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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 <email@example.com>
In the film, it is assumed DeSalvo was guilty, and it portrays him as suffering from multiple personality disorder and committing the murders whilst in a psychotic state. DeSalvo was never diagnosed with, or even suspected of, having that disorder. See more »
John S. Bottomly:
But what can you expect from a society that itself spends 44% of its tax dollars on killing?
See more »
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 »
Tony Curtis really showed his acting chops when he took on the most unlikely role of Albert DeSalvo the famous Boston Strangler of the early 1960s. Though he's only in the film literally for about half of it, what you see is a classic performance. Why he wasn't nominated for an Oscar, the Deity only knows.
13 women were found dead in the Boston area of manual strangulation and they were also sexually molested. Public concern was so great that the then Attorney General Edward Brooke, played by William Marshall, overrode local jurisdictions and prerogatives and assigned a lawyer from his office John Bottomly to coordinate the strangler investigation.
Henry Fonda plays Bottomly who takes the task on quite reluctantly because his expertise is civil litigation. My guess is that Brooke was thinking that Bottomly would be best for the job because he came in with no preconceived notions on how to do the job and would be open to anything. Turned out he was right.
Actually Fonda has more screen time than Curtis because the first half of the film concentrates on him and the investigation. He follows up every red herring thrown at him. He even hires a medium paid for with private funds by a millionaire friend of Brooke's played by George Voskevec who actually comes close in terms of geography to finding the real killer.
One of the red herrings is a gay man played by Hurd Hatfield who in those days before Stonewall was considered a likely suspect. He gets turned in by his landlady who is suspicious of his reading material. It's something he's used to, every time there's a lurid sex murder as an openly gay, or at least openly gay for that time he's brought in for questioning. This was one of the few times I ever heard the word gay used in a film made before the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969.
Curtis however dominates the film. The last 20 minutes or so is a final confrontation with him and Fonda and for those who are used to the insouciant leading man of swashbucklers and comedies, this is a real breakthrough. As much if not more of breakthrough than his part in Sweet Smell of Success.
In his memoirs however Curtis decries the fact that on this, the second of two films he worked with Henry Fonda on, he said that he found Fonda cold and forbidding as a person to work with.
The film is tautly directed by Richard Fleischer with some fine editing though I think Fleischer was a bit too fond of the split screen technique. Still it's a film worth watching.
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