On a typical school day in 1997, 16 year old Darius Clarke Monroe and two friends slipped out of class to stage an armed robbery on a bank.
They escaped with more than $100,000. A month later, Monroe and one of his partners were arrested. Monroe spent three years in an adult prison.
Evolution Of A Criminal is the story of how he came to commit the robbery, and what he did afterward.
Monroe doesn’t fit the stereotype of the young black criminal. He was doing well at high school and had college aspirations. But money was always tight at home. And when the family were robbed, a seed was planted in Monroe’s mind. A couple of thefts from his workplace gave him confidence. He went direct from lifting VCRs to organising the bank raid. So much for starting small and working up to the major league by degrees.
Monroe speaks to people who were around him at the time. But the larger intention was to make amends, and to that end he tracked down people who were in the bank to offer a personal apology. Some accepted, and agreed to speak on camera; some turned him away. A re-enactment of the day of the robbery connects the interviews and meetings, with Monroe narrating and addressing the viewer directly.
Evolution Of A Criminal can be viewed online here.
Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.
The line that changed the face of television.
William F Buckley and Gore Vidal had already established a relationship of mutual contempt before they agreed to a series of ten debates built around the Republican and Democrat conventions in the election year of 1968. From the outset their shared intention in the debates was to cut the other to pieces and maybe find a moment to discuss the events of the day.
Best of Enemies examines the lives and backgrounds of Buckley and Vidal, before and after the debates. Both were products of America’s upper class, and verbally sharp. The exchanges between the two are still entertaining: two men, both convinced of their own superiority and rightness. Quarter was not sought nor given. The sniping went back and forth and then, in the next to last debate, Vidal made an offhand comment about Buckley being a Nazi. Which triggered the response that has gone into history. Television was now a place where good manners could be left in the dressing room – though insults would not often be traded with such sleek venom.
Neither Buckley nor Vidal ever let go of that moment. The war continued for years. Both lived long enough, as the documentary describes, to see themselves become forgotten voices of the past. In Vidal’s case at least, it seems that hate for Buckley was adequate fuel for prolonged life.
Best of Enemies outlines the situation of American television in the Sixties, those far off days long before cable and the internet. ABC, as the plain sister of the three networks (we had a similar situation here in Australia, with the Ten network cemented to the bottom of the ladder), hit upon the idea of the debates as an alternative to the all-day coverage that CBS and NBC were broadcasting. The gamble paid off, I suppose. For television generally the consequences may not have been so positive.
Best of Enemies is currently available for viewing in full on yout – er, scratch that. UPDATE: the movie has been removed.
Here’s the preview instead.