August 29, 1988 12:00 PM

For a riveting film experience sure to send you reeling, try Errol Morris’ docudrama about the 1976 murder of a Dallas cop. Late one November night, officer Robert Wood stopped a car for traveling without its headlights on. Wood was shot five times and killed. A month later, 16-year-old David Harris—with an extensive criminal record—was arrested after boasting to pals that he had killed Wood. Taken into custody, Harris fingered Randall Dale Adams, 27, a hitchhiker he had picked up earlier. Adams, with no criminal record, was sentenced to death for the murder. Morris’ film reexamines the case, using photo montages, diagrams and a half-dozen reenactments of the crime from various points of view, augmented by an eerie Philip Glass score. Morris interrogates most of the parties involved, including Harris—now in a Texas prison awaiting execution for another murder. In a chilling death-row interview, Harris all but clears Adams of killing Wood. To date, Adams, whose sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, has been denied a new trial. Morris’ neutral approach to his previous documentaries (Gates of Heaven, about a pet cemetery, and Vernon, Florida, about a small beach community) hardly prepares for his passionate involvement here. With The Thin Blue Line, Morris means to grab and shake an audience. That he does. (Not rated)

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