In Cold Blood is a 1967 film based on Truman Capote's book of the same name. Richard Brooks prepared the adaptation and directed the film. It stars Robert Blake as Perry Smith, Scott Wilson as Richard "Dick" Hickock, and John Forsythe as Alvin Dewey. The film follows the trail of Smith and Hickock; they break into the home of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, kill all four members of the family who are present, go on the run, and are found and caught by the police, tried for the murders, and eventually executed. Although the film is in parts faithful to the book, Brooks created a fictional character, "The Reporter" (played by Paul Stewart). The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Director, Original Score, Cinematography, and Adapted Screenplay.
Some scenes were filmed at the locations of the original events, including Garden City and Holcomb, Kansas; Kansas State Penitentiary, where Smith and Hickock were executed; and the Clutter residence, where the murders took place.
In 2008, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
In November 1959, Perry Smith (Robert Blake) and "Dick" Hickock (Scott Wilson) concoct a plan to invade the home of the Clutter family, as Mr. Clutter supposedly keeps a large supply of cash in a safe. When the two criminals execute the robbery, they are unable to find a safe as Mr.Clutter uses checks. In order to leave no witnesses, they murder Mr. and Mrs. Clutter and their two teenage children. The bodies are discovered the next day, and a police investigation is immediately launched. As the investigation builds, the two wanted men continue to elude law enforcement by heading south and crossing into Mexico; but, after a while, they return to the U.S. and decide to travel to Las Vegas to win some money at gambling. There, they are arrested for violating parole, being in possession of a stolen car, and passing bad checks.
The police separately interrogate the two men about the Clutter murders. Both Smith and Hickock admit to passing bad checks, but they deny knowing anything about the murders. The police claim that a mistake made by the men is that they left a witness, but they are slowed by Smith's refusal to provide answers. Next, the police confront them with evidence, such as a bloody footprint matching the boots worn by one of the men. Finally, Hickock confesses and states that he does not want to be executed for the crime, claiming that Smith committed all of the murders. When Smith learns that Hickock confessed, he recounts how, although it was he, Smith, who wielded the knife and pulled the trigger for the four killings, Hickock was there beside him as an active accomplice.
The story of the murders is told in flashback, after the subjects' arrests. Smith and Hickock are both found guilty of the crime and sentenced to be hanged. A representation of their final moments and their execution is presented at the conclusion of the film.
The film was generally well received. Critics praised Brooks' interpretation of Capote's book and were especially complimentary of the performances of the cast, including Scott Wilson and Robert Blake as the killers. Another aspect that helped the film was the use of black-and-white photography to heighten the tension, giving it the "you are there" touch. Brooks added to the film's authenticity by filming in the actual locations, including the Kansas State Penitentiary, where the executions of Smith and Hickock took place.
The film went on to receive four Academy Award nominations: Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Original Music Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay. At the time of its release, it was rated "For Mature Audiences", which meant no children under 17 were allowed to see the film without parents or legal guardians of age; now the MPAA has rated the film "R", due to its violence and mature nature.American Film Institute Lists
AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies - Nominated
AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
Perry Smith & Dick Hickock - Nominated Villains
AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores - Nominated
AFI's 10 Top 10 - #8 Courtroom Drama
A 1996 miniseries was also made based on the book, directed by Jonathan Kaplan and with a screenplay by Benedict Fitzgerald. In that adaptation, Anthony Edwards portrayed Dick Hickock, Eric Roberts played Perry Smith, and Sam Neill played Kansas Bureau of Investigation detective Alvin Dewey.