In Cold Blood (1967)


In Cold Blood (1967)After catching both recent films about Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood I never thought there was a film made about the 1959 Kansas killing. Then again we do have Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). It was only right to see the adaptation of the book itself, made almost 50 years before both Capote and Infamous (both 2006) which focus on the writing of the book that would forever change Capote’s outlook. Never again would he write another novel, just poems after his traumatic experience. I don’t really want to spend this review comparing how both films dealt with the events, as here in In Cold Blood (1967) we don’t see Capote getting close to Dick (Scott Wilsonand Perry (Robert Blake) as he is able to write finally about the murders themselves once the two are caught. Able to complete this new form of non-fiction as it is described by the author. I couldn’t really help but draw on these two later films to inform me of the events ands how they should play out. I should have watched them in chronologically order originally to stop that happen.

With a preconceived idea of what I wanted to happen I was becoming frustrated when the actual act of the Clutter killings was seemingly cut out of the film, leaving it to the viewer’s imagination, something I didn’t expect from a late 1960’s film that were becoming more free of censorship. Not exactly like Bonnie and Clyde 1967) in terms of the volume of violence but to the same extent visually. Instead we have a focus on the two killers as they go on the run, after a failed robbery after a poor tip-off. It’s all about their drives and motives, the life of two convicts evading the law. With a clear focus on Perry as in the two later films

Of course there is no real indication of Perry’s homosexuality which we know of again the later films. Seen more as an unease around Dick at times which sees him lash out and eventually kill. There is however a more liberal use of language and sex which reflects the times more so than if this film was made a decade earlier, then making the events pure fiction and something in the dark recess of a writer’s mind. What is clear is the preference by Capote towards Perry however much is removed you still have a strong emphasis for Perry as someone who has been scarred by his childhood.

On the hunt for the two killers we have the local FBI in the form of John Forsythe as Alvin Dewey and Jensen (Paul Stewart) who most of the film investigating why this senseless killing happened, working from a few clues in the form of bloody footprints. They are the rest of America, who wants to see justice, which comes across cliche today as the film progresses. For me this is the side of the events I knew little about, having only see Capote try his best to get information from the local police, charming his way into the little Kansas community who were at first hesitant to talk. There is none of his charm and humour here, just the cold hard facts and psychology of the outlaws as they hide from the law.

I will always hold this film up to the later to, it would be impossible not to now. Seeing the adaptation of the book does bring everything into perspective, even without reading it. Maybe this is how Capote wrote it? I don’t know. What we have a dark real-life story of a robbery that went wrong. A film that speaks about the power of justice and how far it should go. Are those who send criminals to death-row as bad as the killers, it’s a hard one to call. It still goes on today in some states of America, outlawed in the UK in the early 1970’s. It’s a form of justice that is part of the fabric of modern society that for some is something they can’t give up. However far forward we progress from an eye for an eye still resonates and means justice is done.

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