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The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Crime, Drama | 25 August 1988 (USA)
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2:40 | Trailer
A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas.

Director:

Errol Morris

Writer:

Errol Morris
12 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Randall Adams Randall Adams ... Himself
David Ray Harris David Ray Harris ... Himself
Gus Rose Gus Rose ... Himself (Homicide Detective in Dallas)
Jackie Johnson Jackie Johnson ... Herself (Homicide Detective in Dallas)
Marshall Touchton Marshall Touchton ... Himself (Homicide Detective in Dallas)
Dale Holt Dale Holt ... Himself (Internal Affairs Investigator in Dallas)
Sam Kittrell Sam Kittrell ... Himself (Police Detective in Vidor)
Hootie Nelson Hootie Nelson ... Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Dennis Johnson Dennis Johnson ... Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Floyd Jackson Floyd Jackson ... Himself (Friend of David Harris in Vidor)
Edith James Edith James ... Herself (Defense Attorney)
Dennis White Dennis White ... Himself (Defense Attorney)
Don Metcalfe Don Metcalfe ... Himself (The Judge)
Emily Miller Emily Miller ... Herself (Surprise Eyewitness)
R.L. Miller R.L. Miller ... Himself (Surprise Eyewitness)
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Storyline

Errol Morris's unique documentary dramatically re-enacts the crime scene and investigation of a police officer's murder in Dallas, Texas. Briefly, a drifter (Randall Adams) ran out of gas and was picked up by a 16-year-old runaway (David Harris). Later that night, they drank some beer, smoked some marijuana, and went to the movies. Then, their stories diverged. Adams claimed that he left for his motel, where he was staying with his brother, and went to sleep. Harris, however, said that they were stopped by police late that night, and Adams suddenly shot the officer approaching their car. The film shows the audience the evidence gathered by the police, who were under extreme pressure to clear the case. It strongly makes a point that the circumstantial evidence was very flimsy. In fact, it becomes apparent that Harris was a much more likely suspect and was in the middle of a crime spree, eventually ending up on Death Row himself for the later commission of other crimes. Morris implies ... Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A softcore movie, Dr. Death, a chocolate milkshake, a nosey blonde and "The Carol Burnett Show." Solving this mystery is going to be murder.


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 August 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Thin Blue Line See more »

Filming Locations:

Dallas, Texas, USA

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$17,814, 28 August 1988

Gross USA:

$1,209,846

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,209,846
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby | Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Errol Morris first attempted to film Randall Adams, he was suspicious and nervous and stopped talking several times. Morris urged him to continue, saying, "Look, I really believe you're innocent; this is your only chance." According to Morris' account, " So then the cameraman take me aside and tells me I'm debased, and that this is the most disgusting thing he's ever seen in his entire life, and that he will not be a party to it anymore. That I make him sick. And I tell him if I want a moral philosopher, I would hire Emmanuel Kant. See more »

Quotes

Randall Adams: If there was ever a hell on earth, it's Dallas County.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In memory of my brother Noel Ian Morris (1942-1983) See more »


Soundtracks

Metamorphosis
Written by Philip Glass
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Rough justice
12 August 2008 | by LejinkSee all my reviews

I first saw this film not long after its initial release some 20 years ago and images and scenes from it have stayed with me ever since, so that it was with considerable anticipation that I re-watched it again recently. Down the years I can still recall Randall Adams drawling in his unforgettable voice "The kid scares me", the ever-revolving red light on the cop-car and most of all Philip Glass' wonderful, hypnotic music. The depiction of the fateful night of the cold-blooded murder of the policeman is shown from, almost literally, every possible angle, conveyed in a highly stylised way with almost every speculated remembrance of the doubtful list of every dubious (and are they ever dubious!) witness played out on the screen, the effect, in so doing, to completely explode their fantasist recollections, as was no doubt the director's aim. The reconstructions are set alongside filmed interviews of most of the main protagonists (with the main exception of the second cop in the car who witnessed the killing). As you watch these, the centrepiece clearly becomes the contrasting testimony of the almost-certain murderer David Harris with the wronged Randall Adams, the first coming across from the start as duplicitous and uncaring, the latter as bemused but reasoning. I was particularly taken with the erudition of Adams, who suppresses his inner rage with admirable restraint as he points the viewer time and again back to the evidence. As an indictment of the American criminal justice system, it hits home hard; it appears that investigation standards head for the hills especially when the law has a cop-killer to nail. Thankfully the miscarriage of justice was eventually resolved although it makes you grateful for the coincidence which led director Morris to change the subject course of his original project to instead highlight Adams' case culminating in his release soon after the film was first shown. The film however is more than a crusading documentary and there is much for students and admirers of the film-makers art to enjoy. Unforgettable, really, almost haunting, and proof if needed that truth really is stranger than fiction.


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