“Based on a true story.” Hollywood has made that claim many a time, and while truth is usually the enemy of entertainment, the many successful films that have taken their inspiration from real-life crimes, robberies, and mysteries are the exceptions that defy the rule. After all, these are stories that literally write themselves, with pre-existing plots, charismatic villains, and puzzles to be solved. This November, we’ll be screening four such films, all landmark classics that show that truth can be stranger than fiction.
We’ll begin with the granddaddy of True Crime films, Richard Brooks’s adaptation of Truman Capote’s landmark In Cold Blood. As powerful on its 45th anniversary as it was upon release, Brooks’s film benefits greatly from its detailed, B&W location shooting and a haunting lead performance by Robert Blake. Released in the same year and set in the same location — the rural Midwest — Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde took a pair of Depression-era bank robbers and turned them into countercultural icons, foreshadowing the American New Wave and igniting a fierce controversy about violence in film. Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon, meanwhile, tells the story of a very different kind of bank robbery, as Al Pacino holds up a Manhattan bank to raise money for his partner’s sex-reassignment surgery. The acknowledged king of New York location-shooting, Lumet meets his match with none other than Alfred Hitchcock, who took to the streets of NYC to film The Wrong Man, the apotheosis of the master’s mistaken identity thrillers — and all the more terrifying for being, you guessed it, based on a true story.
Wednesday, Nov. 7, 8 p.m.
In Cold Blood
(Richard Brooks, US 1967, 134 min.)
Wednesday, Nov. 14, 8 p.m.
Dog Day Afternoon
(Sidney Lumet, US 1975, 125 min.)
Wednesday, Nov. 21, 8 p.m.
Bonnie and Clyde
(Arthur Penn, US 1967, 111 min.)
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 8 p.m.
The Wrong Man
(Alfred Hitchcock, US 1956, 105 min.)