In Cold Blood
Based on the novel by Truman Capote and directed by Richard Brooks, in a true story two ex-convicts plan and carry out a robbery of a farm family and murder all four, hoping they will escape; but they are tracked down, tried, and executed.
At night on a bus a little girl listens to guitar playing and asks to be excused. Perry (Robert Blake) was playing the guitar and lights a cigarette.
In the morning Dick (Scott Wilson) comes out of an outhouse and asks his coughing father Mr. Hickock (Jeff Corey) if he is all right. Dick says he is going to help a friend and gets in a car.
The bus arrives in a city. Perry gets off carrying a bag and a large box on his shoulder; it is 8:30. At 10 a nun apologizes to Perry. He orders a root beer and buys aspirins, taking a few. He reads a letter from Dick about a sure thing that offers money. He says he will meet his bus.
Dick stops for gas, and Buddy sees guns in the back seat and says it is a perfect day for hunting pheasants. Dick says the birds don’t know it, but this is their last day on earth, and he laughs.
In a house Bonnie Clutter (Ruth Storey) kisses her father Herbert Clutter (John McLiam) good morning and says she has a busy day. He finds his son Kenyon Clutter (Paul Hough) in a work room and says he smells smoke. Bonnie tells her father the insurance man called, and he tells her anytime before dark.
Dick stops in a store and leaves a note for Perry Smith who will be checking in tomorrow. He asks to see a room.
Perry at a pay phone calls the Kansas State Penitentiary person-to-person to Reverend James Post. Perry tells him he is in Kansas City, waiting at the bus terminal in Kansas City waiting for Willie Day whom he was supposed to meet there. He asks if his parole was held up. Post says he has already broken his parole and warns him not to go into Kansas. Perry asks if he can tell him where he went. He says it is the most important thing in his life, but Post advises him to go back.
Dick runs and gets in his car.
Bonnie tells her father she promised Jolene she would teacher her to bake a pie, and she has other errands. He says he will take care of her mother’s errands, and she thanks him.
Perry in his underwear washes his face and feet in the men’s room. He admires his own physique in the mirror. He fantasizes playing guitar and singing at night to an audience that applauds. Dick comes in and asks why he goes into a trance when he looks in a mirror. Perry says the box has all his stuff.
Dick drives his car and talks with Perry welcoming him back to Kansas. He shows him a map that will get them real treasure. He says it is an office that has a safe. Perry asks if he has seen the safe. Dick says he knows someone who worked there who told him about it.
Outside Herbert Clutter says good morning to Roxie who is arriving on a bicycle.
In the car Perry remembers a motorcycle accident he had at night. He takes more aspirin, and Dick warns him he may become an aspirin junky. Perry says he picked up the habit in the hospital. He says doctors made a dwarf out of him. Dick does not like doctors and lawyers. He says there are two laws—one for the rich and one for the poor. He has lost girlfriends because he is poor.
In a store Dick buys tape and cord and steals razor blades. In the car Perry tells Dick it was stupid to steal the razor blades. Perry asks where the black stockings are. Dick says they can do without them hiding their faces. They see nuns crossing the street, and Perry says nuns are bad luck. He did not like nuns who hit him in an orphanage. He tells his fantasy of a yellow bird that killed nuns. While driving Dick drinks out of a bottle in a paper bag. Perry has an aversion to nuns, God, and religion. Dick says they won’t need the stockings because they are not going to leave any witnesses.
Two young women ride a horse and talk.
Dick stops at a place to get cheeseburgers. Perry remembers Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. He says his father prospected for gold in Alaska. Perry says that Dick never meant to go to Mexico, but Dick says they are going as soon as they get the $5,000 each for one hour’s work.
At night Herb Clutter is meeting with his insurance agent, and he takes out a life insurance policy for $40,000 with double indemnity for accidental death.
Dick and Perry are driving in the rain. Perry asks Dick why he picked him for this job. Dick says Perry is a natural-born killer, and he asks if he lied about the punk in Vegas. Perry says he killed him but for no special reason. Dick knows he has a hair-trigger temper and that he wanted to kill him for a moment. Perry talks about Willie Jay and says he has a brilliant mind and is the best friend he ever had. Dick says he is his only friend now. Perry says “until death do us part.”
Perry plays his guitar and remembers his childhood on a ranch watching his mother rope a steer like in a rodeo. She takes him on her horse for a ride.
Perry asks Dick how it feels being a father and if he loves his children. Dick says he is crazy about them, but their mother left him. Dick says he had to do the right thing by her. They enter Garden City, and Dick says it is only seven miles farther. They stop for gas, and Perry goes to the men’s room and takes aspirins. Dick buys candy and goes to the door and asks Perry if he wants candy. Perry says no and comes out.
Kenyon says goodnight to his father and goes upstairs to his room. Nancy combs her hair.
Dick and Perry cross a railroad track as the bar is coming down. They stop and see a sign that reads “H. W. Clutter, River Valley Farm.” Dick turns off the car lights and drives on slowly and stops. Dick sees the spread and says this guy is loaded. Perry says they should pull out of there now before it is too late, but Dick takes another drink and just looks at him.
Nancy is praying.
In the morning two women and a man ring the doorbell and come in. He says they may still be asleep. The girl calls to Nancy, and the man sees a phone off the hook. A loud scream is heard.
A police car arrives at the farm.
At the Finney County building an officer comes into a room with a rifle and cocks it.
In the home an officer tells the man who came in earlier not to touch anything. He says there are two more in the basement.
More official cars arrive. Outside some people have gathered to watch as bodies are taken out and put in cars.
Perry is sleeping on a bed.
Dick and his father watch the news of the murder on television which reports that four agents were assigned to the case. Dick asks his father what happened to the basketball game, and his father says it was interrupted. His father says it is a terrible thing, but Dick is eating and says he has never been so hungry in his life.
Alvin Dewey (John Forsythe) has been put in charge of the case and is in the house. He says all four were tied with the same square-knot that is used by anyone who worked with livestock. He says he found no shell casings and does not expect to find any fingerprints either. A man brings in the housekeeper, and Dewey tells her to look around and see if anything is missing. She says they never hurt anybody and wonders why them. A policeman is taking fingerprints on the desk, and another agent has a shoe-print he cuts out of cardboard. Dewey says the old Kansas myth is that farmers have lots of money somewhere. The agent asks why they cut Cutter’s neck if they were going to shoot them. Dewey says it could have been one madman.
In a meeting Dewey and the agents look at a film that shows prints from two different shoes. Dewey talks to reporters and says it happened around 2 a.m., and all four were shot by the same 12-gauge shotgun. He says all four were tied by the same nylon cord that can be purchased in hardware stores. Their mouths were taped. Bill Jensen (Paul Stewart) and other reporters ask questions. Another says a boyfriend was the last to see them alive, but Dewey says, “Except the killers.” They ask if the women were molested, and Dewey says the coroner said no. One asks why the dog did not bark, but Dewey says no one heard the shots either.
Jensen goes aside with Dewey and tells him that Herb Cutter signed a check for the first payment of a $40,000 life insurance policy the previous day, and the double indemnity applies making it $80,000. He calls it a strange coincidence. Dewey says that is all it is. He calls them violent, senseless crimes. Jensen says this makes people feel frightened. Dewey says they could have just walked in.
The housekeeper tells an agent that Mr. Clutter did not allow smoking in the house, and the agent puts out his cigarette. She says there was a radio and asks where it is.
In his room Dick and Perry are listening to a portable radio telling about the crime. Dick asks Perry if he wants his burger, and Perry throws it to him. Perry complains about his prison buddy Floyd who promised them $10,000. Dick calls it perfect, but Perry says they drove 800 miles and got only $43. Dick asks how they will be able to connect them with no witnesses. Perry says that Dick is a witness. Dick says if they can’t get a confession, they got nothing. He says their next move is Mexico. Perry asks how they will do that on $43.
News reports that a reward of $1,000 has been offered for evidence leading to a conviction. The FBI agents get calls from people making various claims. Dewey says the insurance money goes to the family. The other agent asks about the motive. Dewey asks who would do that for a radio, binoculars, and $40. The agent implies many people could do that.
Dick and Perry walk on a street and go into a clothing store. Dick talks to a salesman and says his friend is getting married. Perry is fitted for a suit as best man. The salesman notices that Perry has a big scar on his left leg, and Dick says it is from Korea. The salesman says the bill is $192.70. Dick says they could pick up the other things when the suit is ready. He has only $4 on him and offers to write a check. He shows identification cards and asks if he can make the check for $280.70 to get cash, and the salesman agrees.
On the street Dick says Perry needs a wedding ring if he is getting married. They come out of a jewelry store, and Perry has a ring. Dick hands him a watch.
A man puts a television in their back seat. While driving Perry says there must be something wrong with them. He feels they must have forgotten something that night. Dick says they are not going back because that would be insane.
Police are dragging a river under a bridge. Dewey says if they did not leave fingerprints, they would not have left a murder weapon. He drives to the house, and an agent gives him a report. Dewey tells him not to look up. He tells him to go to the office side, and Dewey says he will take the kitchen side. They catch a hunter with a beard and frisk him.
Perry says they are never coming back, but Dick says he is leaving his parents who will still be there when his checks start bouncing.
Dewey goes into a place and asks for coffee. The woman says no one who knew the Clutters hated them. She says no one is safe anymore.
An agent gets a call from a prison and learns that an inmate mentioned the Clutter case. His name is Floyd Wells. Dewey and four agents listen to a tape of Floyd talking about how Dick kept asking him questions about the Clutters. He says Dick said he was going to rob the place and kill all the witnesses. Dewey says it is a parole violation, and there are bounced checks.
Dick and Perry in the car cross a bridge into Mexico and are happy.
Dewey and another agent from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation visit Perry’s father Tex Smith (Charles McGraw). Dewey shows him a photo of Perry and asks him if that is his son. He says it is; he is part Cherokee and resembles his mother. The father admits that he has not seen him for several years. He says his son has learned his lesson. He says he taught his children the golden rule and to know right from wrong. He says his wife took the kids and ran off. He says she became an alcoholic. He says he caught her, and she died in her own vomit. He says Perry loved him when he was a boy. He told him stories of how he would strike it rich with gold in Alaska. He shows them a photo of them in Alaska. He says when he dies, all his insurance will go to Perry. Dewey and the agent leave.
Perry comes in and tells Dick that they can drive to Yucatan and buy diving gear to look for the Cortez gold. Dick says they got $120 for the car, and after paying their bills he bought two bus tickets to Barstow, California. He tells Perry to get rid of his garbage because they are going back to the States. He tells Perry there is no buried treasure, and he can’t even swim. He says he can go with him, or they can split. Perry says he will ship their stuff to Vegas. Dick is dressed up and says a señorita is coming over tonight, and he goes out.
Jensen shows Dewey a report on a study of senseless murders. He says they all felt physically inferior or sexually inadequate. They could not distinguish fantasy from reality. They did not know their victims. They said they felt the urge to kill before committing murder. Dewey asks him who killed the Clutters. Dewey talks about the motives of the newspapers. First they want the bastards found. Until then they want them fired. When they catch them, they accuse them of brutality. Before the trial the newspapers try them. When they are convicted, the newspapers want to save them. Jensen says he must know who did it. Dewey says they have suspects but no evidence. He says they have to tie the killer to that piece of rope.
Perry is packing his things in his box while he drinks liquor. Dick and the woman are undressing by the bed, and she puts on perfume. Perry looks at photos, and he looks at the woman in her underwear. Dick and the woman are dancing while children watch. He unfastens her bra while she is drinking. They lie on the bed in an embrace.
The cowboy Tex Smith comes in and starts whipping the woman. He pours liquor on her body and looks at Perry in this fantasy of his father.
In bed Dick asks the woman if it was really good.
On a highway in the desert Dick and Perry are hitch-hiking. A truck passes by. Dick says they need to score, and he plans how they can rob someone. A man in a jeep slows down but keeps on going. A convertible Cadillac stops, but Dick sees they are black and says he will not get in with them. He tells Perry the blacks could have robbed them.
An older man is driving a car as Dick sits in the front and Perry in back. Perry takes off his belt. Dick tells a morbid joke and gives Perry the signal. Perry is about to use his belt to strangle the driver; but he stops to pick up a soldier, and they stop.
Agent Harold Nye (Gerald S. O’Loughlin) asks Mr. Hickock if he has seen a Zenith portable radio. Hickock asks why his son always wants to hit out at people. He was an outstanding athlete. He asks if he will have to go back to prison for breaking parole. Nye finds a shotgun and asks if he hunts. Hickock says it is Dick’s gun. Hickock says he has cancer, and Dick knows that. Dick says he would never hurt him. Hickock says Dick loves his children.
Dick and Perry are hitch-hiking at night. They find their way into a barn and shiver with cold. Dick sees a convertible car and says they can go to Kansas City. Perry says he is crazy and asks how far he thinks they could get in a hot car. Perry says they should go to Vegas to get their stuff and then ship out on a tanker. Dick asks what if he does not go, and Perry says he will have to kill him. Dick says first they will pass hot checks to get money.
They are driving the new car, and Dick says they need a little more money.
Nye calls Dewey and tells him they stole a car and bought tires with two bad checks.
The Highway Patrol moves out. Nye goes to the Hickock farm in a sheriff car.
In an office Dewey asks Jensen why they would come back to Kansas, and Jensen says maybe they came back to get caught.
Perry is driving with Dick and stops to pick up a hitch-hiking boy and his grandfather. Dick asks if he has any money, even a dollar for gas. The boy shows him two coke bottles. Perry tells them to get in and calls it treasure, laughing. They drive on. Dick drives and stops as Perry and the boy pick up bottles and dump them in the back of the car. Perry finds a trash barrel full of bottles and calls it payday. They sing in the car.
At a parking lot the boy gives them half of the $12.60, and they drive off. They put the two large boxes in the car in Las Vegas. Dick says they could bet $5 and let it ride, hoping to get lucky.
Perry and Dick are in jail and are told they have visitors. They are taken to the visiting room while a deputy sets up a tape recorder. Dewey and Nye come in and watch Dick through a one-way window as he looks at himself in the mirror. Dewey asks the deputy what they charged them with, and he says driving a hot car.
Two agents question Dick, and he admits he signed the extradition papers. He admits he wrote bad checks and stole the car. He is ready to take what is coming to him.
Dewey and Nye ask Perry why he came back. He says he came back to get money from his sister in Fort Scott, but she moved away. They ask how far it is to Fort Scott, and he says he does not remember.
Dick says they went to a post office to find where Perry’s sister moved to. Dick says they drove back to Kansas City.
Dewey asks the names of two prostitutes they spent the night with, and Perry says he does not know. They ask him to describe the women, and he asks if they want the sordid details. Perry asks if that is how they get their kicks.
The agents tell Dick they are not there for the minor charges. They ask about the Clutter murder case, and Dick vehemently says they are not pinning any murder on him. They tell him they left a witness.
Dewey and another agent ask Perry about the night they killed the Clutter family. Perry says he never knew anyone by that name. The agent says they have a living witness, and Perry gets nervous. He asks for aspirin, and he says his legs hurt.
Dick laughs at them and says they have no real proof. One agent goes out. Dick swears by God he will burn in hell if he ever killed anybody.
Dewey and Nye compare notes on the interrogations.
Dick says everyone has a tattoo, but they call theirs Elks and golf clubs. An agent comes in with a suitcase and says they made three mistakes. First, they left a living witness. Second, their alibi won’t hold up. Third, he shows him photos of the shoe-prints and compares it to their shoes. Dick holds his head, and the agent asks for the truth. Dick says he never pulled the trigger. He says Perry did it, and he could not stop him. He says he killed them all, and then he falls off his chair.
Dick and Perry are handcuffed and put in different cars.
At night Dewey drives one car with Perry sitting next to him. He and the agent in the back talk to him about the case. Dewey tells him that Dick said that Perry killed all of them. He picked him because he needed a trigger. Perry had already killed a man. Perry looks back and says he is a tough guy. He says he never killed anybody, not before that night. Dewey gives him a cigarette. Perry says he wants to remember the way it was.
Dick and Perry arrive at the farm that night, and Perry suggests they pull out before it is too late. Perry tells Dick he has to do it alone. Dick asks how he killed the guy in Vegas.
Perry asks why he went along with it. He said it was like a story, and nothing was going to stop it.
They get out of the car. Perry carries the shotgun, and Dick uses a flashlight. They enter the house and look for the safe. Dick goes into a bedroom and with a knife orders Herbert Clutter to go with them to the office. He asks him where he keeps the safe. He says he has no safe. Perry rips out the cord of the telephone and asks where the other phone is. Clutter says it is in the kitchen. Perry takes the flashlight and in the kitchen cuts the telephone wire. He sees a young woman upstairs.
Dick says a rich man like him must have more money than that. Clutter says he can write him a check. He says his wife and daughter are upstairs. He puts on his glasses, and they make him go upstairs. He says he never harmed them. He goes in and tells his wife not to worry. She says there is no safe. Dick tells them to find it fast. Perry says Floyd Wells lied to Dick; there is no safe. Mrs. Clutter asks them not to shoot anyone. Herb says all they want is money. Perry ties Herb’s hands behind him. They also tie Kenyon’s hands behind his back. Nancy comes out of her room and asks if this is a joke. Dick tells her not to do anything, or they will cut their throats. They go downstairs with the men, and Perry turns on a light in the basement. He ties Herb’s hands by a cord to a pipe. Dick asks Kenyon about a wooden box, and he says it is a hope chest for his sister. Dick cocks the gun and tells “Pops” to pray that he finds the safe. Perry lashes Kenyon to a bench. Dick taps on walls. Perry asks Herb if he is cold, and he says yes. Perry cuts him loose, wraps his body in a blanket, and ties his feet to a bed. He puts tape over his mouth.
Perry goes back to Bonnie and ties her legs on a bed. Dick has found binoculars. Dick asks Nancy if she ever had a man; but Perry intervenes and asks if he found the safe. Dick says he is going to bust the girl, but Perry says no. He tells Dick to take the radio and go downstairs. Perry says he despises people who cannot control themselves. He asks Nancy if she goes to school. She says she is going to college next year to study music. He says he plays guitar. He sees photos and says she likes horses. He says his mother was a rodeo champion. He drops a coin and lies down and reaches under the bed to pick it up. Dick comes back and asks Perry if he is okay. Perry says they are ridiculous. He says Dick was tapping the walls like a woodpecker. Perry says he stole a silver dollar from a kid. He says it is stupid. Dick says it is us against them, but Perry says between them that it has nothing to do with the others. Perry imagines his father pointing a rifle. Perry looks with the flashlight at those tied up. While Dick holds the flashlight, Perry shoots the father and mother with the shotgun. Then they go to the other rooms and shoot the boy and the girl.
In the car Perry says it does not make sense; it had nothing to do with the Clutters. He says Mr. Clutter was a nice gentleman, but he cut his throat.
The agents park and take Perry and Dick into a building and up stairs.
In a courtroom the prosecutor (Will Geer) tells the jury that no one was there to plead mercy for the Clutter family. He says if they give them life imprisonment, they will be eligible for parole after seven years. He says they did not act from passion but planned murder for money, only $40. They brought the shotgun and the dagger with them and rope to hog-tie them. He says they had no pity and no mercy but now ask for theirs. He says they should weep for their victims, not for them. He reads from Exodus 20:13, “Thou shalt not kill.” Those who shed blood will have their blood shed.
Jensen reports that it took four hours to pick the jury; the state took three days to present its case, and the defense one and a half days: but the jury only took forty minutes to find them guilty. He asks how a sane man can commit a crazy act.
At the prison Perry and Dick are brought in. Jensen says now they wait to die. He says about 200 are waiting. They are taken to death row on the second floor. They can see a baseball field and a warehouse.
In the warehouse in the corner is a scaffold. They are to be executed on Friday May 13 on one minute after midnight. Jensen says that according to a forensic expert neither man would have done it alone, but together they made a third personality that did it.
Dick mops the floor in his cell, and he asks Andy what happens when they make the big drop. Andy says their neck breaks, and they crap in their pants. Dick laughs and says Andy has no respect for human life.
In his cell Perry has displayed drawings that he has been making.
Jensen says May 13 came and went. They appealed and were given a routine stay of execution. On death row they get one shower a week and two shaves a week. They have no radios, no movies, no TV, no cards, no games, no exercise, no mirrors, and no forks. They can eat, sleep, write, read, think, dream, pray, and wait.
Dick says the guy next door has been waiting on death row for two years. He says Andy killed his sister, his father, and his mother. Dick says Jensen is writing the story of his life. Dick introduces others who killed seven strangers. Jensen asks Dick about Perry, and Dick says no one gets along with him. He says Perry is the only one of the five who is against capital punishment. Dick is for it because he believes in revenge. Dick thanks him for the magazines, and Jensen walks over to see Perry who is talking to Rev. Post. Perry says he knew he was not ready for parole; but he did not tell him because he would not have got his parole.
They watch Andy crossing the baseball field to the gallows. They heard the trap door go. Jensen says Perry and Dick waited five years, and their case went to the United States Supreme Court three times.
On a rainy night Dick is taken in a car and in the warehouse he has read to him an order from the Supreme Court to carry out the execution.
In his cell Perry hears the prayers spoken by Post. Perry asks to go to the toilet, and he is told they can not undo his harness now. He is afraid he will mess himself, and the officer says they all do it. Post asks them to allow it, and they do so.
Jensen says the executioner is paid $300 for hanging each man. A man asks Dick if he has anything to say. He says he has no hard feelings, and they are sending him to a better world.
Perry is having the harness put back on, and he gives a book by Thoreau to Post if he wants it. A man opens his cell, and he asks if Dick is gone. Post asks Perry if he wants him to write his father; he offers to send him a painting or his bronze star. Perry tells him to send him his treasure maps; maybe he will get lucky. Perry says they almost had it made once in Alaska. They built a hunting lodge for tourists, and they would have a real home. He was happy when it was finished; but no tourists ever came. They lived there alone in that big, empty failure. His father could not stand the sight of him. He remembers his father yelling at him that he was a greedy bastard. His father got a gun, and he said I am the last living thing you will ever see. He pulled the trigger, but the gun was not loaded. His father began to cry. Perry says he went for a long walk. When he got back, all his stuff was piled outside in the snow. Perry says he will only miss his old man and his hopeless dreams. Post says he is glad that he does not hate his father anymore. Perry says he hates him, and he loves him.
In the warehouse Dick’s body is put in a hearse that drives off. Jensen sums up that four innocent and two guilty people were murdered. Three families were broken. Many newspapers were sold. Politicians made speeches and passed laws. Everyone passes the buck, and next year the same thing will happen again. Perry is taken from a car, and the warrant from the Kansas Supreme Court is read to him. He is asked what he wants to say. Perry says he would like to apologize, but he does not know whom to apologize to. He is led up the steps, and his legs are tied. Post reads the 23rd Psalm. Perry is blindfolded, and the noose is put around his neck. The platform opens, and his body is hanged.
This realistic drama of a true story portrays the two killers by showing their human side as well as their foolishness and immoral insanity, and this is contrasted to the intelligent and careful work done by the investigators to find the criminals.