In Cold Blood


2h 14m 1967
In Cold Blood

Brief Synopsis

Two vagrants try to outrun the police after committing a savage crime in this real-life shocker.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Suspense/Mystery
Adaptation
Crime
Drama
Release Date
Jan 1967
Premiere Information
New York opening: 14 Dec 1967
Production Company
Pax Enterprises
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Texas, USA; Nevada, USA; Missouri, USA; Holcomb, Kansas, USA; Colorado, USA; Mexico
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (New York, 1966).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

At 2:00 a.m. on November 15, 1959, in the farming town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Herbert Clutter family are roused from their sleep, bound and gagged, and then brutally murdered by two assailants. The killers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, had first met in a state prison where the arrogant Dick picked out the quick-tempered Perry, aspirin-addicted as a result of the lingering pain of leg injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident, as the "born killer" he needed for a partner. The robbery had been planned by Dick when a former inmate told him that Mr. Clutter kept $10,000 in a safe in his home. There was no safe, however, and the killers left with only $43. As the police, led by Alvin Dewey of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, attempt to solve the murders, the two fugitives cash a series of bad checks and make their way to Mexico, where Perry dreams of becoming a gold prospector. But the plan, like most of Perry's fantasies, comes to naught, and Dick insists that they return to the States. Confident that they have left no clues, they cash additional bad checks. Dick's prison friend has already turned informer, however, and a police dragnet has been set up. In time the two killers are apprehended in Las Vegas and subjected to intensive questioning, during which their alibis are broken by keeping them separated while they tell conflicting stories. Finally, the soles of their shoes match footprints through Mr. Clutter's blood. Swiftly brought to trial and convicted, they are sentenced to be hanged at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing; following appeals and stays of execution, they go to the gallows on April 14, 1965.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Suspense/Mystery
Adaptation
Crime
Drama
Release Date
Jan 1967
Premiere Information
New York opening: 14 Dec 1967
Production Company
Pax Enterprises
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
United States
Location
Texas, USA; Nevada, USA; Missouri, USA; Holcomb, Kansas, USA; Colorado, USA; Mexico
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (New York, 1966).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Cinematography

1967

Best Director

1967
Richard Brooks

Best Score

1967

Best Writing, Screenplay

1968
Richard Brooks

Articles

In Cold Blood


On November 15, 1959 at 2 a.m. in the morning, two ex-convicts, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, broke into the Holcomb, Kansas home of Herbert Clutter hoping to find $10,000 in his safe. They had foolishly believed a story about his wealth from one of his former employees and now they knew the truth - there was no safe. But instead of leaving, the criminals roused the family of four from their beds, bound and gagged them, and then brutally murdered them before fleeing to Mexico with a pathetic $43 between them. Novelist Truman Capote happened to catch a news item about the murders in the paper and upon investigating further decided it would make a great subject for a book. When his "non-fiction" novel, In Cold Blood, appeared in 1966, it became a publishing sensation and made Capote both a wealthy man and an international celebrity. It was inevitable that Hollywood would make a movie of the book, but critics and audiences alike were quite unprepared for the film version that writer/director Richard Brooks delivered.

While Capote maintained a cold objectivity in his book, Brooks opted for a starkly realistic approach to the material. In his version of In Cold Blood (1967), the audience often views the world through the perspective of the killers. While this approach was criticized by fans of the book that said the film humanized the murderers while turning the innocent victims into one-dimensional caricatures, it was undeniably effective in dramatic terms, especially in the final execution sequence. In a New York Times article by William Cotter Murray, Brooks was quoted as saying, "I see the movie as a kind of Greek tragedy, American style. Everyone knows the ending. It's the treatment that matters. I'm not interested in Alfred Hitchcock stuff...I'm interested in the social aspect of this drama...If I thought this movie didn't have relevance to a general social problem, I wouldn't be making it....This isn't a tragedy of Fate. It's the tragedy of a house. Two houses. The poor farmer shack Hickock came from, and the Clutter's $40,000 farmhouse."

Brooks' attention to detail was practically obsessive on the set of In Cold Blood. He did extensive research at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas on the subject of detecting and treating mentally ill and potentially homicidal prisoners. He insisted on and received permission to shoot on location in the actual Clutter home and in the actual courtroom where the murderers were convicted. Brooks even cast some of the Clutters' neighbors as extras, used seven of the original jurors for the courtroom scenes, brought Nancy Clutter's horse Babe out of retirement for a scene, and even hired the same hangman who had executed Smith and Hickock. And Brooks was no less meticulous in instructing his cast. For instance, he insisted that John Forsythe meet agent Al Dewey, the man he was portraying on film, in order to closely study his mannerisms and personality. Brooks also had his share of battles with the front office at Columbia Pictures who wanted him to shoot the film in color and even suggested Steve McQueen and Paul Newman for the roles of Dick and Perry.

While Truman Capote approved the choice of Brooks as director over all other candidates, he was still not allowed to read the screenplay, which Brooks had written himself. The director bluntly told him, "Truman, I can't work that way. Either you trust me to make it or you don't." When Capote finally viewed the film, he made the following remarks in private, "The introduction of the reporter, who acted as a kind of Greek chorus, didn't make sense. There also wasn't enough on the Clutter family. The book was about six lives, not two, and it ruined it to concentrate so much on Perry and Dick. On the other hand, I thought that the actors who played the two boys were very well cast, acted well, and were directed well." Indeed, critics were especially impressed with the performances of Robert Blake (a former child actor who appeared in Our Gang comedies) as Perry and Scott Wilson as Dick. But both actors were ignored when the Academy Award nominations for 1967 were announced. Instead In Cold Blood received Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography (Conrad Hall), and Best Music Score (Quincy Jones).

Director/Producer: Richard Brooks
Screenplay: Richard Brooks, Truman Capote (novel)
Cinematography: Conrad L. Hall
Music: Quincy Jones
Art Direction: Robert F. Boyle
Principle Cast: Robert Blade (Perry Smith), Scott Wilson (Dick Hickock), John Forsythe (Alvin Dewey), Paul Stewart (Reporter Jenson), Gerald S. O'Loughlin (Harold Nye), Jeff Corey (Mr. Hickock), John Gallaudet (Roy Church).
BW-135m. Letterboxed.

by Jeff Stafford
In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood

On November 15, 1959 at 2 a.m. in the morning, two ex-convicts, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, broke into the Holcomb, Kansas home of Herbert Clutter hoping to find $10,000 in his safe. They had foolishly believed a story about his wealth from one of his former employees and now they knew the truth - there was no safe. But instead of leaving, the criminals roused the family of four from their beds, bound and gagged them, and then brutally murdered them before fleeing to Mexico with a pathetic $43 between them. Novelist Truman Capote happened to catch a news item about the murders in the paper and upon investigating further decided it would make a great subject for a book. When his "non-fiction" novel, In Cold Blood, appeared in 1966, it became a publishing sensation and made Capote both a wealthy man and an international celebrity. It was inevitable that Hollywood would make a movie of the book, but critics and audiences alike were quite unprepared for the film version that writer/director Richard Brooks delivered. While Capote maintained a cold objectivity in his book, Brooks opted for a starkly realistic approach to the material. In his version of In Cold Blood (1967), the audience often views the world through the perspective of the killers. While this approach was criticized by fans of the book that said the film humanized the murderers while turning the innocent victims into one-dimensional caricatures, it was undeniably effective in dramatic terms, especially in the final execution sequence. In a New York Times article by William Cotter Murray, Brooks was quoted as saying, "I see the movie as a kind of Greek tragedy, American style. Everyone knows the ending. It's the treatment that matters. I'm not interested in Alfred Hitchcock stuff...I'm interested in the social aspect of this drama...If I thought this movie didn't have relevance to a general social problem, I wouldn't be making it....This isn't a tragedy of Fate. It's the tragedy of a house. Two houses. The poor farmer shack Hickock came from, and the Clutter's $40,000 farmhouse." Brooks' attention to detail was practically obsessive on the set of In Cold Blood. He did extensive research at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas on the subject of detecting and treating mentally ill and potentially homicidal prisoners. He insisted on and received permission to shoot on location in the actual Clutter home and in the actual courtroom where the murderers were convicted. Brooks even cast some of the Clutters' neighbors as extras, used seven of the original jurors for the courtroom scenes, brought Nancy Clutter's horse Babe out of retirement for a scene, and even hired the same hangman who had executed Smith and Hickock. And Brooks was no less meticulous in instructing his cast. For instance, he insisted that John Forsythe meet agent Al Dewey, the man he was portraying on film, in order to closely study his mannerisms and personality. Brooks also had his share of battles with the front office at Columbia Pictures who wanted him to shoot the film in color and even suggested Steve McQueen and Paul Newman for the roles of Dick and Perry. While Truman Capote approved the choice of Brooks as director over all other candidates, he was still not allowed to read the screenplay, which Brooks had written himself. The director bluntly told him, "Truman, I can't work that way. Either you trust me to make it or you don't." When Capote finally viewed the film, he made the following remarks in private, "The introduction of the reporter, who acted as a kind of Greek chorus, didn't make sense. There also wasn't enough on the Clutter family. The book was about six lives, not two, and it ruined it to concentrate so much on Perry and Dick. On the other hand, I thought that the actors who played the two boys were very well cast, acted well, and were directed well." Indeed, critics were especially impressed with the performances of Robert Blake (a former child actor who appeared in Our Gang comedies) as Perry and Scott Wilson as Dick. But both actors were ignored when the Academy Award nominations for 1967 were announced. Instead In Cold Blood received Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography (Conrad Hall), and Best Music Score (Quincy Jones). Director/Producer: Richard Brooks Screenplay: Richard Brooks, Truman Capote (novel) Cinematography: Conrad L. Hall Music: Quincy Jones Art Direction: Robert F. Boyle Principle Cast: Robert Blade (Perry Smith), Scott Wilson (Dick Hickock), John Forsythe (Alvin Dewey), Paul Stewart (Reporter Jenson), Gerald S. O'Loughlin (Harold Nye), Jeff Corey (Mr. Hickock), John Gallaudet (Roy Church). BW-135m. Letterboxed. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

I thought Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman... I thought so right up to the time I cut his throat.
- Perry
I'd like to apologize, but who to.
- Perry
It's true! Really true! We're on our way and never coming back. Never! And no regrets.
- Perry Smith
For you. You're leaving nothing. What about my old man... and my mother? They'll still be there when my checks start bouncing.
- Dick Hickock
It's nice the way you think about your folks.
- Perry Smith
Yeah! I'm a real thoughtful bastard.
- Dick Hickock
When you hit the end of the rope... your muscles lose control. I'm afraid I'll mess myself.
- Perry
: Hey, Buddy, put in a call for that big, ol' Yellow Bird!
- Dick Hickcock
Did you ever hang any paper?
- Dick
I couldn't cash a check, even if it was good!
- Perry

Trivia

To get the authenticity he wanted, Richard Brooks filmed in all the actual locations including the Clutter house (where the murders took place) and the actual courtroom (6 of the actual jurors were used). Even Nancy Clutter's horse Babe was used in a few scenes, and that's the actual hangman who pulled the lever on the real Hickcock and Smith.

5 students from the University of Kansas' theater department got roles: Paul Hough, Kip Niven, Brenda Curran, Richard Kelton, and Mary-Linda Rapelye.

'Blake, Robert' and 'Wilson, Scott' were not the first choices to play the cold-blooded murderers. Studio heads at Columbia Pictures originally wanted 'Newman, Paul' and 'McQueen, Steve' in the lead roles. Newman chose instead to star in Cool Hand Luke and Hombre that year; McQueen worked on The Thomas Crown Affair and Bullitt.

In the scene where the fugitives pick up the young boy and the old man on the way to Las Vegas, Robert Blake's character make's a reference to the movie Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948).Robert Blake played the paper boy who sold the winning lottery ticket to Bogart in that classic movie.

The family photos seen in the rooms of the house are real photos of the Clutter family members.

Notes

Filmed in Holcomb, Kansas, and on location in Missouri, Colorado, Texas, Nevada, and Mexico. Publicity material gives the following credit: "Filmed with the cooperation of the People and Law Enforcement Agencies of Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, and Mexico."

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted Best Director and One of the Year's Ten Best English Language Films by the 1967 National Board of Review.

Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1967 New York Times Critics.

Released in United States January 2003

Released in United States November 2000

Released in United States Winter December 1967

Re-released in United States August 1991

Re-released in United States March 3, 2006

Re-released in United States November 7, 1997

Shown at London Film Festival (Treasures from the Archives) November 1-16, 2000.

Shown at Palm Springs International Film Festival (Retro) January 9-20, 2003.

A new 35mm print was re-released in 1997.

Released in United States January 2003 (Shown at Palm Springs International Film Festival (Retro) January 9-20, 2003.)

Re-released in United States March 3, 2006 (Los Angeles)

Re-released in United States August 1991 (one week only; Los Angeles)

Released in United States November 2000 (Shown at London Film Festival (Treasures from the Archives) November 1-16, 2000.)

Re-released in United States November 7, 1997 (Film Forum; New York City)

Released in United States Winter December 1967