Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Executioner's Song

Lawrence Schiller, 1982 (8.7*)

Tommy Lee Jones made himself a star (and won an Emmy for lead actor) when he played convicted murderer Gary Gilmore in this lengthy tv-film that examines his crimes, his past, his incarceration on death row, and his legal fight to have Utah carry out his execution.

Using only facts from this well-publicized case, and based on Norman Mailer's Pulitzer prize winning book, this is as close to documentary as a dramatic re-enactment can get. It even contains the negotiations with Gilmore with rights to the book and this very film that resulted. Roseanna Arquette also became a star for her portrayal of Gilmore's girlfriend. Together, the two young actors make Gilmore's story an engrossing and human one, though admittedly, I found his homicides to be too baffling to comprehend. The cast also includes Christine Lahti and Eli Wallach.

Together with Dead Man Walking, and In Cold Blood, these make a definitive film trilogy on the subject of capital punishment, and each is based on a true murder case.

[Note: only 600+ people have rated this at IMDB! Mailer's book won a Pulitzer, and the film was up for five Emmys; Arquette and Mailer were also nominated - it's only wins were for Tommy Lee Jones as actor and for sound]


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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