The Thin Blue Line

( 1 )

Overview

Not many filmmakers can claim to have freed a convicted murderer from jail, but Errol Morris accomplished that feat with his stunning documentary about Randall Dale Adams. Morris, whose brilliant previous features Vernon, Florida and Gates of Heaven had focused on less substantial subjects, learned of Adams' plight when the director was in Texas in preparation for a film about a psychiatrist who testified in murder trials. In November 1976, after his car broke down on a road outside Dallas, Adams had accepted a ...
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Overview

Not many filmmakers can claim to have freed a convicted murderer from jail, but Errol Morris accomplished that feat with his stunning documentary about Randall Dale Adams. Morris, whose brilliant previous features Vernon, Florida and Gates of Heaven had focused on less substantial subjects, learned of Adams' plight when the director was in Texas in preparation for a film about a psychiatrist who testified in murder trials. In November 1976, after his car broke down on a road outside Dallas, Adams had accepted a ride from a stranger, David Harris. Harris was driving a stolen car, and when Dallas police officer Robert Wood pulled the two men over to check on the vehicle, Harris shot and killed Wood. A jury believed that Adams was the killer, thanks to the perjured testimony of Harris and the misleading accounts of two witnesses. A story about Adams on 60 Minutes helped to bring public attention to the case, but it was Morris' film, which contained extensive interview material with both Adams and Harris as well as stylized reenactments of the crime, that clinched the case for Adams' innocence. He was set free on March 15, 1988. Although Morris' film made many critics' top ten lists, it was unaccountably not nominated for an Academy award, raising doubts about the credibility of the Motion Picture Academy's nominating process in this category.
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Pete Segall
To call Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line noir would probably be misleading, but in truth, Morris's 1988 documentary about the murder of a Dallas police officer is so icily detached and brutally ironic that the movie has much in common with the hard-boiled fiction of Jim Thompson and Raymond Chandler. The film deals with Randall Dale Adams, a slight, well-spoken man with a mild drawl who is on death row, ostensibly for shooting a Dallas police officer who stopped him for a traffic violation in 1976. Instead of lingering on Adams, however, Morris -- a former private investigator -- begins dissecting the case, and he very quickly finds a strange collection of characters inhabiting the Texas criminal justice system. There's James Grigson, the state psychiatrist dubbed "Doctor Death" for his propensity for testifying that accused murderers are psychopathic monsters; the county prosecutor who prides himself on having never lost a capital murder case; the bickering couple who agree to testify against Harris in exchange for dropping armed robbery charges pending against their daughter; and David Harris, a 16-year-old petty crook, who eventually exonerates Adams. The drama is heightened by stylized reenactments of the crime, which are replayed and altered slightly each time new evidence enters the equation. Phillip Glass's typically trance-inducing music perfectly underscores this unique and mesmerizing film -- both a trenchant documentary about the knotted state of the criminal justice system and a brooding detective story.
All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
As good as his previous two films were (Vernon, Florida and Gates of Heaven), director Errol Morris caught a lot of people, including his fans, by surprise with The Thin Blue Line. Morris had shown affection for quirky people in Vernon and Gates, both of them filmed in an unadorned style. But his third feature displayed not only a seriousness of purpose but also proved to be a technical coming-out party for him. He had developed a camera system which allowed him to talk with his subjects while they looked directly into the lens, connecting them much more strongly to the viewer. That was crucial here, because The Thin Blue Line is, in part, about the reliability of two men: Adams, the accused killer, and David Harris, the real killer. Morris also made the bold decision not only to stage a reenactment of the crime, but to play it over and over from different angles. In this way, he demonstrated how witnesses to the crime might have misinterpreted what they thought they saw; in essence, the viewer becomes a football referee reviewing the videotape of a disputed play from several different angles to render a fair judgment. And this is one documentary where the composer made a significant contribution; Philip Glass' hypnotic score reinforces the sense of sifting and re-sifting the evidence to get at the truth.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/26/2000
  • UPC: 013131129335
  • Original Release: 1988
  • Rating:

  • Source: STARZ / ANCHOR BAY
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Randall Adams Participant
David Harris Participant
Dale Holt Participant
Jackie Johnson Participant
Gus Rose Participant
Marshall Touchton Participant
Technical Credits
Errol Morris Director, Screenwriter
Steve Aaron Sound/Sound Designer
Ted Bafaloukos Production Designer
Paul Barnes Editor
Ned Burgess Cinematographer
Phillipe Carr-Foster Cinematographer
Robert Chappell Cinematographer
Lester Cohen Art Director
Stefan Czapsky Cinematographer
Brad Fuller Associate Producer, Sound/Sound Designer
Brad Fuller Associate Producer, Sound/Sound Designer
Philip Glass Score Composer
Lidsay Law Executive Producer, Producer
Mark Lipson Producer
Peter Sova Cinematographer
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2002

    Great film

    This is an excellent and engrossing film, though it feels a little long. One error I must point out in the AMG synopsis: Adams was not in the car when the murder took place, he was home watching television. Earlier in the day, he had met Harris and been given a ride home. Later Harris fingered him when he was caught, to escape punishment.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews