Review of Badlands (1973)

Moving picture, 94 minutes

1959: A 25-year-old in South Dakota loses a job as a garbage man and falls in mutual love with a 15-year-old girl. He looks like James Dean, and is proud to hear it. A charismatic believer in personal freedom, he kills a lot of people, rarely with a second thought. The media sensation reaches a head when the man is caught. By then, his girlfriend has grown less naïve and lost interest. Everyone else is glad to meet the killer on his way to the electric chair.

A slow, unexploitative cruise through the story of a spree killer, as seen from up close. It’s a brilliant example of humanization: it clearly shows Kit Carruthers as a complicated human being like the rest of us, and it manages to do this without explaining or in any way trying to excuse his crimes. This is aided by a sanitization of the story’s real-world basis (Charles Starkweather’s 1957 spree), and by excellent acting, although both leads are sadly played by people 7 or 8 years older.

References here: “Tussilago” (2010).

moving picture fiction