Reviews written by registered user
|2 reviews in total|
I saw this a while back on DVD; one of the producers showed showed it
to me because I was such a huge fan of the original UK series. Because
this was originally produced as part of a studio demo, and on an
extremely limited budget, he knew it would wouldn't look good enough
for an actual audience. The goal was just to demonstrate to studio
execs that the product could be adapted for an American market.
Of course, if it'd gotten the green light, it would've been re-cast and re-shot before being shown to test audiences. But obviously it didn't get the green light, so what we have here is a rare diamond in the rough. On first glance, most people are inclined to compare the quality. But for those who are interested in working in the industry, this is an opportunity to delve a little deeper.
Why did Dave appeal so strongly to Brits, and why didn't the execs at Universal think it would translate to an American audience? Did the producers fail to make the American Dave a working class protagonist? Or was it done at a time when American audiences preferred more of a hero or leader character in their sci-fi roles? Bear in mind the fact that studio execs are looking for product that will appeal to the largest possible audience, and the protagonist - the character with whom the audience identifies the most - is key to bringing in an audience, and the advertising revenue that follows.
I really, thoroughly enjoyed watching this. But more as an intellectual exercise than entertainment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before you read this, bear in mind the fact that I'm the guy who found
the story and pitched it to the studio head, and I'm the guy who
gathered and assembled the research folder for the project (once my
studio bosses pitched it to and got the greenlight from Discovery). I
looked at all the court transcripts, interviewed the SS and FBI agents
who were involved in the case, interviewed a couple of the surviving
victims, and I'm one of two media professionals who've entered the
Secret Service archives to review their original file. And of course we
all know that, after a massive amount of content is researched and
compiled, a very edited version eventually makes its way into the
shooting script. And an even more edited version often makes it from
there to the screen.
So if you look for this show, be aware that you won't see every one of DeBardeleben's crimes covered. In fact, if you want to really look into this story, get a copy of Stephen Michaud's book 'Lethal Shadow.' But back to the point I want to make: the subject of this MOW, James Mitchell 'Mike' DeBardeleben, was described as the most prolific serial criminal of the 20th century by the FBI profilers who participated in the investigation. They arrived at this conclusion based on the fact that DeBardeleben had led a criminal career for at least 17 years prior to his final capture, and that throughout that career, the FBI had listed him as five different unsubs. Bank robber, extortionist, rapist, murderer, counterfeiter... Notice they didn't say he was the most prolific serial killer, just the most prolific serial criminal. Many people have since asked me why his name is not as known as that of Bundy, or Gacy, or Dahmer. I've asked this question myself.
The answer in part has to do with how and when the media cover a story. Gacy, Bundy, and Dahmer each got a lot of coverage, and DeBardeleben didn't, so DeBardeleben is therefore not as well known. But another reason has to do with the personality of the criminal himself. DeBardeleben was such an amazingly unattractive, uncharismatic, and insecure man, the media never really wanted to cover his story. Even one of his surviving victims described his penis as being unusually small. Bluntly said, DeBardeleben wasn't an attractive media target.
So why did I, as a member of the media, pitch the story? Because he was (and still is) widely regarded as the most prolific serial criminal of the 20th century. And once I got past the ugliness of the criminal himself, I found a guy who made all the other serial criminals look like underachieving boyscouts. I've worked on a lot of serial killer docs, but this one really took the cake.