Boston is being terrorized by a series of seemingly random murders of women. Based on the true story, the film follows the investigators path through several leads before introducing the Strangler as a character. It is seen almost exclusively from the point of view of the investigators who have very few clues to build a case upon. Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Based on the real-life series of murders in Boston from 1962-64, this police procedural has close to a documentary-style approach. The filmmakers also utilized the split-screen technique briefly popular back then, in other films such as "The Thomas Crown Affair." More than just splitting the screen in two, there are sometimes as many as 5 different images dividing the screen, and a widescreen version is necessary to get the full effect. Here, the technique is used to display the actions of both the victim and the serial killer at the same time, viewing their movements preceding the actual murders. Some viewers may find their concentration divided to a greater degree than they would like.
The first half of the film shows how the police deal with (or, try to) the number of female bodies steadily piling up in the city. Some of the material is dated, with homosexuals being the primary suspects, and various types of perverts, like peeping toms, rounded up in unintentionally amusing scenes (see also "The Detective"1968 with Frank Sinatra for similar scenes of the homosexual community persecuted by the police dept.). Fonda plays the chief investigator, placed in charge against his wishes, but who soon accepts the gravity of the situation. George Kennedy is one of the main detectives.
Curtis doesn't appear until the first hour ends. As an actor, he immersed himself in this unpleasant role, and, from the first minute he's seen on screen, all his past film roles are summarily wiped away. He was a star for close to 15 years at that point and all those comedies & sappy adventures he'd been in immediately disappear from one's mind. It's a rather astounding feat - who knew he was this method actor? But, he wasn't even nominated for an Oscar. Also, unlike, for example, Travolta's comeback in "Pulp Fiction"(94), this did not revitalize his career. Sally Kellerman("M*A*S*H",1970) also appears in an early role as a victim who just may survive. Look also for, in a very early role, James Brolin in one scene as a police sgt. caught in some indiscretion by a supposed clairvoyant. Modern filmmakers should also check out some of director Fleischer's techniques towards the end, in that white room with Curtis.
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