"The critics said it would be savaged by the censors. The studio said the star was all wrong for the title role, but the makers of 'The Boston Stranger' refused to listen."
So starts this documentary on the terrific 1968 movie, "The Boston Strangler," starring Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda.
The part of this feature that is most memorable is Curtis being so outspoken and, yes, vain. He knows he did a tremendous job in this film and isn't afraid to tell you. He's still bitter he never got even nominated for an Academy Award. "That told me there's something wrong with the system," he said. A lot of people inferred Curtis was a bad choice for the role "but nothing could stop me.....and nothing did. It was an outstanding performance in a great movie."
Director Richard Fleischer agrees. "It was one of the greatest performances ever," he comments here. That's high praise when you look and see how many great films and actors Fleischer directed.
Curtis won the job when he put silly putty on his nose to change it and altered his face enough that it fooled studio exec Richard Zanuck and convinced Zanuck and others he would look credible in the role. "I went from handsome, blue-eyed Jewish boy to a monster," said the humble Curtis.
Another crucial aspect of the film was its use of multiple images on the screen. Fleischer had gone to Expo '67 in Montreal and had seen that on a big screen, and liked it. He thought it would be the best way "to show a city (Boston) in panic during this time."
Cinematographer Richard Kline explains, "With this technique, they eye almost always went to the new panel that came on but at the same time, the retina - like your brain - would retain all the panels that were established in your brain." In simpler terms, Kline was saying that you could get the whole picture looking at multiple panels of images at the same time. There were anywhere from two to five panels of pictures on the screen at times.
To me, this is what makes this movie unique. The only other film I can recall seeing this used like this was on "Woodstock," which also came out during this period.
However, the technique didn't catch on it and is rarely used. Sad to say, for Tony Curtis, even though this film brought him rave reviews, didn't catch on either. This role, as good as it was, didn't revive his career, as it is pointed out in this documentary.
Frankly, I don't blame Curtis if he's upset about that because he was an underrated actor and he proved his talent in this film as well as in another dramatic role in "The Sweet Smell Of Success" in 1957.. Curtis, by the way, got so into the role Albert De Salvo - the real-life confessed killer - that at the riveting finale he had to be snapped out of almost a trance at each take. Man, I can see why many actors have mental problems. Imagine yourself honestly believing, even if it is for short periods, that you are a mass-murdering strangler.
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