College of Communication Master of Arts Theses

Date of Award

Spring 6-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Communication

First Advisor

Dr. Jay Beck

Second Advisor

Dr. Paul Booth


This paper examines the cultural function of docudrama crime films. The docudrama is a hybrid of the conventional Hollywood fiction film and the documentary. Blurring fact and fiction, these films manufacture an illusion of realism around the framework of the standard feature film using visual and narrative appeals to real life and real events. By asserting that they are "based on a true story," these films are able to shape and enhance a desired reading of the text in order to convey a particular social message to audiences. To understand the initial development of the docudrama crime form and how it changes to reflect shifts in culture, I analyize the following films: Boomerang and Call Northside 777, justice docudramas from the 1940s, and The Captive City and The Phenix City Story, syndicate fiims from the 1950s.