Originally screened as a 4-episode television series on Sundance TV last September, this near three-hour cinema release details the famous murders of The Clutter family in Kansas in 1959 – the subject of Truman Capote’s best seller In Cold Blood.
Most of this documentary is just conventional television crime reporting and wouldn’t be out of place on Foxtel’s Crime Investigation channel. It goes over this well-known multiple murder in what director Joe Berlinger probably considers admirable detail, but to anyone with even a passing knowledge of In Cold Blood (book, film or both) there’s plenty of time to wonder why this documentary had two screenings at the Sydney Film Festival.
Maybe it’s a ticket seller to a generation who wouldn’t dream of reading a book, let alone pay for cable television.
Things improve a bit in the last hour, with the hangings of the perpetrators Perry Smith and Richard Hickock; the publication of Capote’s “non-fiction novel”; the price he would pay with his health and career; and the criticisms of the book by some Holcomb/Garden City residents and representatives of the Clutter family.
At least it adds some new material to this very well-known and tragic event.