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On This Day in History: Jan. 29, 1958


Fifty years ago today authorities apprehended

in Wyoming, ending the 11-person murder spree Stakrweather and his teenage girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, started eight days earlier when he killed Fugate's mother, stepfather, and younger sister. The Starkweather-Fugate murders inspired Bruce Springsteen's song

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and a small handful of movies, the most notable of which is Terrence Malick's 1973 feature debut,

Badlands

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.

The dreamlike pace and deliberate visual patience that Paul Thomas Anderson wields in his

There Will Be Blood

has caused many an easily impressed critic to compare Anderson's epic with Malick's visual poetry—most frequently that of Malick's 1978's

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Days of Heaven

, even though

Badlands

is the better analog. Both feature charismatic male protagonists on a self-defined mission; both feature creative, iconic, and transformative uses of classical music pieces—Brahms' "Concerto in D Major" and Arvo Pärt's "Fratres" in

Blood

, Carl Orff's

Schulwerk

in

Badlands

—both permit the indelible landscape of the American West to become an unforgiving presence in the story's mood; and both are patiently fascinating descents into some of the more extremes recesses of the American male psyche.

Blood

is still in theaters, and while not earning the masterpiece status that people are too eager to bestow upon it, it is a cinematic feast that deserves to be seen on a big screen.

Days of Heaven

received its

last year, but for some reason

Badlands

still languishes in a threadbare 1999 Warner Home Video DVD edition. Although shot by workhorse cinematographer Tak Fujimoto,

Badlands

isn't the lush feast that Néstor Almendros and Haskell Wexler pulled off in

Days of Heaven

, but surely the movie deserves a better DVD transfer than it currently has.

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