On a November morning in 1959 farmer Herbert Clutter, his wife Bonnie and their children (sixteen year old Nancy and fifteen year old Kenyon) are found murdered near Holcomb, Kansas. Two ex-convicts and former cellmates Perry (Robert Blake) and Dick (Scott Wilson) pursue the perfect robbery to steal $10,000 for less than an hour’s work. Unable to locate a safe that does not exist and fuelled by rage, the men murder the Clutters and go on the run, as the crime sends shock waves across the nation.
At the scene of the crime, Perry & Dick leave few clues for the police. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation mounts an extensive two month manhunt that tracks the murders throughout the US and Mexico. Following a trail of bad cheques and stolen cars, law enforcement finally catches up with the two men in Las Vegas, as they are arrested, and taken back to Kansas for the trial.
Once caught the men are separated and interrogated by Officer Alvin Dewey (John Forsythe). Eventually Dick confesses that it was Smith alone that murdered the Clutters. Once Smith hears of this betrayal, he admits that he killed the Clutters, but Dick was at his side the entire time, making him an active accessory.
In Cold Blood follows the manhunt, apprehension, trial, conviction, and execution of the two ex-cons interspersed with flashbacks of their backgrounds and scenes from their brief getaway.
“In Cold Blood marked the first appearance in a studio-financed movie for the terms “pussy”, “bullshit”, “jacking off”, and “diarrhoea”. Let us praise, too, Brooks’s contribution to the end of cinematic prudishness.”
— The Guardian
“Excellent quasidocumentary which sends shivers down the spine.”
— The New York Times
Did You Know?
Robert Blake, who played Perry Smith, had previously appeared in The Treasure of Sierra Madre, the real Perry Smith’s favourite film. Despite the fact that Truman Capote does not include himself in his novel In Cold Blood , director Richard Brooks created the character of the Reporter (Paul Stewart). Brooks felt that Capote’s relationship with Smith, who he interviewed extensively, had a bearing on Smith’s personality due to Capote’s rumoured romantic feelings towards him. Review our Gay Themed Films here