directed by Richard Brooks
USA 1967

“How can a perfectly sane man commit an absolutely crazy act?”

On the night of November 15th, 1959, Perry Edward Smith and Richard Eugene Hickock quietly entered the house of Herbert Clutter, with the hope of a little fortune hidden away in Clutter’s safe. The next morning, the Clutter family, Richard Clutter, his wife and their two children, were found viciously killed. So began the case of the Clutter massacre.

Investigating the case, Truman Capote studied case files, newspaper clipping and interviewed both the investigators, KBI agents Alvin Dewey and Harold Nye, and the killers, Smith and Hickock. First serialised in the New Yorker in, later publishes as the book “In Cold Blood”, Capote created a new form of literature: The non-fiction novel. An amazing success, Richard Brooks wrote and directed the film version. This was a perfect Richard Brooks film, who always sought to examine the underbelly of American society: Here he took a look at crime and punishment, and raised an important question: If the crime makes no sense, how can the punishment then?

“In Cold Blood” is impeccable directed. Brooks wisely avoids showing the killings until the very end of the film, structuring the film into four chapters: Smith and Hickcock up until the crime, the investigation and Smith and Hickcock after the crime, the interrogations, Sentence and Execution. Instead of showing us minute details of the investigation, Brooks instead focus on the minds and personages of Smith and Hickcock, allowing us to get to know them, until we finally, get to see what really happend. The film may be almost 40 years old and while it only lasts a minute, this is amongst the most grusome depictions of murder ever put on film. Brooks shows little interest in the court case, reducing it to the summation of the prosecutor: “Thou Shalt not Kill” (Exodus 20, verse 13) and “Who so shedeth man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed” (Genesis 9, verse 12). What he is interested in is the execution of Smith and Hickcock. Here, in minute detail, place and event are shown. Brooks shows us each element of the hanging, even adding the heart beat of the executee, so that we can follow his death – after all, this is what we want – after all, this is justice – or is it?

Brooks originally hoped for Paul Newman Steve McQueen, but unavailable he chose two relative unknown newcommers: Scott Wilson and Robert Blake, who acted their heart out. Truth is, with the luxury of hindsight, that if anyone but two unknown actors had played the leads, the film would not have been as gritty and realistic as it is. Stars draw attention away from the story. But Brooks got a star, as the film was shot by Conrad Hall, who arguable is one of the greatest cinematographers ever. “In Cold Blood” is a study in scope composition, not only in use of width and space, but also in the use of light, from his use of telelense to give it a documentary feel to his underexposing scenes, to make better use of shadows. Finally, the score was done by newcommer Quincy Jones, whos career was launched by this film.

“In Cold Blood” became a massive hit and was nominated for four academy awards (direction, script, cinematography and score), but lost in the race to the strong contenders: “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Graduate”. Sadly the film slipped into oblivion for many years, until it, equally sadly, was brought to attention again, with the arrest of Robert Blake for the alleged murder of his wife in 2002. Nevertheless it is back and more so, it has been digitally remastered to stunning glory. “In Cold Blood” is a rare masterpiece of the cinema.
out of

Henrik Sylow

Posters

Theatrical Release: December 14, 1967

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Columbia Tristar - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Henrik Sylow for the Review!

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Distribution

Columbia Tristar

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 2:14:20
Video

2.35:1 Panavision Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.96 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 

Audio English Dolby Digital 3.0
Subtitles English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai and None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Columbia Tristar

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1 Panavision

Edition Details:

DVD Release Date: September 23, 2003
Amaray

Chapters 28

Comments
NOTE: Blu-ray version compared HERE.

This is a great DVD. The picture is crisp in sharpness and contrast, doing Hall's black and white compositions justice, and sound is, even though its forty year old mono, without noise or any other signs of age. Nothing but high marks on the quality.

 


 
The downside is, that it lacks any additional material. No documentary, no audio commentary. The only extra we get are a bunch of trailers: In Cold Blood, Identity, 8mm and In a Lonely Place. This is certainly a film that deserves additional material offering reference and insight, as few have heard of the film to begin with.

Henrik Sylow

 


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Distribution

Columbia Tristar

Region 1 - NTSC

    

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