Cinema: Gothic Legend

"Credulity," Charles Lamb observed, "is the man's weakness, but the child's strength." The principal ingredient of The Fool Killer is false belief—in the evanescent ghosts of folklore that are part of a boy's education and a grownup's destruction.

In the post-Civil War Midwest, a twelve-year-old orphan named George (Edward Albert) runs away from his guardians. His life takes on a Huckleberry hue, and a series of encounters leads him to the beginning of maturity. His first is with Dirty Jim (Henry Hull), an unregenerate old buzzard who prattles of "a fool killer," who poleaxes wrongdoers as they sleep. The figure haunts George's...

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