Malick’s film is an apt choice to honour Wlaschin, who helped make the National Film Theatre (as BFI Southbank was then known) one of the best regarded cinematheques in the world during his 14-year tenure from 1969 to 1983.
Not only was Wlaschin a huge fan of Malick’s directorial debut, he could also boast a striking personal link to the true story on which the film is loosely based.
The Nebraska-born Wlaschin scooped the front page as a young reporter on the Scottsbluff Star-Herald in 1958 with an interview with the man whose notorious killing spree inspired the exploits of Badlands’ Kit Carruthers, the character played by Martin Sheen.
When real-life murderer Charles Starkweather was held overnight at a local jail, Wlaschin was the first journalist to talk to him. Fittingly, his report begins an eye-catching quote from the killer that was to become a key line in the film:
“I always wanted to be a criminal, but I never wanted to be this big of one,” said Charles Starkweather, 19, Thursday night as he confessed to 11 killings in Nebraska and Wyoming.
Badlands screens at BFI Southbank at 8.45pm tonight, 15th November, and will be introduced by Sir Christopher Frayling.