In meeting in Kansas, ex-cons Perry Smith and Dick Hickock are breaking several conditions of their respective paroles. The meeting, initiated by Dick, is to plan and eventually carry out a robbery based on information he had received from a fellow inmate about $10,000 cash being locked in a hidden safe in the home of the farming Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas. After the robbery, they plan on going to Mexico permanently to elude capture by the police. Each brings a necessary personality to the partnership to carry out the plan, Dick who is the brash manipulator, Perry the outwardly more sensitive but unrealistic dreamer with a violent streak under the surface. Perry literally carries all his dreams in a large box he takes with him wherever he goes. The robbery does not go according to plan in any respect, the pair who ultimately hogtie and execute all four members of the Clutter family, only coming away from the home with $43 in cash. As Perry and Dick go on the run, a murder ...Written by
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies. See more »
When Perry and the little boy are gathering bottles from alongside the road, a Tab carton falls out of one of the trash cans. The movie took place in 1959; Tab was not introduced until 1962. See more »
In the year 2006, "In Cold Blood"-a riveting thriller from 1967-has two new interesting contexts that it did not previous have. First, and most chillingly, is the fact that it's star, Robert Blake, was recently on trial for murdering his wife. Second, the recent Oscar winning biopic, "Capote" showed the muddled back story of this haunting true crime tale's author, Truman Capote. These two new twists make the film timely for a modern audience.
As a stand alone film from it's era, "In Cold Blood" is top notch in every way. Most notable is the stunning black and white cinematography from Conrad Hall (later of "American Beauty" and "Road to Perdition" fame). Many of the stills from this film of the Kansas farm house at night or the tree-lined back country roads could be sold as fine art photography. Combined with the cracker-jack direction from Brooks and superb editing in the early scenes (where we see the mundane daily life of the innocent family about to be senselessly slaughtered beautifully intertwined with the plotting of the two hapless killers), a rich brooding atmosphere is created that sets the stage for riveting suspense (even when everyone knows how this is all going to end due to the fact its all based on real life events). It's also great to see in this day and age how brilliantly staged a harrowing murder scene can be depicted where the graphic nature of the act is transmitted to the viewer subliminally with nary a drop of blood shown on screen.
The film is also anchored nicely by Robert Blake's eerie performance as the more sympathetic yet senselessly brutal side of the killing duo. The flashback scenes to his horrible childhood are extremely well done. Then there is the scene towards the end of the film where he is speaking to the reverend before being sent to the gallows and he makes his last "confession" so to speak. It's one of those classic movie moments that is a perfect marriage of gritty acting, superb writing, flawless direction, and haunting photography. I dare you to erase from your mind the stark image of the rain's reflection from the window flowing down Robert Blake's pallid face in lieu of actual tears.
The only thing hampering "In Cold Blood" is the slow moving middle act where the killers are on the lam and the forced nature of the social commentary at the end. The tacked-on political message about the death penalty is secondary to its compelling depiction of the mad killers and their prey.
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