Thursday, March 28, 2013

In Cold Blood 1967

I guess most people wouldn't call In Cold Blood a horror film.  It is more of a "docudrama", made before there was such a thing as docudramas.  Based on Truman Capote's groundbreaking 1966 "non-fiction" novel, In Cold Blood the film stays remarkably true to the book.  I would know, I just read the book, hence my obsession with all things Cold Blood.  A little background before we dive into the movie.

In 1959 a wealthy Farmer, Herbert Clutter, his wife Bonnie, and his children Nancy and Kenyon, were brutally murdered in their own home.  Someone had broke into their Kansas farmhouse in the middle of the night, tied them up, and shot them.  No motive was evident: Clutter kept no cash at the house and nothing was stolen.  The story caught the eye of one Truman Capote, who dragged along his childhood friend "Nell" Harper Lee (yes, that one) to Holcomb, Kansas, to report the story.  Two drifters, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, were eventually arrested for the murders.  While awaiting trail and then their eventual execution, Hickock and Smith became "friends" with Capote.  The writing of the book is as fascinating as the book itself, so much so that two movies have been made about it: Capote and Infamous.  Both are very good films- James Bond plays Smith in the second one!

Smith and Hickock were hanged in 1965, a year before Capote's book came out.  Not long after, Director Richard Brooks made In Cold Blood, starring Robert Blake as Smith and Scott Wilson as Hickock.  Blake Carrington (John Forsythe if you didn't grow up in the eighties) plays Alvin Dewey, the lead detective on the case.  Let's start with our two lead actors, shall we?

Robert Blake is terrifying AND sympathetic as Perry Smith.  Deformed, abused, with a crazy temper and delusions of grandeur, Smith was the one that actually committed the murders.  Blake is amazing as Smith.  As an added bonus, years later Robert Blake would be accused of murdering his gold-digging wife Bonnie Lee Bakley.  He was acquitted but COME ON!!!  That is all I am saying.  It is sad, because Baretta was quite a good actor and now he is just gross. 

Scott Wilson is very good as Hickock: charming, greasy, dumb.  Someone who could come up with the plan for this dastardly deed but not have the guts to pull the trigger.  Wait a minute.  Wait a fucking minute: IT'S HERSHEL!!!!  Yes, Scott Wilson: now better known as Hershel Greene from the best show EVER: The Walking Dead.  It is bizarre to see Hershel as a young man.  Here is what is crazy: I thought Hershel had a great old man voice.  Turns out that has been Scott Wilson's voice his entire life!!!  Hearing Hershel ask a prostitute "Was it good, baby?" is quite unsettling.

Plus, the young Scott Wilson is very attractive and that didn't help AT ALL.  Back to the film.  Shot in glorious black and white with a jazzy score by Quincy Jones, In Cold Blood is thrilling, scary, and downright sad.  You know how it is going to end, but you are still nervous about Smith and Hickock getting caught.  The film makes a strong argument against the Death Penalty, without discounting the brutality of the crime. 

One more added bonus for fans of the macabre: it was shot in the actual Clutter house. No, that shit would not happen today: but in 1967 they thought it was a good idea.  As I have lived with this murder for the past few weeks (reading the book), I got a strange thrill out of seeing the house in the film.  They recreated the murders in the exact same rooms they took place in!!  Can you imagine what the ghosts of the Clutter family thought of that? 

The real Hickock and Smith, and the Clutter house.  Tragedy seems to surround this whole story: Capote never published another novel, Blake went crazy, Wilson lost his leg.... I am getting mixed up again.  Time to leave this tragedy behind.  See this movie on a cold rainy night, when you are all alone in the house, and you can't remember if you locked the front door.........

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