In Cold Blood

Thematic Crime and Punishment Curated by Joe Berlinger

An early venture into cinematic true crime narrative, In Cold Blood (based on the nonfiction novel by Truman Capote) portrays Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, who murdered four members of the Clutter family in 1959. Blending elements of reality and fantasy, filmmaker Richard Brooks used then-unknown actors who resembled the killers to retell the story onscreen, with filming taking place in the actual Clutter home and the prison cells in which Perry and Dick were held. Chillingly, the actors’ performances add empathetic layers of humanity to men labeled first only as murderers. With vigilant editing and an accompanying frenetic score by jazz musician Quincy Jones, Brooks deftly re-creates both the fear and the thrill surrounding this motiveless crime. Stylistic choices for authenticity and realism, such as shooting in black and white and lighting the dead-of-night murder scenes with flashlights, are countered by the nonlinear chronology and unreliable narration—a stark reminder of the thin line between fact and fiction.  KR


Richard Brooks


Richard Brooks


Peter Zinner


Conrad L. Hall

Release Year


Festival Year



United States

Run Time

134 minutes