob Roy, Roth's performance is spellbinding - at least as good as his role in Reservoir Dogs.
It deserves to be seen, as a landmark of late 20th century, one of the really great performances by an actor, rather than a star turn by an overhyped PR product.
In the 21st Century, serial murder and spree killings are two a penny,
but when Charles Starkweather began his murder spree in December 1957,
it was big news.
Aside from the callous and random nature of the murders, all but one of which were committed at the end of January 1958, there were other factors that caught the public eye, including the young age of the perpetrators: Starkweather was 19, and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate was only 14.
This film adheres closely to the facts of the case and is as much historical document as entertainment. The actual role of Fugate has never been properly resolved, but one issue that appears strangely never to have been raised is the nature of their relationship. Today, a 19 year old who has sex with a 14 year old is committing rape, or at best statutory rape. While in the UK the authorities take a pragmatic approach to girls just under the age of consent having sex with their slightly older boyfriends, today Fugate would have been considered a victim of "grooming" by Starkweather; it remains to be seen how this would have mitigated her involvement, but you can bet feminist mischief-makers would have made something of it.
Starkweather was executed for his crimes - we see him die in the chair - but Fugate was paroled after around 17 years. She is played here by Fairuza Balk who turns in a stellar performance, while Tim Roth plays the nihilistic Starkweather the way you imagine the man himself was, completely without emotion, murdering neither for money nor for sadistic thrills but simply because he could.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I hadn't seen Tim Roth before this mini-series and like his future
roles he plays a good "bad guy". Fairuza Balk plays his girlfriend as a
hapless victim taken along for the ride. Since the real Caril Ann
Fugate served her full prison sentence and has never talked to the
media (that I know of), we will probably never know the extent of her
involvement. If this killing spree happened today, as she is portrayed
here, she would probably get probation with a good lawyer.
But in this story we are drawn in by the cold malice of Tim Roth's Starkweather. We are as shocked by his deeds as middle America must have been back in the fifties. We can see how the perception of strangers as possible enemies rather than possible friends started the paradigm shift to fortress America.
This movie should be required viewing for anybody studying criminal behavior.
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