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Badlands Movie Review

kit terrence holly malick

Just as Bonnie and Clyde gave a 1967 vision of 1930–34, Badlands examined 1957–59 through eyes that saw 1974 parallels in every frame. Although Bonnie and Clyde used real names and Badlands made up new ones, both films are essentially fiction. Each re-invents legendary criminals for later generations living in an entirely different world. Martin Sheen, then 34, and Sissy Spacek, 25, were long past high school, but persuasively played Kit Carruthers, 25, and Holly Sargis, 15, a couple of detached young outlaws based on Charlie Starkweather (1940–59) and his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate. Starkweather's body count was ten; Kit Carruthers kills around six people, and the entire spree is described in a flat, uninterpretive voiceover by Spacek as Holly Sargis. Many of the original critics who saw the film blasted what they perceived as its numbing, indifferent point of view. Kit is a textbook psycho, and Holly drifts after him in a cloud, sprinkling her description of their “adventures” with cliches she's picked up from late ‘50s pop culture. Warren Oates delivers his usual sterling performance as Holly's father, who's light years away from these two misfits. Much of Holly's chatter with Kit's future victims is dreary, dull small talk, which makes the inevitable bloodletting even more meaningless and incomprehensible. Their moments alone are far from romantic, although Kit does see himself in a romantic light. Inside the great mystery of mortality, there is no mystery, only an idiot racing towards the electric chair as if it were written in the stars. Terrence Malick, the 31-year-old free spirit who wrote, directed, and produced Badlands, made his second film, the much-acclaimed Days of Heaven, in 1978. The same critics who dissected his first feature spent 20 years wondering about his abrupt departure from the movie business. In December 1998, Terrence Malick returned with The Thin Red Line.

1974 (PG) 94m/C Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Ramon Bieri, Alan Vint, Gary Littlejohn, Charles Fitzpatrick, Howard Ragsdale, John Womack Jr., Dona Baldwin; Cameos: Terrence Malick; D: Terrence Malick; W: Terrence Malick; C: Tak Fujimoto, Stevan Larner, Brian Probyn; M: Erik Satie, Carl Orff. National Film Registry ‘93. VHS, LV

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