In Cold Blood Research Essay, Research Paper
Mark Jennings Jennings 1
29 March 1999
In Cold Blood Novel to Movie Comparison
The book, ?In Cold Blood?, is a nonfiction story by Truman Capote. This book presents one of the worst murders in history. It was a best seller worldwide, and turned into a successful movie. As usual the movie does not stand up to the book. If you want more knowledge of the townspeople, victims and more insight into the trial, more background details of the murders, you should read the book. If you are interested in history and a good murder mystery all in the confines of a book cover, read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.
While reading the book ?In Cold Blood? you are introduced to the Clutter family one by one. You learn that Herb Clutter is the head of the house. He is well liked and respected by the townspeople. Mr. Clutter was a prosperous farmer. As the reader, you learn that Bonnie Clutter, Herb Clutter?s, wife is a recluse due to fainting spells. This caused her to stay close to home, inside a lot. Nancy is the daughter of Herb and Bonnie, and she is popular with her peers and liked throughout the town. The last of the Clutter family to be introduced to us is Kenyon, the son of Herb and Bonnie and Nancy?s brother. These are the victims of the awful murders. You get to know them all. In the movie they are humanized, but in the book you get to know them better.
The movie shows us a very disturbed Perry Smith and a cunning, want to get rich quick, Dick Hickock. While the book details Perry?s life in the juvenile detention center, his life in the convent, and the closeness he
shared with his sister Barbara. The movie closely mirrored this, and you see great detail of Perry Smith?s childhood.
Mr. Capote sets the stage and the fill of the town nicely, by describing in detail the drive into town. He sets the mood of the town and you soon feel like you are right at home. The viewer does not get this same effect watching the movie, as the reader does in the first few pages of the novel. The tone is set quickly and effectively. With the book and the movie you ?are not being invited into fictional believe and deaths, into the imagination, but into the absorbing reality of flesh and blood?. (McCabe 561).
The good people of Holcomb do not like strangers, but are faithful to their neighbors. Truman Capote traveled to Kansas in the fall of 1959, ?with a footlocker of comestibles sufficient to support a few weeks of life in the forbidden land?. (Literary Classics 2). The population of Holcomb was untrusting and suspicious of anyone alien to it. In due time Mr. Capote became as much a fixture of Finney County, Kansas as the roadside signs welcoming you to their fair city.
During the investigation the reader gets totally involved with Alvin Dewey, the main detective in the Clutter investigation. ?When they find Smith and Hickock, Capote makes the reader wants to cheer aloud for the investigators.? (Manaly 1). The movie is not as involved, you do not get as caught up in the investigation while watching the events of their capture unfold, as you do while reading Capotes reenactment.
The trial was scheduled to start on March 22, 1960. The novel follows the trial extremely close. Mr. Capote was there in Garden City
where the trial would be held. The defendants? lawyer asks for Smith and Hickock to be sent to a state mental hospital in Larned, for evaluation,
Judge Tate denied the request. Assistant prosecuting attorney, Logan Green, pointed out to the court that Kansas law, in regard to sanity, adheres to the M?Naghten Rule, the ancient British importation which contends that ?if the accused knew the nature of his act, he knew it was wrong, then he is mentally competent and responsible for his action. Furthermore,? said Green, ? there was nothing in the Kansas statutes indicating that the physicians chosen to determine a defendant?s mental condition must be of any particular qualifications. ?Just plain doctors, medical doctors in general practice. That?s all the law requires. We have sanity hearings in this country every year for the purpose of committing people to institutions. It?s no great job to bind whether a man is insane or an idiot or an imbecile?It is entirely unnecessary, a waste of time to sent the defendants to Larned.?? (Capote 267). Judge Tate did what was asked of him by the law and called their local doctor to examine the men. They were found quite sane after an hour with the doctors. The movie did not investigate this part of the novel, it could have offered today?s lawyers a great reason for appeal or new trial. By not reading the book you miss a lot of these details.
As the movie unfolds you feel how useless and stupid these murders are. This is a true, also in the book, while reading In Cold Blood the details of the murder are so gruesome and with no reasoning it makes it hard to read, or watch. While Dr. Jones testified about his study of Perry Smith, he was not allowed to speak of his personal findings. Had he been allowed to, he would have testified: ?Perry Smith shows definite signs of severe mental illness. His childhood, related to me and verified by
portions of the prison records was marked by brutality and lack of concern of the part of both parents. He seems to have grownup without direction,
without love, and without ever having absorbed any fixed sense of moral values.? (Capote 296-297). The movie does not do a good job following the trial. To understanding the trial and the doctors? testimony you must read the book. Moviegoers do not see the depth of the judicial system.
The murder scene is a different story, the description is graphic reading, and they transform his part of the book extremely well. Dr. Satten says of Perry Smith, this was a ?murder without apparent motive?. ?Obviously, three of the murders Smith committed were logically motivated-Nancy, Kenyon and their mother had to be killed because Mr. Clutter had been killed.? (Capote 301-302). In his confession, Smith said, ?I didn?t want to harm the man. I thought he was a very nice gentleman, soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat.? (Capote, 302). Smith and Hickock tied the father and son in the basement. They tied the mother and daughter in their beds, they went back and gagged each one with tape, and wrapped the tape around their heads as if they were wrapping mummies. They killed Mr. Clutter first, all the time he begged for the safety of his wife and children. Smith shot him in the head with his shotgun; the turned it on Kenyon, when they got to Nancy?s room Smith gave the gun to Hickock, he kill the two women the same way Perry had killed the men. The movie and the book closely mirror each other as far as the murder scenes and execution scenes.
The Kansas Supreme Court decreed that Smith and Hickock?s lives must end between midnight and 2:00 A.M., Wednesday, April 14, 1965. (Capote 337). Hickock, 33, died first at 12:41 A.M. Smith, 36, died at 1:19 A.M. (Capote 337).
The warden had asked Perry and Dick if they had any last words, ?Dick nodded, ?I just want to say I hold no hard feelings. You people are
sending me to a better world than this ever was?; then, as if to emphasize the point, he shook hands with the four men responsible for his capture and conviction, all of whom had requested permission to attend the executions: K.B.I. Agents, Roy Church, Clarence Duntz, Harold Nye, an Dewey himself. ?Nice to see you,? Hickock said with his most charming smile; it was as if he were greeting guests at his own funeral. (Capote 339). His actions just reaffirmed the reader?s feelings that this man has a heart of stone. Smith?s last words were ?I think, it?s a helluva thing to take a life in this manner. I don?t believe in capital punishment, normally or legally. Maybe I had something to contribute, something-.? (Capote 340). ?His assurance faltered shyness blurred his voice, lowered it to a just audible level. ?It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize.?? (Capote 340) This makes you think he has some remorse, then he spits his gum in the Chaplains outstretched palm. He has no remorse or respect for life.
The novel into a movie, how does it compare? The novel is slow in places, but gives a lot more depth to most of the story telling. The movie is well written and tells the basic story well.
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?Literary Classics.? (Mar. 18, 1999): n. pag. Online. Available: http://www.bomc.com.
?Manaly Analysis: In Cold Blood?. (Mar. 18, 1999): n. pag. Online. Available: http://www.showcase.com.
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