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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>
Opening credits prologue: THIS IS THE TRUE STORY OF ALBERT DESALVO, THE SELF-CONFESSED BOSTON STRANGLER. THE CHARACTERS AND INCIDENTS YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE ARE BASED ON FACT. See more »
The original UK cinema version suffered heavy BBFC cuts with edits to shots of a woman's dead body, the murder scenes, and the removal of graphic descriptions of the murder victims. Video versions were cut by 1 min 5 secs and reduced the torture of Dianne Cluny to a series of flash shots by removing facial closeups, a shot of her kicking, and detailed footage of her arms and legs being tied to the bed. The cuts were fully restored in the 2004 TCF widescreen DVD. See more »
True-crime drama features Tony Curtis in career-best performance
THE BOSTON STRANGLER (1968)
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (Panavision)
Sound format: 4-track magnetic stereo
The true story of serial killer Albert DeSalvo (Tony Curtis), a devoted family man with a split personality who terrorised Boston during the early 1960's and murdered eleven women.
Perhaps taking its cue from the success of Richard Brooks' true crime drama IN COLD BLOOD (1967), Richard Fleischer's THE BOSTON STRANGLER is a dignified, unsensational account of Albert DeSalvo's notorious crimes and the wide-ranging police investigation which led to his arrest. However, modern viewers may be alarmed by the casual references to 'faggots', and a screenplay (by Edward Anhalt, from the book by Gerold Frank) which assumes a divide between 'normal' heterosexual behaviour and other forms of sexuality, all of which are bracketed as seedy, deviant and marginalised. That small (but significant) caveat aside, the movie provides an effective overview of a complex case, and Curtis - an unlikely choice for such a difficult role - gives a career-best performance as the deranged killer whose routine domestic life provided no hint of the monster lurking within his psyche. Henry Fonda is his nemesis, a dedicated law lecturer assigned to the case against his will, who eventually secured DeSalvo's confession. Some of the crime-scene details are fairly frank for a major release of the period, though the worst of it is relayed through dialogue and reaction shots, and visual depictions are kept to a bare minimum. Even for those familiar with the outcome of the case, the movie generates suspense through an accumulation of historical evidence, as Boston's terrified populace reacts convulsively to the maniac in their midst, and police trawl the streets for anyone whose sexual peccadilloes mark them as possible suspects.
Fleischer was a particular advocate of the widescreen format (he photographed most of his films anamorphically after being bowled over by a demonstration of CinemaScope in 1953), and his modish use of split-screen effects is completely diminished whenever the movie is broadcast on TV (you'll need a big screen to get even a modicum of the intended effect!). While irritating for some, there's nothing gratuitous about this technical device, by which Fleischer is able to convey layers of relevant information within the space of a single scene, whereas a conventional approach might have taken more time and necessitated the removal of crucial information (note also the clever use of directional dialogue and sound effects during these episodes). Few of the murders are recreated in any detail, but there's a couple of unsettling scenes which describe the cunning manner in which DeSalvo was able to gain access to his victims despite a city-wide alert over the Strangler's crimes, and Sally Kellerman is hugely sympathetic as the only woman to survive one of DeSalvo's brutal assaults.
NB. While Fleischer's film takes DeSalvo's guilt wholly for granted, the facts which condemned him have been challenged in robust terms by a number of sources throughout the years (most recently in Susan Kelly's 2002 book 'The Boston Stranglers: The Public Conviction of Albert DeSalvo and the True Story of Eleven Shocking Murders'), and much of the evidence which 'exonerates' DeSalvo is as compelling as anything in the movie. DeSalvo himself died in 1973, murdered by a fellow inmate whilst serving time in Walpole Prison.
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