The film In Cold Blood, based upon Truman Capote’s book about the murders of the Clutter family in Kansas in 1959, is here re-released as a special edition, with interviews and extras. It’s an example of the early soundtrack work of composer and arranger Quincy Jones.
A trumpeter with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band in the 50s, Jones started composing for films in the mid-60s, starting with The Pawnbroker in 1965 and famously for In The Heat Of The Night in 1967.
This soundtrack uses a range of American musical genres, not just jazz, responding to different scenes. Strings are used to convey menace and tension, whilst light classical represents the Clutter family scenes – the regular, “decent” life of Midwest American families, in stark contrast to the edgy music surrounding the main protagonists.
A strong bass line runs through much of the music, from Ray Brown or Andy Simpkins and, on electric bass, the highly regarded session musician Carol Kaye. Basses effectively lead the sequence where the murderers pursue a series of petty larcenies.
Brass dominates in the build-up to the murders, escalating the tension, and often the orchestration is fragmented and dissonant, matching street sounds and traffic noise. A more straightforward but brief blues interlude ushers in the collection of bottles with fellow drifters.
Mariachi music is used in a bedroom scene with a Mexican girl, which evokes flashbacks and emotional turmoil for one of the murderers, Perry. Folksy music depicts sentimental recollections of his family; his mental confusion and harassment is mirrored in atonal collages; a slow, sinister undercurrent pervades when he later recalls the actual events of the murder.
There are periods in the film where no music is used: the early investigations of the detectives, their questioning of the suspects, the lead-up to the killings and the final events. These are in sharp contrast with the harsh passages which convey the brutality of the proceedings.
It’s a forceful, impressive soundtrack, deservedly nominated for an Academy Award, to accompany a thought-provoking, often disturbing film.
Cold Blood features Quincy Jones with musicians inc. Buddy Childers (t); Frank Rosolino (tb); Dave Grusin (clav); Gene Cipriano, Bud Shank, William Green (reeds); Howard Roberts (g); Ray Brown, Andy Simpkins (b); Carol Kaye (elb); Shelly Manne, Earl Palmer (d); Don Elliott, Emil Richards (pc). USA, 1967.
Special edition features
· New 4K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
· New interview with cinematographer John Bailey on the film’s cinematography
· New interview with film historian Bobbie O’Steen on the film’s editing
· New interview with film critic and jazz historian Gary Giddins on the film’s music by Quincy Jones
· New interview with writer Douglass Daniel on director Richard Brooks
· Interview with Brooks from 1988 from the French television series Cinéma cinemas
· Interview with actor Robert Blake from 1968 from the British television series Good Evening! with Jonathan King
· With Love From Truman, a short 1966 documentary featuring novelist Truman Capote, directed by Albert and David Maysles
· Two archival NBC interviews with Capote: one following the author on a 1966 visit to Holcomb, Kansas, and the other conducted by Barbara Walters in 1967
· An essay by critic Chris Fujiwara
Cold Blood special edition, issued by The Criterion Collection 2022 on Blu-ray. 134 min. B&W, 2.35:1. On sale in the UK from 4 April 2022