In Cold Blood (Brooks, 1967) is one of the most aptly titled works in either cinema or literature. I think of the Clutter family basement in November at 2 a.m. and it chills me to my very marrow. It was a galvanizing experience the first time I saw it as a young man and it still retains every bit of its power to shock, repel, and provoke. Richard Brooks’ exacting attention to detail, going so far as to incorporate the actual people and places affected by this crime, achieves an honesty and authenticity not often found in the genre. It results in a film that sidesteps sensationalism, but doesn’t avoid the difficult and complicated truth that the killers, their movements, and their motivations are an undeniably compelling aspect of this story. It’s a groundbreaking work, as well, falling in that period between the classic studio system as we knew it and what would become New Hollywood. Brooks and his collaborators seized on this opportunity to experiment and were able to explore darkness, literally and figuratively, in a way that had never been done before. It’s a film that taught me a lot of hard truths about humanity and what we are capable of. It can be a difficult watch, but it’s valuable for precisely that reason. Don’t turn away from the darkness.
What you’ll find in this episode: Richard Brooks and his reputation, how geography connects us to stories, the establishment of documentary noir, the uneasy alliance of the police and the press, and how a perfectly sane man can commit an absolutely crazy act.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out In Cold Blood on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of La Cérémonie.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Tower.
Dick Hickock and Perry Smith’s complete inmate case files.
The Clutter family home on Atlas Obscura.