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The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Crime, Drama | 25 August 1988 (USA)
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A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas.

Director:

Errol Morris

Writer:

Errol Morris
12 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Randall Adams Randall Adams ... Himself
David Harris David Harris ... Himself
Gus Rose Gus Rose ... Himself (Homicide Detective in Dallas)
Jackie Johnson Jackie Johnson ... Herself (Homicide Detective in Dallas)
Marshall Touchton Marshall Touchton ... Himself (Homicide Detective in Dallas)
Dale Holt Dale Holt ... Himself (Internal Affairs Investigator in Dallas)
Sam Kittrell Sam Kittrell ... Himself (Police Detective in Vidor)
Hootie Nelson Hootie Nelson ... Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Dennis Johnson Dennis Johnson ... Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Floyd Jackson Floyd Jackson ... Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Edith James Edith James ... Herself (Defense Attorney)
Dennis White Dennis White ... Himself (Defense Attorney)
Don Metcalfe Don Metcalfe ... Himself (The Judge)
Emily Miller Emily Miller ... Herself (Surprise Eyewitness)
R.L. Miller 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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 August 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

På en skör tråd See more »

Filming Locations:

Dallas, Texas, USA

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$1,209,846
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby | Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Errol Morris first 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 »

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. ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

In memory of my brother Noel Ian Morris (1942-1983) See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Monster A-Go Go (1993) See more »

Soundtracks

Metamorphosis
Written by Philip Glass
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Great documentary experience
21 August 2002 | by letriasSee all my reviews

Regarding the issue of manipulation, lets face it people, all documentaries are manipulative - every documentary filmmaker is attempting to make a point, whether or not they care to admit it. It is the documentaries that give the impression of being "objective" that are, in fact, the most manipulative. In the case of "The Thin Blue Line" the purpose of the documentary is clear, and the viewer is not tricked into believing that they are watching something objective. Instead, it is quite upfront about its purpose, and therefore is a much more honest piece of work. People should never accept anything they see in a documentary as fact, it's important to understand that documentaries are simply an attempt to present the director's perspective of a real-life situation. It is the great documentaries that present their perspective in a convincing manner, and do so without boring the viewer to sleep. Here "The Thin Blue Line" succeeds very well: it is powerful, it is engaging, and it's extremely convincing. Does that mean that everyone should be convinced? Lets hope not. However, it certainly should give everyone something to think about.

The only real problem with the film is its over-use of re-enactments where they are not really that necessary. For example, there is an image of a clock, representing the futility of time, which is too long for its own good. The milkshake scene was also (intentionally)annoying. However, this is a minor problem, and not one that should bother most people. Overall: great film, and highly recommended.


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