A Portrait of Murder (1955 TVM)

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“What a terrible way for a beautiful dame like that to die.”
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vt Laura
US / 43 minutes / bw / CBS Dir: John Brahm Pr: Otto Lang Scr: Mel Dinelli Story: Laura (1943) by Vera Caspary Cine: Lloyd Ahern Cast: George Sanders, Dana Wynter, Robert Stack, Scott Forbes, Johnny Washbrook, Gloria Clark, Gordon Wynne, Robert Williams, Harry Carter.

Done as an episode of The 20th Century–Fox Hour, this is not so much a remake of Otto Preminger’s classic Laura (1944), which featured Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson and Dorothy Adams, as a re-adaptation of Caspary’s novel for the screen. There’s a visible (and visual) awareness of Preminger’s version, but really this is its own entity. Much of the Continue reading

Capote (2005)

US, Canada / 114 minutes / color / Sony Pictures Classics, UA, Columbia Dir: Bennett Miller Pr: Caroline Baron, William Vince, Michael Ohoven Scr: Dan Futterman Story: Capote: A Biography (1988 nonfiction) by Gerald Clarke Cine: Adam Kimmel Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Chris Cooper, Bob Balaban, Bruce Greenwood, Amy Ryan, Mark Pellegrino, Allie Mickelson, Marshall Bell, Araby Lockhart, R.D. Reid, Rob McLaughlin, Harry Nelken, Bess Meyer.

Although this is one of those movies so full of good things that it’s hard to know where to start the list, its relation to noir is, as it were, doubly tangential: it depicts the background to Truman Capote’s “nonfiction novel” In Cold Blood (1966), the first screen adaptation of which, In Cold Blood (1967), has claims to membership of the film noir canon. (Capote has a few visual quotes from that movie, as when the murderer Andy is led to the prison annex for execution.) Its backdrop is a crime and its punishment, but really its concern is the relationship between the fanfared author and one of the killers, and the way that this relationship as much as the original, abhorrent crime sparked Capote’s creativity.

Capote - 2 Hoffman as Capote

Philip Seymour Hoffman captures the essence of Truman Capote.

Looking around after the wild success of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) for a new project, writer and New Yorker columnist Truman Capote (Hoffman) finds his attention caught by a New York Times account of the murder of an entire Kansas family. With the connivance of his agent William Shawn (Balaban), he travels to Kansas with his best friend since childhood, Nelle Harper Lee (Keener)—this was after the latter had written To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), in which the character Dill was based on Capote, but before that novel had been published. The locals are shy of the camp, affected Capote, so Nelle does much of the interviewing of those involved. The pair ingratiate themselves with Alvin Dewey (Cooper), the KBI agent in charge of the case, and Dewey’s wife Marie (Ryan).

After Perry Smith (Collins) and Dick Hickock (Pellegrino) have been Continue reading

In Cold Blood (1996 TVM)

US, Canada / 180 minutes / color with some bw / Pacific Motion, CBS Dir: Jonathan Kaplan Pr: Tom Rowe Scr: Benedict Fitzgerald Story: In Cold Blood (1966 “nonfiction novel”) by Truman Capote Cine: Peter Woeste Cast: Anthony Edwards, Eric Roberts, Sam Neill, Leo Rossi, Louise Latham, Gwen Verdon, Bethel Leslie, L.Q. Jones, Gillian Barber, Kevin Tighe, Don Davis, Margot Finley, Troy Evans, Robbie Bowen, Brad Greenquist, Tom McBeath, Stella Stevens, Ryan Reynolds, Lindsey Campbell, Emily Perkins, Campbell Lane.

In Cold Blood (1996) - 1 Perry watches with revulsion as Dick accosts a teenagerPerry (Roberts), repelled by yet another example of Dick’s predatory sexuality.

A remake of In Cold Blood (1967) that obviously tells much the same story—occasionally with snatches of the same dialogue—although with many differences in the details and in various matters of emphasis. Although, as in the earlier movie, the murders are shown in flashback toward the end of the movie, this flashback is proportionally very much shorter, while the aftermath of the killers’ capture is likewise given far less weight.

In Cold Blood (1996) - 2 Nancy chats with farmhand AlbertNancy Clutter (Margot Finley) chats with hired hand Alfred Stoecklein (Tom McBeath) on the eve of the murder.

Here we learn far more about the lives of the Clutters; by the halfway mark of what was first aired as a miniseries but what’s in essence a single very long movie, Perry Smith (Roberts) and Dick Hickock (Edwards) have not long invaded the farmhouse. The dynamics within Continue reading

In Cold Blood (1967)

vt Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood

US / 134 minutes / bw / Pax, Columbia Dir & Pr & Scr: Richard Brooks Story: In Cold Blood (1966 “nonfiction novel”) by Truman Capote Cine: Conrad Hall Cast: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson, John Forsythe, Paul Stewart, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Jeff Corey, John Gallaudet, James Flavin, Charles McGraw, Will Geer, John McLiam, Ruth Storey, Brenda C. Currin, Paul Hough, Vaughn Taylor, Duke Hobbie, Sheldon Allman, Sammy Thurman, Raymond Hatton, Teddy Eccles.

In Cold Blood 1967 - 2 The convict who knows

Floyd Wells (uncredited), the convict who knows.

While in the joint, con Dick Hickock (Wilson) allowed himself to be persuaded by cellmate Floyd Wells (uncredited) that Kansas farmer Herbert “Herb” W. Clutter (McLiam) is extremely wealthy and keeps a safe filled with at least $10,000 in his basement. Accordingly, as soon as Dick’s old friend, limping Korea Gold Star vet Perry Smith (Blake), is released on parole from his own sentence, Dick recruits him to go to the depths of Kansas and rob the family, Dick’s plan being that there’ll be “no survivors”. In parallel with this main narrative strand, we see scenes of the Clutters going about their daily business—Herb the genial paterfamilias, his neurotic wife Bonnie (Storey), their son Kenyon (Hough), whose smoking is an open secret between himself and his dad, and their sweet-sixteen-year-old daughter Nancy (Currin), in a flutter over the boyfriend she’s mad about. At last the family beds down for the night, and the two crooks quietly draw up in front of the farmhouse . . .

In Cold Blood 1967 - 5 Nancy faces death

Nancy Clutter (Brenda C. Currin) faces her nemesis.

What happens next we don’t discover until late into the movie; for now, we cut straight to the following morning, a Sunday, with the cops investigating the scene of a vile mass murder. The only clues that Alvin Dewey (Forsythe) of the KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigations) and his team have at the outset are a distinctive shoeprint left in the blood of Herb Clutter and a less unusual but nonetheless identifiable one beside it, plus the military-style knots used in the ropes that bound the Clutters.

In Cold Blood 1967 - 1 The clue

The incriminating shoeprint.

The thieves found, of course, no safe. They came away with $43, a pair of binoculars and a transistor radio as the profit from their crime. With Dick in the driver’s seat, they go on a spree of Continue reading