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A SIMPLE TWIST OF FATE...
on 7 September 2003
I recently had the opportunity to view this film on television. A remake of the 1967 film of the same name, which was a fairly faithful adaptation of Truman Capote's sensational non-fiction book, this version does not disappoint the viewer. Although it does not have the gritty, quasi-documentary feel of the black and white 1967 film, which starred Robert Blake and Scott Wilson in the two lead roles, it is compelling in its own right and a fairly faithful adaptation.
The film follows the path of two losers, Dick Hickock (Anthony Edwards) and Perry Smith (Eric Roberts), as they careen towards catastrophe for themselves and for the hapless Klutter family of Holcomb, Kansas, upon whom they have set their sights. The pathology inherent in these two protagonists is chilling. It is also scary to think that a simple twist of fate would join them all in the annals of true crime.
While Hickock was incarcerated, a fellow inmate, Floyd Wells, who at one time years ago had worked for Herbert Klutter, the patriarch of the Klutter family, told Hickock that Klutter was a wealthy farmer who kept a large store of cash in a safe in the house. Given many details of the family and their house, Hickock fantasizes of making a big score, courtesy of the Klutter family.
When Hickock is released, he hooks up with his friend, Perry Smith. Smith, initially the more sympathetic of the two protagonists, is an individual with obvious psychological problems, deeply rooted in his troubled childhood, while Hickock, who seemed to have had a relatively normal childhood, is a totally amoral con man with little empathy for others. Together, these two spell trouble.
As they begin their preparations for their supposed big heist, the viewer gets a dose of the pathological psyche of these two pathetic individuals. Clearly, Hickock is the leader, with the troubled Smith seemingly reluctant to go along with Hickock's plans. It is chilling to watch them as their preparations and actions take them ever closer to their moment of reckoning with the Klutter family.
The film also tells a parallel story, that of the all-American Klutter family. The viewer sees how they lived and what their modest lives were like just shortly before theirs were to violently intersect those of Smith and Hickock on November 14, 1959. It is this poignant glimpse into their lives just before their senseless slaughter by these two strangers that makes the film so heartbreaking. Were it not for a simple twist of fate, this family might have gone on to live their lives in relative obscurity.
When Smith and Hickock finally reach the home of the Klutters that fateful night, they simply walk in through their unlocked door. Sleeping in the family home were the Clutters and their two teenage children. It would prove to be an unforgettable night for all concerned. The rest of the film focuses on the subsequent actions of Hickock and Perry, as well as on the investigation of the murders, which investigation ultimately saw this motley pair brought to justice.
Anthony Edwards gives an impressive performance as the creepy, amoral, and immature Hickock. He plays him as a big talker pumped with self-importance, a con man who cons Perry into thinking that this score will set them up for life. Eric Roberts plays Perry Smith as a sympathetic and somewhat sensitive character, who, but for the cruel twists of fate, might have had another kind of life. His portrayal makes the revelations at the end all that more surprising.
This is a very good film that does not try to copy the original 1967 film but, instead, forges its own path. The direction is excellent, as are the performances of the entire cast. Those who enjoy the true crime genre will find this film to be well worth watching.