In Cold Blood

Like Truman Capote's original book, Richard Brooks's In Cold Blood is both a compelling account of a brutal murder and an ironic portrait of the American heartland, combining cool voyeurism with disconcerting empathy in its portrayal of the young killers. “There's two kind of laws, honey, one for the rich and one for the poor,” says self-described “all-American boy” Dick Hickock (Scott Wilson) to his paroled partner Perry Smith (Robert Blake) as they hit the road for Holcomb, Kansas, plotting a “perfect crime” that will net them forty-three dollars and a death sentence. Returning to the scene of the crime, Conrad Hall's Panavision camerawork captures both a highly specific exterior reality-ordinary houses sitting square in the brittle gray expanse of the winter plains-and Smith's inner landscape, a place of grandiose fantasy and fearful memory. If the script ultimately tilts toward Smith's subjectivity, the accrued visual evidence is potent in its indifference.

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