Watching: Lovers on the Lam

Let's take a road trip.

By The Watching Team

Dear Watchers,

We know your watching time is limited. And the amount of things available to watch … is not. Looking for a movie? Nearly any movie ever made? It’s probably streaming somewhere. That’s a lot of movies.

Below, we’re suggesting two of them, the latest of our weekly double-feature recommendations. We think the movies will pair well — with each other and with you.


Your weekly double feature: Lovers on the lam

Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek play fictionalized versions of the real-life teenage killers Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in Terrence Malick’s “Badlands.”Film Forum

‘Badlands’ and ‘Gun Crazy’

For his lyrical, one-of-a-kind debut feature, the director Terrence Malick took inspiration from the true story of Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate, who went on a killing spree across the heartland in the late ’50s that left 11 people dead. He was 19 and she was only 14, which affected their sentences: Mayweather was executed, and Fugate was paroled in 1976.


In “Badlands,” now featured in a “Three by Malick” series on the Criterion Channel, the ages have changed to 25 and 15, and most of the details are wholly invented, but the dynamic remains. Malick locks into the perspective of Sissy Spacek’s naïve majorette, who falls for a garbage man (Martin Sheen) who looks like James Dean, allowing him to whisk her away from the doldrums of small-town South Dakota. She isn’t exactly blind to his murderous sociopathy, but she’s flattered by his attention and seduced by an adventure that takes her from “the gas fires of Missoula” to “the lights of Cheyenne.” Her childlike wonder, reflected in the unforgettable voice-over, is a startling counterpoint to the terror she abets.

By contrast, the 1950 pulp shocker “Gun Crazy,” streaming on HBO Max, shifts the balance of power to a femme fatale whose beauty and deviance utterly overwhelm the square (John Dall) who loves her. Peggy Cummins stars as a carnival sharpshooter whose routine catches the eye of a man who has obsessed over guns since boyhood but can’t bring himself to kill a living thing. The thrill-kill brazenness of the film’s sexuality and violence is still startling 70 years later. — Scott Tobias

Stream “Badlands” on The Criterion Channel. Rent it on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

Stream “Gun Crazy” on HBO Max. Rent it on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.


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