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Manhunt: Search for the Night Stalker (1989)

Based on the true story of Richard "The Night Stalker" Ramirez who terrorized California in 1985 and the two Los Angeles police detectives who try to track him down.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Sergeant Frank Salerno
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Lieutenant Gil Carrillo
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Pearl Carrillo
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Peter Morgan
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Anne Clark
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Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker) (as Gregory Norman Cruz)
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Phil Thomas
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Jane Salerno
Marisol R. Reyes ...
Maria Hernandez
Roger Hampton ...
Detective Heller
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Captain Robert Grimm
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Dr. Chow (as Soon-Teck Oh)
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Bill Melton
Jake Dengel ...
Jessie
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Mrs. Webster
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Storyline

"Manhunt" vividly tells the terrifying story of the pursuit and capture of Richard Ramirez, "the Night Stalker" - a serial killer who terrorized California in mid 1980s. Written by Jaromir Krol <jaromirk@kr.onet.pl>

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12 November 1989 (USA)  »

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Hunt for the Night Stalker  »

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1.33 : 1
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There has never been a Channel 3 in Los Angeles. See more »

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Featured in Confessions of a Hollywood Stuntman (2014) See more »

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User Reviews

Unsubtle

Sometimes TV movies about real events can be engaging, possibly because the producers don't have to worry about whether their 40 million dollars will be returned at the box office. The treatment of crimes on TV can be truly engaging. The films about Ted Bundy and Charles Manson were fairly well done, especially "Helter Skelter." The story of the so-called Nightstalker, Richard Ramirez, doesn't have quite the potential of the Manson story. It's simply not as intrinsically interesting. But this is more than just uninteresting. It's plain dull.

I've been trying to figure out why. The best proposal that I can come up with is that the fault lies in every aspect of the production. The photography is cloudy, the score done by the numbers. And, as another commenter pointed out, the acting is at best routine. The actors seem to be reading from cue cards half the time. Even Richard Jordan, whose work elsewhere has been quite good, is almost embarrassing to watch. His voice seems slurred and the sound man has picked up every intake of breath, as if Jordan were asthmatic. The role of Richard Ramirez is a key one, and they've used an actor who has a single expression -- a kind of bug-eyed sneer, like an evil Harpo Marx, distinctly wicked. The real Ramirez was angelic, as handsome as a movie star. Girls flocked to him, whereas no one would flock to this guy except flies. The director does nothing to help matters. Camera placement, role enactment, blocking, micromovements -- all are strictly routine. Given all the other weaknesses in the production, the director really needed to punch things up.

Maybe the script is the worst part. I wonder if the writers, while setting the dialogue down on paper, ever really imagine hearing a living human being speaking their words. Jordan "feels" things several times. He calls his partner late at night and tells him, "I have a feeling about tonight. He's going out again." When they're closing the ring around the perp, Jordan tells his partner, "This is it. I can feel it." When the perp is finally safely locked away, Jordan tells his partner solemnly, "We're going to be living with this a long time." This coming from a seasoned detective on the LAPD. Does the line ring false to anyone else? And then there is the squabble between one of the cops and his wife. It seems he's been spending too much time away from home, on the job, and she's worried and frightened, and they have an argument. "I didn't marry your work!" she yells at him tearfully. "What do you want me to do?" he shouts back. (She packs up the kids and leaves him for the duration of the case, but don't worry -- there's a lachrymose reunion at the end.) All straight out of a thousand stories about cops (or military men, or dedicated doctors). No one is really given a believable line. The characters are cartoons, none of them in any way individuated. They don't have twitches or neuroses. They don't joke. They don't make mistakes, although Diane Feinstein does.

The movie is a big long unrefreshing yawn. Too bad. It would have been interesting to know more about what happened, particularly inside Ramirez's head. But that's something we'll never know anyway. Even Ramirez doesn't know. So maybe it's just as well nobody tried to probe his brain and pin it all on the conjecture that he and his Dad were not close enough or something. Anyway, as it stands, I've read more interesting abstracts for articles in Psychiatric Quarterly, and that's saying a lot.


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