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Sling Blade - An Incredible Movie

Updated on September 28, 2013

Sling Blade - One of My All-Time Favorite Movies

Are YOU a fan of Sling Blade?

I didn't see Sling Blade when it first came out. I don't really remember hearing about it unil I was listening to NPR one day, and Billy Bob Thornton was the guest on "Fresh Air." During part of the interview he spoke about coming up with the his 'opening monologue' (where he tells the young female reporters about what he's done, prior to his release from the hospital) all at once - persona, voice, words - everything. And then, the magic happened. They played that clip from the movie, and - with only that audio bit - captured my attention to such an extent that I decided I had to see the movie as soon as possible.

As luck, or fate, would have it - I discovered that the movie was playing on TV the very next day and I set my TIVO for it. From that day until this, I've never gone more than a week without having ready access to it. (That week I moved and my TIVO didn't work with my new TV setup. Fate again stepped in, however, and I was able to DVR it the very same week.)

Every time I see this work of art, I discover new things I hadn't noticed before and re-discover things I love. Billy Bob Thornton is now high up on my list of favorite actors/writers/directors.

Welcome to my "Sling Blade" Squidoo Lens!

(Photo Courtesy of : http://www.frogflicks.com)

Some folks call it a sling blade, I call it a Kaiser blade.

sling blade karl frank
sling blade karl frank

Sling Blade - Plot/Overview

Karl Childers (Billy Bob Thornton) is a mentally disabled Arkansas man who has been in the custody of the state mental hospital since the age of 12 for having killed his mother and her lover. Although thoroughly "institutionalized", Karl is deemed fit to be released into the outside world. Prior to his release, he is interviewed by a local college newspaper reporter, to whom he recounts the brutal murder of his mother and her boyfriend with a Kaiser blade - during which scene he notes to the reporter that, "Some folks call it a sling blade; I call it a Kaiser blade", the line from which the film derives its name. Karl continues, saying that he killed the man because he thought he was raping his mother. When he discovered that his mother was a willing participant in the affair, he killed her too.

Having developed a knack for small-engine repair during his childhood and incarceration, Karl lands a job at a small-engine repair shop in the small town where he was born and raised. Around this time, he befriends 12-year-old Frank Wheatley (Lucas Black). Karl shares with Frank some of the details of his past, including the killings. Frank reveals that his father was killed - hit by a train - leaving him and his mother on their own - he later admits that he lied, and that his father committed suicide.

Frank introduces Karl to his mother, Linda (Natalie Canerday), as well as her gay friend, Vaughan Cunningham (John Ritter), the manager of the dollar store where she is employed. Despite Vaughan's concerns about Karl's history in the mental hospital, Linda allows him to move into her garage, which angers Linda's abusive boyfriend, Doyle Hargraves (Dwight Yoakam). Eventually, Karl bonds with both Linda and Vaughan. In an early scene, Vaughan tells Karl that a gay man and a mentally challenged man face similar obstacles of intolerance and ridicule in small-town America.

Karl quickly becomes a father figure to Frank, who misses his father and despises Doyle. For Karl, Frank becomes much like a younger brother. Karl eventually reveals that he is haunted by the task given him by his parents when he was a child of six or eight years: To dispose of his premature, unwanted, newborn brother. In a subsequent scene, he visits his father (Robert Duvall), who has become a mentally imbalanced hermit in the dilapidated home Karl grew up in. Karl tells him that killing the baby was wrong and further reveals to his father that he used to think about killing him, but eventually decided he wasn't worth the effort.

Doyle soon becomes increasingly abusive toward Karl and Frank, leading to a drunken outburst and physical confrontation with Linda and Frank. Although Linda initially kicks Doyle out of the house, she quickly reconciles with him. Sensing the recapitulation, and knowing that he has the upper hand again, Doyle confronts Karl and Frank once more, announcing his plan to move into the house permanently, and that big changes are afoot as a result, including Karl's removal from the house. Karl begins to realize that he is the only one who can bring about a positive change and spare Frank and his mother a grim fate. Karl makes Frank promise to spend that night at Vaughan's, and asks a favor of Vaughan to pick up Linda from work and have her stay over, as well.

Later that evening, Karl returns to Linda's house. He seems to have second thoughts at first, and walks away from the house for a time, but then retraces his steps, and enters the house. After asking Doyle how to reach the police by phone, he promptly kills him with a blow from the lawnmower blade he'd sharpened for the task earlier that day. He then turns himself in, calling the police and requesting a hearse be sent, per Doyle's direction. He calmly dines on mustard and biscuits while waiting to be returned to the state hospital.

Once at the state hospital, he seems to have reached a turning point and peace of mind, sternly rebuffing a sexual predator (J. T. Walsh) at the hospital who used to use him as a captive audience for tales of his horrible deeds.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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Awards & Nominations for Sling Blade

Academy Awards (1997)

Won for Best Adapted Screenplay (Thornton)

Nominated for Best Actor (Thornton)

Chicago Film Critics Awards (1997)

Won for Best Actor (Thornton)

Chlotrudis Awards (1997)

Won for Best Movie

Won for Best Actor (Thornton)

Nominated for Best Director (Thornton)

Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Black)

Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Ritter)

Edgar Awards (1997)

Won for Best Motion Picture Screenplay (Thornton)

Independent Spirit Awards (1997)

Won for Best First Feature (Thornton/Director; David L. Bushell/Brandon Rosser/Producters)

Kansas City Film Critics Awards (1997)

Won for Best Actor (Thornton)

National Board of Review Awards (1996)

Won for Special Achievement in Filmmaking (Thornton)

Satellite Awards (1997)

Nominated for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama (Thornton)

Nominated for Best Original Screenplay (Thornton)

Nominated for Outstanding Best Original Score (Daniel Lanois)

Saturn Awards - 1997 (Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA )

Best Performance by a Younger Actor (Lucas Black)

Screen Actors Guild Awards (1997)

Nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast

Nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role (Thornton)

Writers Guild of America Awards (1997)

Won for Best Adapted Screenplay (Thornton)

Young Artist Awards (1997)

Won for Best Performance in a Feature Film - Leading Young Actor (Lucas Black)

YoungStar Award (1997)

Won for Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Drama Film (Lucas Black)

(Source: http://www.imdb.com)

Sling Blade Movie Cast

  • Billy Bob Thornton as Karl Childers
  • Dwight Yoakam as Doyle Hargraves
  • J. T. Walsh as Charles Bushman
  • John Ritter as Vaughan Cunningham
  • Lucas Black as Frank Wheatley
  • Natalie Canerday as Linda Wheatley
  • James Hampton as Jerry Woolridge
  • Robert Duvall as Karl's father
  • Jim Jarmusch as Gene, the Frostee Cream employee
  • Vic Chesnutt as Terence

Meet Karl

Meet Karl
Meet Karl
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Sling Blade Quotes

Frank: Ever think of killing yourself on purpose like my daddy done?

Karl: I studied about it. The Bible says you ought not to. It says if you do that, you go off to Hades. Some folks call it Hell, I call it Hades.

Karl: Reckon you make me some biscuits.

Vaughan: Have you knocked on the door yet?

Karl: No, Sir, not yet.

Vaughan: How long have you been standing here?

Karl: Quite a spell, I reckon.

Doyle: Hey is this the kind of retard that drools and rubs shit in his hair and all that, 'cause I'm gonna have a hard time eatin' 'round that kind of thing now. Just like I am with antique furniture and midgets. You know that, I can't so much as drink a damn glass of water around a midget or a piece of antique furniture.

Linda Wheatley: I'm gonna make some coffee. Karl, you want some coffee?

Karl: Coffee makes me nervous when I drink it. Mmm.

Frank Childers: I told you I ain't got no boy, now why don't you get on outta here and let me be. You ain't no kin to me.

Karl: [after a pause] I learned to read some. I read the Bible quite a bit. I can't understand all of it, but I reckon I understand a good deal of it. Them stories you and Mama told me ain't in there. You ought not done that to your boy. I studied on killing you. Studied on it quite a bit. But I reckon there ain't no need for it if all you're gonna do is sit there in that chair. You'll be dead soon enough and the world 'll be shut of ya. You ought not killed my little brother, he should've had a chance to grow up. He woulda had fun some time.

Linda Wheatley: Karl, you know what? Melinda here was voted employee of the month at the dollar store last February. Isn't that something?

Karl: Yes ma'am, I reckon.

Melinda: Well, when you like pricing items as much as I do, it's just bound to happen sooner or later, I guess.

Karl: I don't reckon you have to go with women to be a good daddy to a boy. You been real square-dealin' with me. The Bible says two men ought not lay together. But I don't reckon the Good Lord would send anybody like you to Hades. That Frank, he lives inside of his own heart. That's an awful big place to live in. You take good care of that boy.

[walks off]

Vaughan Cunningham: I will. Karl?

Karl: I reckon I'm gonna have to get used to looking at pretty people.

Dr. Jerry Woolridge: Yes you will.

Karl: 'Reckon I'm gonna have to get used to them looking at me.

Vaughan Cunningham: You always seem to be deep in thought. Tell me, what are you thinking right now?

Karl: I was thinkin', I'm gonna take me some of these taters home with me.

Vaughan Cunningham: How about before that?

Karl: Well, let me think... I was thinkin' I could use me another couple cans'o that potted meat if ya got any extree.

Marsha Dwiggins: Will you ever kill anyone again, Karl?

Karl: I don't reckon I got no reason to kill nobody. Mmm.

Sling Blade Trivia

Fellow independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch appears as the "Frosty Kreme" worker in the beginning. His name tag reads "Deke", the name of the film's Electrical Best Boy.

In order to make his walk more awkward and consistent, Billy Bob Thornton placed crushed glass in his shoes.

Billy Wilder advised Billy Bob Thornton to write a screenplay where he could exploit his less than perfect features.

A remake of the short film Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade (1994). Both were written and starred Billy Bob Thornton.

Billy Bob Thornton said he wrote the role of Vaughan Cunningham specifically for his good friend John Ritter.

Cameo by Col. Bruce Hampton Ret. of Aquarium Rescue Unit and Code Talkers during Doyle's band scene. Col. Bruce is the Tambourine player and can be seen blowing his trademark "Smokeless Smoke Ring" in a close up shot.

Vaughan (John Ritter) is holding a copy of the book "A Confederacy of Dunces" in his final scene. The book revolves around a Southern character that is unable to fit into society.

Billy Bob Thornton had written the script in long hand, at his family's house in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Co-stars J.T. Walsh and John Ritter both died of a heart attack at the age of 54.

Billy Bob Thornton requested that no red be seen in this movie stating : "I don't like to see red in a movie, unless it's about the Revolutionary War".

According to Billy Bob Thornton, he invented Karl's unique facial expressions and speech patterns, plus ad-libbed the entire "sling blade" speech at the beginning of the film, while looking at himself in a make-up room mirror, waiting to film his scene as a train conductor in The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains (1987). His scene was later cut from that film.

Harvey Weinstein - then co-chairman of Miramax - only saw the first 30 minutes of Sling Blade (1996) when he agreed to pay $10m for the rights to the film. He later regretted this and forced Billy Bob Thornton to cut about 20 minutes from the movie.

When Doyle tells Linda that "retards" make him sick, he adds that the same is true for antique furniture and midgets. Billy Bob Thornton has been quoted as saying that two of his phobias are antique furniture and midgets.

Molly Ringwald played the newspaper reporter in the original short Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade (1994). Kathy Sue Brown replaced her for the feature-length production.

Sling Blade Theatrical Trailer (1996)

I like the way you talk...

Sometimes a hero comes from the most unlikely place.

Get the Amazing Director's Cut

Sling Blade
Sling Blade

The Miramax Collector's Series is a spectacular two-disc release of Sling Blade. It belongs in your collection!

 

Sling Blade Mentions/Connections

References

The Simple-Minded Murderer (1982)

Referenced in;

Doctor Dolittle (1998)

Bowfinger (1999)

Scream 3 (2000)

Me, Myself & Irene (2000)

Bring It On (2000)

Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies (2001)

- "Sling Blade" is printed in an article shown in the film.

The Accountant (2001)

"South Park: Towelie (#5.8)" (2001)

- Cartman quotes lines from Sling Blade after finding Stan's mom's bloody tampon.

"Saturday Night Live: Billy Bob Thornton/Creed (#27.6)" (2001)

- Mentioned during the monologue

Slash (2002)

Home on the Range (2004)

- Ox pulling a cart in a scene makes the Karl grunt.

"Family Guy: Fat Guy Strangler (#4.17)" (2005)

- On bringing Lois's lost brother to quahog, Stewie says: "Maybe he can bring his sling blade and order up some french fried potaters, mmmh"

Crap Shoot: The Documentary (2007)

- Mentioned in film.

"After the Catch: On the Edge (#1.4)" (2007)

- Edgar says, "We don't call him Sling Blade for nothin'."

The Cook (2008/I)

- "Some folks calls it a sling blade, I calls it a kaiser blade."

Major Movie Star (2008)

- mentioned in dialogue

"30 Rock: Retreat to Move Forward (#3.9)" (2009)

- Lemon does her Slingblade impression several times

Hungry for Love (2009)

- features a "Chicken Champ" bucket

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (2009)

- mentioned in dialogue

"Nip/Tuck: Wesley Clovis (#6.10)" (2009)

- Wesley is called Sling Blade

Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball (2010) (V)

- Lester calls Baby Boy 'Sling Blade'.

"Jeopardy!: Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational Quarterfinal 7 (#26.134)" (2010)

- Subject of an $800 clue in the category "Acting the Part"

Featured in:

"Siskel & Ebert: Memo to the Academy" (1997)

- Clips are shown. Roger Ebert believes Billy Bob Thornton should be nominated for an Oscar.

The 69th Annual Academy Awards (1997) (TV)

Bad Santa: Not Your Typical Christmas Movie (2004) (V)

- clip shown

"I Love the '90s: 1996 (#1.7)" (2004)

- Footage from this film was edited into this mini-series.

Spoofed in:

Swing Blade (1997)

Doctor Dolittle (1998)

The Godson (1998)

The Accountant (2001)

Bottoms Up (2006) (V)

- Owen says "I like French fried potaters" in the way Carl does

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What Do You Think About Sling Blade?

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More Sling Blade Quotes

[Karl has entered the bedroom carrying a hammer]

Doyle: What in the hell you doin' with that hammer?

Karl: I don't rightly know. I just kinda woke up a-holding it.

[exits]

Doyle: [to Linda] What the fuck you think he's doin' with that hammer?

Karl: Just 'cause I ain't gonna be around no more, maybe, don't mean that I don't care for you.

Frank: I care 'bout you too, but you'll be around. Don't say that.

Karl: Doesn't matter where I was to be. We'll always be friends. You and me made friends right off the bat. Don't nobody ever change that. I kindly want to put my arm around you, then I'm gonna get up out of here and leave.

[Puts his arm around Frank]

Karl: I love you, boy.

Linda: Frank's always after a father figure and Lord knows Doyle ain't one with his mean ass.

Vaughan Cunningham: What about me?

Linda: Frank doesn't really see you as a guy-guy.

Vaughan Cunningham: Oh, and Karl's a guy-guy?

Mrs. Woolridge: Karl, I hear Jerry's taking you somewhere else tomorrow.

Karl: I don't reckon I know nobody named Jerry.

Dr. Jerry Woolridge: She's talking about me, Karl, that's my first name.

Doyle: Was you in the nut house for hackin' somebody up with a hatchet?

Karl: I never used no hatchet that I remember. Mmm.

Doyle: So you're just crazy in a retard kind of way, huh? Wouldn't matter to me if you did do violence on someone. I ain't scared of shit. You're just a humped-over retard, seems to me. I'm just kiddin'. Welcome to our humble home, Buddy.

Karl: Reckon what you like to eat in there?

Frosty Cream Employee: Well, the French fries are pretty good.

Karl: French fried potaters?

Frosty Cream Employee: Yeah, French fries.

Karl: How much you want for'em?

Frosty Cream Employee: They're .60 for medium and .75 for large.

Karl: 'Reckon I'll have me some of the big 'uns.

Frosty Cream Employee: All right, then, one large French fries?

[Karl is silent; Frosty Cream Employee walks to the back never taking his eyes off Karl]

Bill Cox: [about Karl] The son-of-a-bitch's a regular Eli Whitney on a lawn mower and *loves* French fries. 'Son-of-a-bitch can eat four larges and not even belch.

Bill Cox: [lawnmower won't start] Karl, see if you can figure out what's wrong with this. It won't crank up and everything seems to be put together right.

Karl: It ain't got no gas in it.

Vaughan Cunningham: Please don't tell anybody at the store that Albert was here. You know how this town is. Everybody spreads cruel rumors.

Melinda: You mean about you and Albert being that way...? I think everybody at the store already knows about it. Maureen Ledbetter told the most awful story about why you ain't allowed at the First Baptist Church no more.

Karl: I don't think anything bad ought to happen to children. I think the bad stuff should be saved up for the people whose grown up. That's the way I see it.

Karl: [on the phone] Yes, ma'am. I've killed Doyle Hargraves with a lawnmower blade. Yes, ma'am, I'm right sure of it. I hit him two good whacks in the head with it. That second one just plum near cut his head in two... It's a lil' ol' white house on the corner of Vine Street and some other street. There's a pick-up truck out front that says "Doyle Hargraves Construction" on it. Doyle said besides sending the police, you might wanna send an ambulance or a "hearst". I'll be sitting here, waiting on ye.

Dr. Jerry Woolridge: I won't lie to you. He did get into that trouble a while ago, but then we has young.

Bill Cox: I remember well. He cut those folks to pieces and his Mama was one of them.

Scooter: And that old Dixon boy. Oh, hell, I always wanted to kill him myself. Asshole's what he was. But I remember that ol' boy too. Kinda retarded or somethin', back in school.

Doyle: What'cha doin' with that lawn mower blade Karl?

Karl: I aim to kill you with it.

Frank: Hey Karl, what are you carryin' around them books for?

Karl: I ain't got no place to set 'em down.

Monster's Ball Karl - Watch Billy Bob Change...

I like them French fried potaters.

Slingblade and FOOD!

Sling Blade Movie Goofs

Boom mic visible: Shadow visible in front of a tree when Jerry and Karl are walking.

Continuity: When Karl is on Jerry's daughter's bed, the stuffed pig changes direction.

Continuity: The morning after Karl slept at the warden's house the scene opens with an exterior view of a one-story house. The next shot is in the interior and shows a set of stairs that are obviously going up to a second floor.

Crew or equipment visible: When Jerry and Karl walk up to Bill Cox's repair shop for the first time, the Steadicam operator's reflection can easily be seen in the right front hubcap of Jerry's car. He is visible during the entire shot, which lasts about 10 seconds.

Continuity: Frank goes down to the lake with Karl wearing blue dungarees. In the first shot, the buckle on his left shoulder is on top of his shoulder blade. Down by the lake, it's moved to much further back.

Continuity: When Randy, one of the guitarists, reacts to Doyle's demands to leave, Randy is seen from behind putting on his coat. However, when he walks out the door, the coat is draped over his arm.

Continuity: When Karl is talking to the Frostee Cream Boy, there are no cars on the road behind him. But whenever the camera is aimed at the Frostee Cream, there is a lot of traffic on the road reflected in the window. Billy Bob Thornton points out in the DVD commentary that this is because the local police had another pressing issue the day they filmed Jim Jarmusch, and they couldn't be there to stop traffic.

Miscellaneous: When Doyle drives to the county line to get more alcohol, they're in a "crew cab dually pickup", yet Doyle, Karl, and Vaughan ride in the front seats, the rest of the crew rides in the bed, and no-one rides in the back seats.

(Source: IMDB.com)

A simple man. A difficult choice.

Sling Blade Quick Info/Stats

Directed by Billy Bob Thornton

Produced by Larry Meistrich

David L. Bushell

Brandon Rosser

Written by Billy Bob Thornton

Music by Daniel Lanois

Cinematography Barry Markowitz

Editing by Hughes Winborne

Studio Shooting Gallery

Distributed by Miramax Films

Release date(s) November 27, 1996

Running time 135 minutes (Theatrical)

147 minutes (Director's cut)

Country United States

Language English

Budget $1 million

Gross revenue $24,444,121

You Will Be Happy

Karl....? (SPOILER ALERT)

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SPOILER: The last spoken word in the movie by Doyle, Vaughan, Frank, and Linda is the same: "Karl...?"

Karl...?

I Like The Way You Talk... - Talk to me!

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    • kabbalah lm profile image

      kabbalah lm 4 years ago

      I haven't sen this yet

    • dwnovacek profile image
      Author

      dwnovacek 4 years ago

      @moldypeaches: Too funny! :) Thanks for the good words!

    • moldypeaches profile image

      moldypeaches 4 years ago

      This is an amazing lens on one of my favorite movies of all times.Thanks for all your hard work. I reckon I ain't got no reason to not like your posts. Mmmmhmmm. Long Live Sling Blade!

    • DeniseDurham2011 profile image

      DeniseDurham2011 5 years ago

      Love love love this movie! I have seen in quite a few times & it never gets old, like you said. The world needs more Karls! Kind, righteous, looking out for others...Too bad he kills people, or maybe too bad it is wrong for him to kill people. This movie really makes you think!

    • besttechgadgets profile image

      besttechgadgets 5 years ago

      Yeah, powerful film... Great lens.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 5 years ago

      I never saw the movie but heard it was fantastic, now I must see it. Thanks for such a thorough introduction to this movie.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I have only seen Sling Blade once, but it's a creepy movie for sure. Billy Bob Thornton really does become Karl doesn't he. He plays an excellent role. Wonderful lens on this movie, I doubt there is anything you left out. Blessed by an angel.

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 6 years ago

      This is one I haven't seen yet. I'll have to get it from Netflix!

    • GoodinDevelopme profile image

      GoodinDevelopme 6 years ago

      This was an amazing movie. Kind of a Jesus-like self sacrifice story when you think about it. And being able to pull that off with the ending that they have is saying something. The kid in this movie is also incredible. Very much like Leonardo DiCaprio in This Boys Life where he's holding his own with Deniro. Great film, enjoyed your lens on it.

    • CCGAL profile image

      CCGAL 6 years ago

      Although I, personally, didn't care all that much for the movie, I must say that this is exceptionally thorough and deserves a thumbs up.