In Cold Blood (1967)

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Released 23-Feb-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Devil In A Blue Dress, The Devil's Own, In A Lonely Place
Trailer-Mortal Thoughts
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1967
Running Time 128:59
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (78:33) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Richard Brooks
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Robert Blake
Scott Wilson
John Forsythe
Paul Stewart
Gerald S. O'Loughlin
Jeff Corey
John Gallaudet
James Flavin
John Collins
Charles McGraw
Will Geer
James Lantz
John McLiam
Case ?
RPI $13.95 Music Quincy Jones


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 3.0 L-C-R (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
Hindi
Portuguese
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    On November 14, 1959, Perry Smith and Dick Hickox broke into a Kansas farmhouse where they were convinced there was a safe containing $10,000. Failing to find the safe, they killed all four members of the Clutter family. Smith and Hickox were both parolees, and the latter's cellmate had boasted of working for the Clutters and of their non-existent safe. For some months they lived in Mexico, but returned to the United States and ended up in Las Vegas where they were caught.

    Enter Truman Capote, the flamboyant writer, who wrote a painstaking non-fiction novel on the case, published in 1966 and which was the inspiration for this film.

    It begins with Smith and Hickox meeting up after the latter's parole, cross-cut with the daily routine of the Clutter family. It takes us up to the point where they are outside the farmhouse, then moves forward to the next day, when the dead family are found. Enter the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (so named because the FBI did not approve of the script) and Alvin Dewey (John Forsythe), who is shadowed by Jenson (Paul Stewart) a reporter who is obviously modelled on Capote but without the campiness or high-pitched voice. The film cuts between the efforts of the criminals to escape justice and the similarly dogged efforts of the investigators.

    This is an actor's film, and it boasts several fine performances. It is now ironic that Robert Blake's best performance comes as a cold-blooded killer, given that he is currently on trial for the murder of his wife. I cannot help thinking that the timing of the release of this film on DVD is somewhat fortuitous. He is matched by a superb performance by Scott Wilson as Hickox. He never seems to be acting at all, and makes this small-time con artist wholly believable. Why neither was nominated for an Academy Award is one of those imponderable mysteries.

    John Forsythe is solid as Dewey, while Paul Stewart is a little portentous as the reporter. There is a surprising roster of veteran character players in the film. James Flavin, who was always to be seen in films of the 1930s and 1940s as a uniformed policeman, has a complete change of pace here: he's the plain-clothes officer who assists Dewey. Charles McGraw, very nearly a star in the early Fifties in some gritty film noir, is excellent as Smith's melancholy father. Blacklistees Jeff Corey and Will Geer are also fine as the elder Hickox and the prosecuting attorney respectively. And appearing in his last film after a 55-year career is Raymond Hatton, a veteran leading actor in silent films, including many of the early films of Cecil B. DeMille as well as some popular comedies of the late 1920s. He's the elderly grandfather with child in tow that the fugitives pick up in the desert.

    There are three other fine assets to this film. One is the jazzy score by Quincy Jones, and another is the superb camerawork by Conrad L. Hall. This was one of the last black and white films made in Hollywood (excluding those more recent films that were made in monochrome on colour stock for artistic reasons), and it looks superb. Finally there is the restrained direction from Richard Brooks, an almost forgotten director whose work includes some excellent films and some complete duds. This is one of his best. His script is also exceptional, and even finds space for some obscure references (such as Smith referring to some dialogue by Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a film in which Blake himself appeared).

    Like the book, this is a documentary-style narrative which does not moralise or attempt to put forward psychoanalytic mumbo-jumbo as an explanation for the crimes. The killers are shown to be ordinary and real, not bug-eyed psychopaths, which makes the whole thing even more chilling. It is a pity that no-one in present day Hollywood seems capable of making something as powerful without wallowing in sordidness, something this film does not. Recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is here presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a fine transfer, quite sharp and clear. Contrast is a little high, which makes some parts of the picture quite dark. Shadow detail is acceptable though it is not perfect. Otherwise there is a good range of blacks and greys, and whites look fine as well.

    There are only a couple of film to video artefacts present. Edge enhancement is noticeable in some scenes, though in the darkened rooms it is quite invisible. There is some telecine wobble from time to time. The transfer is a little grainy at times, but it is not excessive.

    Film artefacts are limited to a few rare nicks resulting in small white flecks.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change at 78:33, at a cut, and is not distracting.

    Optional English subtitles in white font with a dark border are provided. These cover the dialogue well and are impeccably timed.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The default audio track is Dolby Digital 3.0. The original audio was monaural, so this is a remix. And it is a good remix, with the effects and music coming from the main channels and the dialogue from the centre channel. The dialogue is clear and distinct throughout. Audio sync is fine, though there is an instance where the name of an insurance company at 20:03 has been looped.

    The audio comes across well without any stridency or distortion, and no hiss.

    As mentioned above, the music score is by Quincy Jones. It is a moody jazz score, very evocative and it suits the film well. It is more noticeable during the first quarter of the film than in the remainder.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Theatrical Trailer (2:49)

    This is a fine trailer for the film, but it is cropped to about 1.78:1. The comparison of the actors' faces with those of the actual killers is severely compromised by this cropping.

Trailers - Devil in a Blue Dress, The Devil's Own, In a Lonely Place, Mortal Thoughts (9:04)

    It's almost as if the person putting these trailers on the disc thought that these titles sounded like they would be appropriate to accompany a film about two killers. All are in 1.33:1 and none of the trailers bar the Bogart film are at all interesting. Could we not have had some information about the real-life murder case instead?

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Apart from having some different trailers, the Region 1 seems identical, as does the UK Region 2. No need to shop overseas I think.

Summary

    An excellent film, well worth the cost of the disc.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio quality is also good.

    No significant extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Sunday, February 06, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Black and white - Gary Couzens