7 user 9 critic

Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart (2014)

TV-14 | | Documentary | 15 August 2014 (USA)
1:51 | Trailer

Watch Now

With Prime Video

A small-town murder in New England became one of the highest-profile cases of the twentieth century. As the first fully televised court case, the Pamela Smart trial rattled the ... See full summary »


Jeremiah Zagar
3 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

More Like This 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

On February 12, 2008, in Oxnard, California, eighth-grade student Brandon McInerney shot his classmate Larry King twice in the back of the head during first period. When Larry died two days... See full summary »

Director: Marta Cunningham
Stars: James Bing, Jeremy Bing, Rosalie Black
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Dubbed "The Cannibal Cop," Gilberto Valle was convicted in March 2013 of conspiring to kidnap and eat young women. Valle argued it was all a fantasy; the prosecution's narrative convinced ... See full summary »

Director: Erin Lee Carr
Stars: Gary Allen, Violet Blue, James A. Cohen
The Cheshire Murders (TV Movie 2013)
Documentary | Crime | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A documentary about a brutal home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut in 2007.

Directors: Kate Davis, David Heilbroner
Stars: Marilyn Bartoli, Deb Biggins, Michael Daluz
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A chilling exploration of the tragic history of the Suh family and the murder that shocked America - when the picture perfect son, Andrew, shot and killed his sister's fiancé at her bidding.

Director: Iris K. Shim
Stars: Bob J. Berlin, Myung Han, Carol Hogan
Documentary | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Nick Broomfield digs into the case of the notorious serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper, who terrorized South Central Los Angeles over a span of twenty-five years.

Directors: Nick Broomfield, Barney Broomfield, and 1 more credit »
Stars: Nick Broomfield, Lonnie David Franklin Jr., Donna
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

The Woman Who Wasn't There is a psychological thriller that goes inside the mind of history's most infamous 9/11 survivor.

Director: Angelo J. Guglielmo Jr.
Stars: Tania Head, Elia Zedeno, Gerry Bogacz
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

WHO TOOK JOHNNY is an examination into an infamous thirty-year-old cold case: the disappearance of Iowa paperboy Johnny Gosch, the first missing child to appear on a milk carton. The film ... See full summary »

Directors: David Beilinson, Michael Galinsky, and 1 more credit »
Stars: Noreen Gosch, Nancy Allen, Paul Bonacci
Documentary | Biography | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

The discovery of the mutilated body of a mentally challenged young mother begins a journey into madness that is so unbelievable the mastermind behind the crime ultimately got away with ... See full summary »

Director: J. David Miles
Stars: Lisa Baer, Danny Bixler, Desta Bixler
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Explore the disturbing story of one of America's most wanted fugitives, Robert Fisher. Following the brutal murder of his family, Fisher went missing in 2001 - years later, his whereabouts remain unknown.

Director: Charlie Minn
Stars: Robert Caldwell, John Hook, T.J. Jiran
Documentary | Biography | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Tells the story of two 12-year old girls, who attempted to murder one of their friends in an attempt to appease Slenderman, a fictional monster from a horror website.

Director: Irene Taylor Brodsky
Stars: Morgan Geyser, Anissa Weier, Angie Geyser
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

This documentary explores the depth behind the case of a woman whose vehicle collision killed numerous people, including herself. Was she really the reckless drunk, or the perfect suburban mother?

Director: Liz Garbus
Stars: Jesse Temple, Brad Katinas, Diane Schuler
Documentary | Biography | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

When Warren Jeffs rose to Prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, he took control of a religion with a history of polygamous and underage marriage. In a short time, ... See full summary »

Director: Amy Berg
Stars: Nick Cave, Elaine Anderson, Sam Brower


Credited cast:
Nicole Kidman ... Suzanne Stone (archive footage)
Joaquin Phoenix ... Jimmy Emmett (archive footage)
Helen Hunt ... Pamela Smart (archive footage)
Matt Dillon ... Larry Maretto (archive footage)
Pamela Smart Pamela Smart ... Herself
Stanley M. Brooks ... Himself
Joyce Chopra ... Herself
Joyce Maynard Joyce Maynard ... Herself
Ted Haimes ... Himself
Paul Maggiotto Paul Maggiotto ... Himself
Bill Spencer Bill Spencer ... Himself
Dan Pelletier Dan Pelletier ... Himself
Raymond Fowler Raymond Fowler ... Himself
Sonia Fortin-Simon Sonia Fortin-Simon ... Herself
Eric Trautmann Eric Trautmann ... Detective


A small-town murder in New England became one of the highest-profile cases of the twentieth century. As the first fully televised court case, the Pamela Smart trial rattled the consciousness of America. From gavel to gavel, a nation tuned in, and reality TV was born. Pulsating with sex, drugs, betrayal, and murder, the trial inspired 20 years of television shows, books, plays, and movies, including To Die For, starring Nicole Kidman and directed by Gus Van Sant. Written by Sundance Film Festival

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis






Official Sites:

Official site





Release Date:

15 August 2014 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Live Free or Die See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hard Working Movies See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This trial is said to have inspired the Nicole Kidman Movie "To Die For" See more »


Features To Die For (1995) See more »


Du Coté de Chez Poulenc
Written by Guillaume De Chassy
Performed by Guillaume De Chassy
Courtesy of Bee Jazz Records (SACEM)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

20 August 2014 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

If you liked Errol Morris' "The Thin Blue Line", you'll like Jeremiah Zagof's "Captivated." It's not as neatly organized, nor as convincing, but it's intelligent and it will involve all of your mental faculties that yearn to make judgments.

In the early 90s, a pretty young woman named Pamela Smart was convicted of enlisting the help of a couple of fifteen-year-old kids in helping to murder her husband. She was sentenced to life without. The kids plea bargained their way out after confessing that they'd shot the husband. Two of the four are out already, two are eligible next year.

It was described by some as another "trial of the century" and turned into a media frenzy. According to this documentary, no one who was awake at all could have escaped the progress of the trial. I must have slept through the 90s but I'm persuaded that the case did get a great deal of media attention. There were two movies made about it. A docudrama called "Murder in New Hampshire," with Helen Hunt as the vamp, and a fictionalized version, "To Die For," with Nicole Kidman, who looks absolutely exquisite and delivers what may be her best performance. But just because we see events through selective captures doesn't necessarily establish the truth value of the events.

Pamela Smart has been doing her time in a facility in New York state, where the other inmates brutalized her and the corrections officers raped her and forced her to pose for salacious photos, which they then sold to tabloid newspapers -- or so she and some fellow inmates claim.

The simple fact is that practically no one in this film can be trusted to tell the truth, partly because of the media. An example: The judge in the case refused to permit a change of venue, although if ever one were needed it would seem to be here. Why did he refuse? It was a high-profile case and when they wrote the books and made the movies about it, he would be a MOVIE STAR. (He suggested he be played by Gregory Peck.) Everybody involved in the case would be a celebrity, one way or another.

The lies and distortions abound. People contradict their earlier statements, deny their own actions, and describe others as different from the people we see in the film. Pamela Smart, now a flinty looking blond in her forties, sees herself as having been demure and puzzled, as well as innocent. But there's a clip of her in the courtroom. The victim's father is speaking his piece after the verdict, sobbing as he reads his notes, and she leaps to her feet and begins shouting viciously back at him.

The difference between "Captivated" and "The Thin Blue Line" isn't just in the level of expertise shown in the editing, or the fact that "Blue Line" led eventually to the release of Randall Adams, who had been convicted of murdering a patrolman. "Captivated" is less interested in the details of the murder than in the media blitz surrounding the trial. No celebrity attended Randall Adams when he was railroaded, but the Pamela Smart case had sex in it, and a deviant kind of sex, a 22-year-old pretty woman and a couple of horny but stupid high schoolers. The public evidently salivated over the spectacle. Smart was beautiful, sexy, and popular -- enough in itself to make many other women hate her and envy her. The male spectators probably envied the kids.

The main theme is laudable. Not "she's innocent" but "the media contaminates what it examines." Every high-profile case is like carrying out a serious operation before the germ theory was accepted. You know, unwashed bare hands that five minutes earlier were dissecting a corpse? The problem is that the film doesn't have a real narrative trajectory. There are plenty of talking heads -- some of them making sense, others making fools of themselves -- and many of the points hit the target. What normal man WOULDN'T want to be played by Gregory Peck?

The director is rather too obviously trying to convince us that Pamela Smart had nothing to do with the murder. I was persuaded that the jury, the witnesses, the talking heads, and the public at large, were made up of ordinary, flawed human beings, and that justice in this case is a matter of probabilities, as it usually is. He'd been better off to applying the Heisenberg principle to the new coverage in the courtroom: You can't poke a camera into an event without having the participants react to the camera.

Technically, Zagar borrows a lot from "The Thin Blue Line" but renders it a bit more flashy. Multiple shots of a small tape recorder playing, while we listen to a recorded statement, only this time, instead of one magnetic, static image, the camera slowly circles the indifferent recorder. The minimalist musical score could have been written by my main man, Phillip Glass, described as "doodle doodle doodle".

I have to hand it to HBO, though, for undertaking some tough jobs in making these specials. One of the oases of taste and ambition in the Sahara desert that is television.

10 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 7 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

What Made the Star of "The Rook" Scream at Her TV?

If you were around in the early aughts, you might've had the same reaction. Emma Greenwell of the new STARZ series lets us in on her "Fleabag" fandom and more.

Watch now

Recently Viewed