34 user 5 critic

The Deliberate Stranger (1986)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Thriller | TV Movie 4 May 1986
Based on a true story, this film depicts the life of Theodore Robert Bundy, the serial killer. In 1974, after having murdered several young women, he leaves Seattle for Utah, where he is a ... See full summary »



(book), (teleplay)
4,416 ( 462)

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Ted Bundy
... Det. Bob Keppel
... Richard Larsen
... Det. Mike Fisher
... Cas Richter
... Det. Sam Davies
... Det. Roger Dunn
... Louise Bundy
... Officer Bradley (Provo detective)
... Jerry Thompson
... Martha Chambers
... Ken Wolverton
... Larsen's editor
... Mrs. Richter
... Aspen Detective


Based on a true story, this film depicts the life of Theodore Robert Bundy, the serial killer. In 1974, after having murdered several young women, he leaves Seattle for Utah, where he is a law student and where other girls disappear. It takes the cooperation of a number of police forces to work efficiently on this case. Soon, but not soon enough, the police eliminate endless possibilities and close in on him. Bundy is tried in the media and his good-boy attitude brings him sympathy but also the hatred of many. Written by Steve Richer <sricher@sympatico.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He was easy to like. Deadly to know. Tough to catch.


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

4 May 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alptraum des Grauens  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The detective played by Frederic Forrest is based on Robert Keppel... The scene when he falls during the uphill mountain search, and lands right next to a skull, is straight from Keppel's Ted Bundy book, The Riverman. See more »


The Utah mall incident occurred in 1974 yet the Stevie Nicks album "Rock a Little", which is displayed on the store window behind Bundy and his intended victim, was not released till 1985. See more »


Ted Bundy: Ted Bundy wants something out of all this. Maybe he doesn't deserve it, but I gotta take care of survival.
See more »


Version of Bundy See more »

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User Reviews

The smiler with a knife
9 August 2002 | by See all my reviews

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.

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