The Boston Strangler

  • 1968
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Crime

This cinematic approach to the maniac who murdered 13 women in the Boston area between 1962 and 1964 was anything but lurid. The producers and director Fleischer took the clinical way of looking at these mass killings, which was probably best; it was the only way rational viewers could accept such real-life horror. The film opens with several killings,...read more

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This cinematic approach to the maniac who murdered 13 women in the Boston area between 1962 and 1964 was anything but lurid. The producers and director Fleischer took the clinical way of looking at these mass killings, which was probably best; it was the only way rational viewers could

accept such real-life horror. The film opens with several killings, all seemingly related, of elderly women. Fonda, a criminologist from the academy, is asked to head the investigative task force searching for the killer and he reluctantly accepts, later stating that the murders fascinate him. His

work and that of his aides is painfully precise, even tedious, as they follow up every minute clue and interview a host of psychopaths and sexual deviates (all of the women have been sexually attacked. When the investigation bogs down, Fonda, in desperation, calls in pyschic Peter Hurkos

(Voskovec), who puts on a dynamic and colorful show of "seeing" the killer but fails to pinpoint the right man. Then the film cuts away to focus upon the apparently quiet life of blue-collar worker Albert DeSalvo (Tony Curtis in an alarmingly well-played, often terrifying performance). He is shown

as quietly enjoying his meager life, his wife (Conwell), and small children. But he is next shown lying to lonely women, pretending to be a plumber sent to check the sinks, convincing them to let him inside their apartments, where he attacks and murders them. The last victim is Kellerman, whom he

ties to a bed and rapes. She frees herself and bites him so hard she draws blood before he knocks her unconscious and flees. She survives to describe her assailant. Even while half the Boston police force is looking for him, the compulsion seizes Curtis, and he tries again, this time breaking into

an apartment where the husband is home. He flees, but the husband gives chase, and in a wild race down the streets Curtis slips and is hit by a car. When he's taken into custody, Curtis' mind snaps, and authorities refuse to try him. He is committed to an insane asylum. Fonda questions him, but is

uncertain whether he is the strangler, even though Kellerman identifies him and the bite marks match those on his hand. Then Curtis attacks his wife when she comes to visit him, and this convinces Fonda and his aides. (There is less consensus in the actual case; experts still argue today that

DeSalvo, stabbed to death on November 26, 1973 in Walpole State Prison, was not the killer and the real strangler was never apprehended.) An unnerving film that chips away at the sensibilities, effectively shot in a semidocumentary style, but a movie that refuses to pander to the perverse.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: This cinematic approach to the maniac who murdered 13 women in the Boston area between 1962 and 1964 was anything but lurid. The producers and director Fleischer took the clinical way of looking at these mass killings, which was probably best; it was the o… (more)

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