Fail Safe

Crime partners Perry Smith (Robert Blake) and Dick Hickock (Scott Wilson) drive some 800 miles for a safe which supposedly contains $1000. The tip comes from Floyd Wells, who once bunked with Hickock in prison. Floyd says the safe can be found in the Clutters’ residence in a quiet Kansas town. Perry and Dick arrive at the destination late at night. By the next morning, they leave behind four dead bodies, but only $40 richer. How did the “safe” plan failed?

The movie is adapted from Truman Capote’s landmark novel In Cold Blood, based on an actual murder case. If you watched the film “Capote,” you’d be familiar with the chilly tale. But knowing the story doesn’t necessarily ruin “In Cold Blood” as a whole. The riveting details are much richer here and you get a better grasp of Capote’s genius without actually reading the book. Stunning themes emerge when the movie flashbacks to the perpetrators’ past. For example, Smith has a life-long fixation on hunting for treasures. He might have not scored a big booty, but in the end, he became a nobody to a priceless somebody through Capote.

The film’s acting is well-done. But I already have Perry Smith engraved in my head as Clifton Collins Jr. (from “Capote”). Robert Blake in the role came across too heavy-hearted sometimes. I enjoyed Scott Wilson’s performance more as Dick Hickock. He’s such a charmer that you can believe he can almost get away with everything. But the true star of the film is the foreboding black and white cinematography by Conrad Hall (“American Beauty”). There’s a classic scene where Perry Smith seems to be crying, but it’s only the shadows of rain drops from a window. Genius.

Sometimes the movie has its slow moments, especially when the psychological viewpoint becomes melodramatic. But the film never loosens up and it kept me equally mesmerized and haunted the entire time. But what makes this film unforgettable is the knowledge that the movie was filmed where the actual massacre took place. And the trailer really gave me the creeps as it informs me of how much the film tried to achieve as much authenticity for its locations. I got goosebumps. My hair stood up. I froze at the touch of an eerie chill in the air. I watched the movie in cold blood.

Grade: A

Robert Blake, Scott Wilson, John Forsythe, Jeff Corey, Paul Stewart, John Gallaudet, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, James Falvin and Charles McGraw
Based on the non-fiction novel by
Truman Capote
Screenplay by
Richard Brooks
Directed by
Richard Brooks
Rated R