Cold Blooded: New documentaries pick up where In Cold Blooded left off (2023)


Truman Capote focused on the killers, so documentary maker Joe Berlinger went back to find out who the victims really were

Truman Capotescold bloodedis widely regarded as the first book in the true crime genre - it has influenced everything since it came out in 1966Heroes SkelterTomake a killerto the podcastSerial.Capote's non-fiction literary work is a journalistic insight into the brutal murder of the Clutter family in November 1959 in Holcomb, Kansas, a horrific crime in small town America that shocked and terrified the nation. Capote's book became a bestseller, garnering him international acclaim and spotlighting the murderers of the Clutter family, Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, whom Capote interviewed extensively. But it didn't exactly tell the whole story.

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Documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger was determined to change that. Long a fan ofcold-blooded,With the three-parter he had put his own stamp on the true crime genreparadise lostSeries following the conviction and eventual exoneration of the West Memphis Three. But despite Berlinger's admiration for Capote's work, it was the seminal book's flaws that inspired him to make a documentary series about the murders. Many locals felt that the victims — a respected family led by farmer Herbert Clutter, as well as his wife Bonnie Mae, their 16-year-old daughter Nancy and their 15-year-old son Kenyon — were secondary to Capote's focus on the killers and that they were inaccurately represented.In Cold Blood: The Clutter Family Murderswas released on the Sundance channel in November but debuted online this month on Sundance Now; The four-part series includes never-before-seen footage of the victims and exclusive interviews with members of the Clutter family, who speak for the first time about the tragedy that made their family a household name.

"It's not like we're re-examining and presenting a whole new theory and you're going to look at the show and be like, 'Oh my God, that's a whole different way of looking at what happened,'" Berlingertold theKansas-City-Star last fall."I think it's just the first time someone has really stepped back, really focused on what the family was like and who they are, and humanizing them as the investigation unfolded. [It's] a little bit about how reality is a little bit different from the [Capote] book.”

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With that in mind, here are five things we've learned fromIn Cold Blood: The Clutter Family Murders.

The killers gave vivid descriptions of the murders to anyone who would listen
The motive for the murders was never disputed; Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, both on parole, went to Clutter Farm under the mistaken assumption that Herbert Clutter had hidden thousands of dollars in a safe on the property. Instead, they walked away with $50, binoculars, and a radio, but not before butchering the family inside. All four were shot, but Smith slit Herbert's throat first, a moment Hickock would later detail to police as a "gurgling noise."

Don Cullivan, one of Smith's former Army friends who is interviewed on the series, said that when Smith visited him in prison, he recounted the moment he took out the Clutter patriarch with a shotgun to the head. "He said, 'When I pulled the trigger, there was a flash of blue light. I could see his head was shattered,'” says Cullivancold blooded

Cold Blooded: New documentaries pick up where In Cold Blooded left off (1)

Nancy Clutter would still be alive if there hadn't been a new date
Nancy Clutter's favorite, Bobby Rupp, was the last person to see the Clutter family alive and was briefly treated as a suspect before being disfellowshipped. What has haunted him for years is how different things would have been, at least for Nancy, had they stuck to their originally planned date for next weekend.

"We were planning to go to a midnight movie on Saturday night, and Herb suggested we go on Friday night," Rupp says on the show. "If we hadn't gone Friday night and gone Saturday night, how different things would have been."

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Bonnie Clutter wasn't depressed
Of all the reported inaccuracies in Capote's book, the Clutter family is perhaps the most dissatisfiedhis portrayal of Bonnie Mae Clutter. Capote wrote of Bonnie that after the birth of the couple's four children, she was incapacitated by clinical depression and various physical ailments, but according to family members, Bonnie was far from unhappy. She was a member of the local garden club, a church regular and involved in the local community, the series states. Although she suffered from some pain issues, these were manageable, and she was not bedridden or overcome by the depression described by Capote.


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Capote never reached out to the Clutter family to address their concerns after the book's publication
Capote was a man on a mission when he landed in Holcomb with his best friend, celebratedKilling a mockingbirdAuthor Harper Lee, in tow. Though originally from a small town himself (he and Lee were neighbors growing up), the quirky New York writer stuck out like a sore thumb and was not exactly warmly received by the grieving community, who rightly suspected his motives. Eventually, Capote was able to develop a relationship with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which allowed him to interview Smith and Hickock after they were arrested by the police.

Capote also wanted to visit the crime scene and was able to gain access to the Clutter family farm by walking from room to room where the bodies were found - a macabre tour narrated by the Clutter family's niece, Diana Edwards, in the series "a called injury. She will be interviewed throughout the show, specifically about the pain felt by the family as their tragedy became a source of fascination for the whole country.

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“Nobody talked about it; no one,” says Edwards incold blooded "My family never spoke about it. My mother never mentioned it. It was too painful - and I realized there is a time when something is literally unspeakable. It was indescribable."

The fact that Capote didn't care about their arguments only rubbed salt in the wound with his performance. Ifcold bloodedPublished seven years after the murders, the Clutter family made it clear that they disputed some of Capote's characterizations of their deceased loved ones - but had never heard a word from Capote, who would go on to win numerous awards for his work.

Cold Blooded: New documentaries pick up where In Cold Blooded left off (2)

"As far as I understand there was an initial contact to gain access and when the book came out there was no contact."Berlinersaid Fox News. "And no attempt to correct her feelings that the portrait is problematic... I think there should have been a bigger attempt to address her issues. The evidence shows that there was no such attempt.”

Harper Lee advised those involved in the case to avoid the press
One of the participants in the documentaries is Paul Dewey, whose family were longtime friends of the Clutters and whose father Alvin led the investigation into their murders.

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"It wasn't just another case for my father," says Dewey in the film, who was nine years old at the time of the murder. "It was very personal."

Capote may have rubbed the townsfolk the wrong way and left with few friends, but his pal Harper Lee made a more positive impression. Dewey developed a close relationship with Lee, who was known to shun the limelight after writingKilling a mockingbird.You and Capote drifted apart in the years that followedcold blooded's publication, and she had some advice for those who have been let down by the book.

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"Over the years we became friends ... and after my mom and dad died, she advised my brother and I not to talk," Dewey saidexplained in the series. It was advice he followed for a long time until Berlinger came knocking.

"I'm the last person to know about my family and relationship with Truman and Nelle [Lee's real name]," Dewey said of his decision to participatecold-blooded,He even ransacked his parents' attic to pull out boxes of archived footage, photos, and most importantly, his father's case files. "I felt like it was probably time to share this story."


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