“Dead Man’s Line,” a new documentary about the Feb. 8, 1977 kidnapping of Indianapolis mortgage broker Richard O. “Dick” Hall by Anthony G. “Tony” Kiritsis, is scheduled for release on the 41st anniversary of the event.
The 63-hour hostage crisis captured national attention as the scene played out live on radio and television. The incident began on the fourth floor of 129 E. Market St., where Kiritsis made his way to the offices of Meridian Mortgage with a pistol concealed in a sling and another, more elaborate weapon hidden in a suit box.
The film’s name refers to the sawed-off shotgun Kiritsis wired to Hall’s head. If law enforcement had shot Kiritsis, the wire around Hall’s neck connected to the firearm’s trigger would have been pulled.
After exiting the building, Hall and Kiritsis — who was unable to find his vehicle — wandered first down Pennsylvania Street, and then Washington Street in full view of the public. When they reached Senate Avenue, Kiritsis pulled Hall into a marked police vehicle and forced him to drive to his third-floor dwelling at Crestwood Village Apartments.
The standoff eventually ended without bloodshed, and Kiritsis was arrested. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity. After the Kiritsis trial, Indiana’s state law switched the burden of proof for insanity-pleading defendants from the prosecution to the defense.
Co-director Alan Berry has lived in Indianapolis all his life and said he remembers watching the Kiritsis case unfold as it happened. As an adult, Berry owned several record stores around town for about 20 years. That all changed in 2011 when he was shot during an armed robbery.
Berry said this brush with death marked a turning point in his life. It was then that he decided to take an early retirement and focus on filmmaking. Prior to “Dead Man’s Line,” Berry’s most recent work was the 2012 documentary “Behind the Sash,” which followed then-Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard for a day. Berry said work for “Dead Man’s Line” began five years ago and involved more than 50 interviews.
“I feel we have done a very thorough job of this story,” he said. “I am fairly proud of the product. Unless people are lying to me about it, I’ve gotten all positive reviews.”
The film, which won Best Feature Documentary at the 2017 East Lansing Film Festival, is now available for pre-order on iTunes, and will also be available on Amazon on Feb. 8.
More information can be found on the movie’s website.