Life has a funny habit of imitating art, but it's still bitterly ironic that actor Robert Blake - - who made his name playing real-life killer Perry Smith in Richard Brooks' 1967 masterpiece - - should now be on trial for murdering his wife. If convicted though, Blake won't suffer the same fate as Smith, executed in 1965 - - along with fellow drifter Dick Hickock (Scott Wilson) - - for the slaughter of a Kansas family.
Based on Truman Capote's bestseller, Brooks' chilling classic recreates this deed and its perpetrators' path to the gallows with clarity and power. Superbly shot in black-and-white by the late Conrad L Hall, the film's relentless pursuit of authenticity extended to shooting at the actual murder scene and having Smith and Perry's hangman double for himself.
Even more unsettling, though, is the way Brooks makes us co-conspirators, sneakily rooting for the criminals even as we await their inevitable demise.