In Cold Blood (1967) vs. Making a Murderer (2015)


Crime fiction films are undeniably among the most popular of narrative genres today. In its broadest sense, it includes any film that has crime, most often murder.  Such films have different characters with different motives. There is also a central character formally or informally acting as a detective. Usually, the investigators collect evidence about the crime and the involved victims. The detectives interview all suspects, victims, and witnesses after which they help to solve the mystery by identifying the real criminals that are ultimately arrested and charged. These aspects of crime fiction films can be observed in two famous crime films namely In Cold Blood (1967) and Making a Murderer (2015). Both films are developed around disturbing actions of murderers. Anyone who has watched these two films would confirm how similar the two films are despite having been released close to 50 years apart. The primary aim of this paper is to compare and contrast In Cold Blood (1967) with Making a Murderer (2015). 


Brief Synopsis of the Films

To have a complete understanding of how In Cold Blood (1967) and Making a Murderer (2015) compare, it is dire for one first to have a general idea of what the two films’ storylines entail.  

In Cold Blood (1967)

Centered on Truman Capote’s seminal true-crime novel In Cold Blood published in 1966, In Cold Blood (1967) film narrates how two assailants named Perry Smith and Dick Hickock meet in Kansas to conceive a plan to raid the home of the Clutter family in the rural town of Holcomb in Kansas. A tipoff that Dick Hickock had received from a fellow inmate that there was $10,000 stored in a safe in the family home motivated the raid plan. On the night of 15th November 1959, Perry and Dick raid the home. They rouse the four members of the Clutter family from sleep and subsequently bound, gag, and murder them in cold blood. The execution was after their raid disastrously failed as the two only got $43 far below their expected $10,000. After the botched robbery, the two hide so as to avoid arrest. The two head to the South and cross the border to Mexico. Murder investigations led by a detective named Alvin Dewey soon start trying to identify and arrest the killers.  Unfortunately, the two are detained in Las Vegas where they had soon returned to try to win money at gambling. They are charged with violating parole and being in procession of a stolen car as well as passing fake checks. The police interrogate Perry and Dick separately. Each admits the accusation of passing bad checks bit denied having killed the Clutter family. The police present a piece of evidence unknowingly left by the two. After seeing a bloody footprint matching a boot worn by one of them, Dick confesses but requests not to be executed for the crimes saying that Perry committed the murders. After Perry learns of Dick’s confession, he recounts how he wielded the knife and pulled the trigger to kill the four the Clutters: Mr. and Mrs. Clutter and two young children named Kenyon and Nancy. The two are found guilty and are sentenced to murder. 

Making a Murderer (2015)

Making a Murderer (2015) details the life of Steven Avery, a man from Wisconsin, and whose family possessed an salvage yard in Manitowoc County. In 1985, Avery was detained and prosecuted with having sexually assaulted a girl named Penny Beerntsen (IMDB). After spending 18 years in prison, Avery was acquitted in 2003 after it emerged that the DNA evidence supporting the case against him matched to another criminal in the area. After his release, Avery soon filed a $36 million civil complaint against the Manitowoc County and all its officers suspected to have influenced his arrest and conviction (IMDB). Unluckily, Avery is soon rearrested with crimes that he was a prime suspect in the slaying of Teresa Halbach, a photographer killed on Avery family property where she had been invited to photograph a minivan for sale. Making a Murder (2015) seeks to explore the issues and procedures in the Manitowoc County Sherriff’s department that led to the original convictions on Avery. The film suggests that the Avery finds himself a prime suspect in the grisly murder crime for his persistence in exposing corruption among the county officials in local law enforcement (IMDB). The instance leads to a conflict of interest in conducting the investigation of Halbach’s murder in which Avery and his nephew named Brendan Dassey are thought to be the assailants.  


It is eerie how In Cold Blood (1967) and Making a Murderer (2015) compare as same teams had produced them. These films show an array of similarities. Firstly, both In Cold Blood (1967) and Making a Murderer (2015) are based on real-life stories. In Cold Blood (1967) builds on a real murder case of the Clutter family that happened on 13th November 1959. Capote first traveled to Kansas just after the assassination of the Clutter family on an investigative mission (IMDB). Six years later, 1966, he released a book entitled on Cold Blood. The non-fiction novel then gave rise to a film by the same title. Similarly, Making a Murderer (2016) is based on an accurate account of the murder of a local female photographer named Teresa Halbach that took place in 2005 (IMDB). After an investigative process, the film was released in 2015. As such, implications are that both the murder cases would have remained uncovered to a huge audience forever if the films had not been released. 

Secondly, both the hair-raising crimes and subsequent events narrated by the films happened in local settings in small Middle American farming families. In Cold Blood (1967) is set in Holcomb in Kansas while Making of a Murderer (2015) happens in the Avery junkyard in tiny unincorporated crossroads in Larrabee, Wisconsin. Because of the remote set ups, the shock of the events appears magnified as no such serious murders are common in such settings. 

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Thirdly, the two films show similarities in their origins. The topics of the two media sensations were arrived at from the same location. Truman Capote for In Cold Blood (1967) and Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi for Making a Murderer (2015) were on the mission of finding compelling subject matters to use for a large scale project. They found their topics ideal after reading articles that caught their attention in the same paper, that is, The New York Times. This was despite the fact that the two heinous events happened in 1959 and 2005 respectively, which is almost half-a-century apart. Fourthly, the storylines of both the films show that one of the accused was the dominant murderer while the other was a more passive accomplice. In Cold Blood’s primary killer was Dick Hickock while Perry Smith was just an accomplice (IMDB). In Making a Murder, Steven Avery is considered the prime suspect while his nephew is considered an accomplice also involved in the homicide crime

Finally, In Cold Blood (1967) and Making a Murderer (2015) have a common mission, which is, reflecting on murder and their consequences. In Cold Blood (1967) shows how Perry Smith and Dick Hickock are sentenced to death for killing the Clutter family in cold blood. Besides, there is the issue of loss of innocence among the affected victims. The residents of Holcomb were before the killings living in a calm, safe, and peaceful environment that did not have much action. However, the brutal murder of the after the Clutter family led to fear, mistrust, tension when the residents thought that and developed fear of each other and acted like they could not adjust to the sad situation. This is similar to Making of a Murder (2015) in which Steven Avery and his nephew are jailed on the accusations of murder (IMDB). Besides, there is a loss of innocence in the sense that Avery and his nephew are considered to be enemies to the village in spite of having committed no murder. In his first conviction, Avery is wrongfully detained on accusations of having raped a child and served 18 years. However, all these allegations are lies seeing that they are emerging from a conflict of interest between Avery and the Manitowoc County’s officers. 


In Cold Blood (1967) and Making a Murderer (2015) have their differences. Whereas only one victim was killed in Making a Murderer, a family of four was killed in In Cold Blood. Also, even though both incidents took place in remote settings, the killing of the Clutter family in In Cold Blood happened on the family’s firm while the murder of Teresa Halbach in Making a Murderer was on the edge of a scrap yard. Nevertheless, Teresa has been raised on her family’s dairy farm. 

The second difference is that the case on the killing of the Clutter family is short-lived reason being that Both Perry and Dick Hickock made full confessions after they were arrested. They were sentenced to death despite having an alibi. In the contrast, the case of the murder of Teresa Halbach has lasted for a long time, and will continue to be discussed for years. The reason for this is that suspects have not admitted executing the said atrocities despite many years of court proceedings. 


The paper compared and contrasted two films namely In Cold Blood (1967) and Making a Murderer (2015). It emerges that the movies despite having been released about 50 years apart have an array of similarities, but differences as well. Both films narrate on high profile crimes involving murder based on real life scenarios. In Cold Blood recounts the killing of all members of the Clutter family while Making a Murderer narrates how a local female photographer named Teresa Halbach was killed. The films are similar in aspects regarding setting, themes, origin, and characters. Nevertheless, the films differ in some aspects such as setting and the severity of atrocities they are presenting. 

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