This two-part TV mini-series isn't as good as the original from 1966 but it's solid. The original benefited from a huge number of things---it was all in black and white, it had a great jazz score and it was filmed at the real locations, including the home of the doomed Clutter family. That was important because in the book and in the original movie the home is very much a character itself.
This remake was filmed in Canada which I guess doubles okay for Kansas. The story tries to be as sympathetic to Perry as it dares to and Eric Roberts plays him as a somewhat fey person, his homosexuality barely hidden. The gentler take by Roberts doesn't quite work in the end though because it's hard to believe that his version of Perry Smith would just finally explode in a spasm of murder. Whereas Robert Blake's take on Smith left you no doubt that his Perry Smith was an extremely dangerous character.
Anthony Edwards was excellent as the bombastic, big-mouthed and ultimately cowardly Dick Hickcock, the brains of the outfit. His performance compares very well to Scott Wilson's role in the original movie.
Since this is a longer movie it allows more time to develop the Clutter family and in this regard I think the 1996 movie has an advantage. The Clutters are just an outstanding, decent family. They've never harmed another soul and it is just inexplicable that such a decent family is ultimately massacred in such a horrifying way. It still boggles my mind that, after the Clutters were locked in the bathroom, that Herb Clutter didn't force out the window so at least his children would have a chance to escape. This movie has the thought occur to him, but too late. From what I read about the real home, which is still standing, the way the bathroom is configured they could've opened the counter drawers and effectively barricaded the door which would've forced the killers to blast their way in. But it might've bought time for some of the Clutters to escape. Why the Clutters didn't try this, I have no idea.
Fans of the book will recognize that this movie takes a lot of liberties with how the crime is committed but not too serious. Still, it's distracting to viewers like me who have read tons about the case. The actors playing the cops, led by Sam Neill and Leo Rossi, are uniformly excellent, much better, I think, as a group, than the actors in the original movie. They know that to secure the noose around the necks of both of them they have to get them to confess. And the officers come to the interview impeccably prepared. They had already discovered the likely alibi the phony story of going to Fort Scott, and had debunked every jot of it. The officers then let Smith & Hickcock just walk into their trap. Hickcock is a b.s. artist who figures he can convince anyone of anything and the officers respectfully let him tell his cover story. But when they lower the boom on him, he shatters very quickly. It's very well filmed and acted and very gratifying to watch because the viewer naturally should loath Hickcock in particular by this point, a cowardly con-man who needs the easily manipulated Smith to do his killing for him. Supposedly Hickcock later stated that the real reason for the crime wasn't to steal money from the Clutters but to rape Nancy Clutter. At least she was spared that degradation.
The actors playing the Clutters are very good, Kevin Tighe as Herb Clutter in particular. The story sensitively deals with Mrs. Clutter's emotional problems, most likely clinical depression, and Mrs. Clutter displays remarkable inner strength when she firmly and strongly demands that the killers leave her daughter alone. From what I've read the Clutters' surviving family was particularly bothered by how Bonnie Clutter was portrayed in the book, claiming it was entirely untrue. But as an aside, both of the killers related to the police how Mr. Clutter asked them to not bother his wife because of her long illness. Capote might make up that fiction to make the character of Bonnie more interesting but certainly the killers had no reason to falsely portray Mrs. Clutter and no doubt much of the conversation in the book (duplicated in the movies) is right off the taped confessions of the killers. So it would've been nonsensical for Herb to have said that and not have it be true.
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