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A two-part, made-for-TV movie on the life of serial killer Ted Bundy,
this was an intriguing, well-done film. Mark Harmon is excellent as
Bundy. He has similar looks and is an underrated actor. I doubt if they
could find a better actor to play this particular role.
In this day-and-age, it's nice to see a movie in which the cops are portrayed as tough but fair and likable. In this case, the two main ones are played by Frederick Forest (Apocalypse Now )and John Ashton (Midnight Run). Since it was made for television in the 1980s, the movie has little profanity and blood. Most of the time, the violence is implied. It's still chilling in parts. We don't always need CSI-type blood and guts to get the point.
What they missed, however, was WHY Bundy did the things he did. They had time to develop that angle, but never touched it. Supposedly, violent pornography had something to do with his behavior, but nothing was explored in this film. Overall, it was still an interesting story and amazing how many people he fooled and how he could escape twice after being arrested. Good story.
A note to any wannabe actors: study Mark Harmon's performance heavily here. You will learn all the tricks to being sauve, slick, sinister and charming. Unfortunately, the part had to be inspired by real events, of 70's wacko Ted Bundy. Masquerading as a law student with a talent of attracting girls seemingly in every port, a different man takes over at night as Harmon stalks and kills young women. This element of the film got a bit redundant after awhile, and really isn't the key. Neither is the endless policework that can be seen weekly on every prime-time cop show. It's Harmon's way of double-talking his girlfriends, and especially, the police. Watching Harmon's scenes on the witness stand or in the questioning room of the police station are your chance to watch a total pro at work. And the actors portraying the cops aren't slouches either. Tons of veterans like M. Emmett Walsh, Frederic Forest and John Ashton are featured. And a very effective performance from unknown journeyman actor George Grizzard, as Bundy's only friend through it all. He comes off very likable as the guy who just can't bring himself to condemn this young buck he admires. The two or three actresses featured here and there do ok as well. The only mis-step for the film is the majorly overdone, if still somewhat creepy music score. It gets a bit B-movie at times, but it adds to the eerieness of the film's tone. Though at 3 hours (4 if you're watching with commercials) it grips you from start to finish. But the real draw, most notably for aspiring actors, is to forget classes and watch Mark Harmon put on a clinic for performing.
Considerably above average for a TV made-for. There may be factual
changes but to someone not familiar with the details of Bundy's career,
they can't be too damaging. And the film sort of stands by itself as a
craftsmanlike piece of work on the part of just about everyone
concerned with it. Marvin Chomsky directed with economy and efficiency,
except perhaps for a bit too much complaining and self-pity on the part
of police officers.
He was faced with a problem, namely that viewers already knew how the story "came out," and has at least made an attempt at heightening the suspense by showing only Bundy's shoes plodding along the dark streets before each murder, until his last awful blood feast, when we see his face twisted with passion. Mark Harmon, who elsewhere gives performances that an especially handsome mannequin could turn in, is surprisingly good. He has that phony self-revealing charm, that fleeting smile, that serves as a mask of sanity. He also gives a bang-on definition of "sociopath" to Dick Larson on the other side of the prison bars.
There is some disagreement among knowledgeable visitors to the courtroom when in the course of defending himself Bundy begins to choke up with emotion. "What a performance," mutters one of the cops. "Or maybe," says Larson, "he really is feeling the suffering himself." Well, Dick -- sorry, but the cop was right. It isn't that sociopaths (or anti-social personality disorder, unsocialized type, as they're now called) don't feel their own suffering; it's just that it's fleeting. (There is a pattern that appears in responses to the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory that is known to clinicians as "the caught psychopath" pattern.)
There's a lot of depression, yes, but it disappears quickly because sociopaths are so adaptable, so good at exploiting their environments. Bundy is shown constantly cadging butts from friendly visitors. A good sociopath would care much more about the cigarettes than the affection they're getting.
Serial killers (the term didn't really exist until about the time Bundy appeared on the scene) are intrinsically fascinating because there is no part of most of us that can begin to understand their motives. Most homicides take place between friends and relatives. We murder them because they are in a position to hurt us. We value their opinions of us. But the ghastly murder of one stranger after another leaves us stunned. We can't identify ourselves with the killer and we are in awe of someone who has so abused the ritual codes of the communities we draw our shared identities from. It's like mother-son incest.
The pop stuff about Bundy going to Florida because he wanted to be caught and punished is a lot of bunkum. And I always wonder, when I read books or see movies about guys like this, how they get around the way they do? Let's see. Bundy squeezes out of his cell somewhere in the mountains of Colorado. There is a glimpse of him striding through O'Hare in Chicago. Then he turns up in Talahassee, Florida. He escaped with nothing more than the clothes on his back. How did he get from Colorado to Florida in the total absence of material resources? How could he buy a new wardrobe? How could he plunk down a month's rent on a room, plus one month's deposit?
A footnote: When Lisa Birnbach was doing interviews for her College Book in the early 1980s, virtually none of the students at FSU, including members of the sorority that the victims had belonged to, knew who Ted Bundy was. Sic transit gloria Bundi.
The Deliberate Stranger is scary as hell!I first saw this TV-movie when I was in college.I watched in in a floor lounge with some of the girls in my dorm.It scared all of us.There are a few factual and name changes(I caught them because I read both the Larsen book and Ann Rule's book The Stranger Beside Me)but they don't detract from the well-written and directed film.Veteran TV director Chomsky acquites himself nicely.The movie hangs on the performance of the actor playing Bundy,and Mark Harmon delivers,boy does he!His performance as Bundy is absolutely bone-chilling in his ability to portray the switch from charming hunk to homicidal rage.The scene in the sorority house is one of the scariest I've ever seen in a TV-movie! Good performances also come from Glynnis O'Connor as Cas ,his devoted but ultimately doubting girlfriend,Frederuc Forrest as Bundys's chief nemesis,Det. Bob Keppel,the always dependable M.Emmet Walshs as a veteran Washington cop,John Ashton as Keppel's partner,Ben Masters and Frederick Coffin as the two other detectives who pursue Bundy,and George Grizzard as Larsen,whoportrays effectively Larsen's journey frombeing Bund's friend to coming to the realization of just what he is.Unlike others,I also liked Gil Melle's score. 10 out of 10
who really knows if Ted Bundy committed even more that he refused to
admit to. When he was first captured he confessed to murders in "the
three digit area" enjoying the game of cat and mouse with the police.
Mark Harmon is excellent as Bundy, with his self-effacing handsomeness, he works his way into many women's lives, getting what he wants from several. Manipulating and deceiving is a way of life for a sociopath, and Ted Bundy uses and discards women; according to the very interesting book by Ann Rule (who actually worked with Bundy at a suicide hot-line near the Seattle, Washington campus).
George Grizzard portrays the journalist who Bundy kept in touch with. M. Emmet Walsh and Ben Masters do a good job, as detectives from various jurisdictions, working together before the FBI/VICAP department was established. Lawrence Pressman portrays the Seattle Washington politician Wolverton, who had employed Bundy at one time, early in his career.
We see the many victims, but not the actual murders. Glynnis O'Connor portrays Cas Richter, one of Bundy's "girlfriends" who later realizes in shock what Bundy is capable of. She is initially reluctant to go to the police however, and it is frightening to realize had she come forward earlier, that the police may have been able to apprehend Bundy, and prevent the string of murders he committed cross-country.
This story is worth watching for anyone interested in true crime. While it does not delve enough into Bundy's past, and motives, it does factually address the crimes, and the difficulty the police had in apprehending and finally convicting Ted Bundy. He was finally executed in Florida, in 1989. 8/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Deliberate Stranger" is an incredibly disturbing made-for-TV
depiction on Ted Bundy. Bundy (Played creepily by Mark Harmon)is the
All American man: polite, talented and so darn charming. Unfortunately,
he has an INCREDIBLY dark side. During the 70's, Bundy preyed on
innocent women, and became one of the most notorious serial killers in
The film focuses on several points: Bundy's relationship with his girlfriend Cas, who begins to fear that the man that she loves may be responsible for horrific crimes; Richard Larsen (George Grizzard)who struggles with the ever increasing evidence against Bundy; and the various police officers from Seattle to Utah (Frederic Forrest, M. Emmet Walsh and John Ashton among them)that work with determination to stop the monster in his tracks.
Harmon's portrayal of Bundy is scary, but it proves a point: the evil you know is better than the evil you DON'T know. The sorority murder STILL sends chills down my spine! Sure it's dated (They had to place a card before the end credits about his execution), but it still has the ability to creep you out!
I think this movie is very good and it keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through. This movie is based on the murders of the famous mass murderer, Ted Bundy. This movie is entertaining, but on the other hand it's disturbing and depressing also. It would be bad enough if this movie were fiction, but this isn't fiction. Ted Bundy, the main character in this movie, began a murdering spree back in the middle 1970's and murdered many young innocent girls. This movie shows how looks can certainly be deceiving because Ted Bundy was not only a very handsome young man, but he was also very intelligent, well liked, and in fact studying to be a lawyer. In this film, it shows how nieve young girls can be. Who'd think this young and charming good lookin guy could have such a dark and cold side to him?! Well not many people thought this, no one at all. But of course this all changed when it was discovered that Ted Bundy murdered a bunch of young girls. I give this movie a 9/10 because it's very accurate. I think Mark Harmon did an excellent job with his role of Ted Bundy in the movie! It's definately worth seeing if you're interested in non-fiction stories, and also if you're interested in true-crime stuff.
Forget the fact that this was a TV movie. The only thing which possibly
could have prevented this movie from being released in theaters was its
time (of nearly three and a half hours). Otherwise, it's probably the
best movie about Ted Bundy ever released.
Mark Harmon is surprisingly good in this movie. The reason I say surprising is because he has had comedy roles before this one (e.g. "Summer School"), so you wouldn't expect him to play a complex serial killer as well as he actually does. What Harmon manages to do is portray Bundy as a complex character, successfully balancing Bundy's outer charm and inner sociopathic ways. I have seen other movies about Bundy, and those actors portray one side of him with inaccurate results. It really takes the person who plays Bundy to carry the entire movie, and when such a complicated serial killer is played the wrong way, the entire movie comes off as an exploitation or a cheap horror film.
This movie also gives detail into the police who are trying to track him down, and that information is equally as fascinating as Bundy's character. The addition of the late Dick Larson (portrayed by George Grizzard), the reporter who wrote the book to which the movie was based, gave a really good outsider's perspective of the Ted Bundy case. It's almost as if Larson was added in to represent the idea of the viewers. After all, it is Larson who wonders towards the end of the movie how a well-educated, ambitious, promising young man (who majored in psychology, no less) could be so ruthless when he could have been much better in life. The movie doesn't admittedly delve into Bundy's thought process, but it doesn't really have to. Plus, many authors have attempted to analyze Bundy, and a movie which does the same could take five hours to even cover the basics.
It's really all the perspectives of Bundy that make this movie great. From Bundy's own perspective to that of the police to Larson, and finally to the victim's families. One especially difficult part of the movie was when one of the victim's fathers goes into the coroner's office to identify the remains of his daughter. His wife stays outside on his insistence, and the shouting that comes from him says it all. I don't know if R-rated freedom to show the victim's true remains would do that scene any more justice. It's one of the movie's many terrifying moments.
I'm also surprised that this two-part series was shown late at night, because I was unable to get to sleep after seeing the Chi Omega scene. The editing in that scene is terrific, and it stays in your mind long after the movie is over. I count myself fortunate to have seen this movie during the daytime when I didn't have to go to bed afterwords.
So simply put, this movie is still a must see, and that's saying a lot for a TV movie that was made in 1986. As of the date I am writing this review, the movie has yet to be released on DVD, and can only be seen either on Lifetime or on its now out-of-print videocassette. It's a great movie about a still-mysterious serial killer that tells us enough to keep us glued to the screen. It's a must see, but it's far more difficult going to sleep after seeing it.
Another comment on here mentions that this movie reminded the person of
"Helter Skelter". That's for a good reason. Both films were directed by
Marvin J. Chomsky. Chomsky is a master at taking real life murder
mysteries and conveying them to film. I have both "The Deliberate
Stranger" and "Helter Skelter" on video, along with another Chomsky
classic, "Billionaire Boys Club" starring Judd Nelson. I have saved
these movies on tape over the years because I enjoy movies about true
stories, and I enjoy watching them from time to time.
Mark Harmon was excellent in this movie. Previously, he had usually been cast as a "good guy" in most everything he did, and this film allowed him to stretch his acting muscles and show critics, casting directors, producers and directors that he could pull off a completely different character. Harmon was, and still is one of the leading actors in Hollywood today.
The best thing about this made-for-TV-movie is Mark Harmon's
performance as Bundy. As others have said, he gives an absolutely
chilling performance, full of subtleties and very multidimensional.
Great acting by Harmon -- in fact, this may be one of his best
I don't think Harmon ever met Bundy, but he wanted to go and see him on Death Row before the movie was made so he could "look into his eyes." I believe it was the director who convinced Harmon to go instead to meet Carol DeRonch (the only woman to escape Bundy after she got into his car). Whatever else Harmon did to prepare for this role, it certainly worked. The result is riveting.
Keep in mind that this is only a TV-movie with a presumably conservative budget. Even still, the underlying story is told very well, and gives the viewer multiple points of view, putting special emphasis on the suffering of the victims families and the stress felt by the detectives who worked the "Ted" case for so many years. There have been a few more Bundy movies made since, but in my opinion, this one outranks them easily.
If you're looking for blood and guts, this version doesn't offer much of that, but that's what makes it so good. The violence is mostly implied and/or left to the imagination which makes it all the more powerful.
Sure, almost all the names are changed and there is some poetic license taken, but for the most part, this movie gets most of the big scenes and moments exactly right. Bundy's story is so broad and so full of detail that it is tough to cover it all in a few hours. You have to expect that certain aspects of the story will either be left out or brushed over, and that does happen. Even still, the major events remain intact, as do the major messages -- that Bundy took a life full of potential and threw it all away, and that his victims included many, many more people than simply the poor girls he killed.
I am still waiting for a *quality* big-budget film on Bundy, done for the big screen. Until that happens, The Deliberate Stranger stands up quite well. If you're fascinated with Ted Bundy's story, I would definitely recommend it. 9/10.
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