“ Genre: Drama / Theatrical Release: 1968 / Director: Richard Fleischer / Actors: Tony Curtis, Henry Fonda, George Kennedy, Mike Kellin, Hurd Hatfield ... / DVD released 2004-09-07 at 20th Century Fox / Features of the DVD: Closed-captioned, Colour, DVD-Video, Widescreen, NTSC „
* Prices may differ from that shown
RELEASED: 1968, Cert. 18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 100 mins
DIRECTOR: Richard Fleischer
PRODUCER: Robert Fryer
SCREENPLAY: Edward Anhalt
MUSIC: Lionel Newman
Tony Curtis as Albert DeSalvo
Henry Fonda as John Bottomly
Murray Hamilton as Det. Frank McAfee
George Kennedy as Det. Phil DiNatale
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Based on both Gerold Frank's book and actual events, The Boston Strangler is a film which tells the story of the police's efforts to track down and catch a serial killer.
Nicknamed The Boston Strangler, this killer claims the lives of several women. He begins his killing spree by choosing elderly women, gaining their confidence and access to their apartments, but he then gets more ambitious, widening his repertoire. The murders take place over an approximate two year period, and the police initially don't have too much luck trying to identify the culprit. They do interview some known sex offenders, but draw a blank.
Eventually, The Strangler slips up, and the police are able to ground their enquiries through information given to them by a woman who survived one of his attacks. Albert DeSalvo becomes the main suspect, and after being institutionalised, he is interviewed and interrogatged at length by law professor, John Bottomly.
Firstly, I must say that this review should be considered as exempt from the spoiler syndrome, as it is a film based on the true events when Albert DeSalvo allegedly murdered 14 women in their Boston apartments between 14th June 1962 and 4th January 1964. Although it was never formally proved that DeSalvo was in fact the murderer nicknamed The Boston Strangler, he remained incarcerated in a maximum security prison (from which he once managed to escape, but was recaptured when he turned himself in) until he was murdered in his cell by an inmate in 1973.
The film of The Boston Strangler was made some years after the actual events, and has all the hallmarks of a late 1960s creation. It was fashionable at the time to experiment with camera angles and filming techniques, this being one thing I find a little irritating about The Boston Strangler.....in parts, it is presented in split-screen format which in my opinion is unnecessary, it distracting from the storyline, merely being done for effect.
The overall atmosphere of The Boston Strangler, split-screen syndrome aside, is quite interesting as it shows a lot of street life in the seedier part of the city how it was in bygone, and for some of us, more halcyon days. The first part of the film largely shows an unseen person gaining access to his victim's apartments, then doing the deed. No actual violence is shown, but it is strongly hinted at. Also, it is rather refreshing to watch these films about serial killers which contain little or no blood, knives etc.
I didn't notice the musical score at all, which could be a good sign as it quite likely blended perfectly into the film. What is most impressive for me about The Boston Strangler is the acting skills of both Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda. Quite a few lengthy scenes appear in the film where it is just Curtis and Fonda communicating head to head, and they worked brilliantly with one another, striking up a powerful acting rapport.
At the time of its release, The Boston Strangler received very mixed reviews....some critics bombed it and others praised it as a film, yet declared it to be historically inaccurate. I cannot cast judgment myself, because although I vaguely recall TV news reports on a killer in the USA nicknamed The Boston Strangler and the tag Albert DeSalvo cropping up several times, I was too young to understand or absorb what was going on. However, I can give my opinion on the film which I have seen quite a few times in my life, and apart from the irritation of large parts of it being shown split-screen, it actually is a very good piece of cinema.
The storyline is fast paced in the film, and I like the touch where the viewer isn't shown the killer's - or should I say the final suspect's - face until at least halfway through the proceedings. I do find some of the psychology aspects a little outdated, but that's simply how things were in those days and for that reason, I'm happy to accept some of what now would be deemed as medical inaccuracies....only because 44 years have passed since the film was made and 50 years since the murders were being committed, and major leaps forward in psychology studies and psychiatry have been made since then.
One thing I can't understand is that in this day and age, the DVD of The Boston Strangler bears an 18 certificate. It contains no swearing, the violence is minimal and utterly tame compared to even the most innocent-seeming films of the era we are currently in, and any sexual references/scenes are minor, hardly worth batting an eyelid over. I personally feel that now in the 21st century, this film should fairly be re-classified with a 15 rating.
I would recommend The Boston Strangler as a film to anybody who has an interest in serial killers, especially for people who are old enough to remember the actual events, plus those who prefer what they watch to be far less heavy on the blood and guts than what has lately become the norm. Of course, and as touched on above, it is possible that The Boston Strangler deviates from the truth of the real events to a degree which some may find unacceptable, but nonetheless it can still be watched and enjoyed as a decent film which is very well put together (apart from that irritating split-screen stuff) and remarkably well acted. I do believe Tony Curtis received some sort of accolade for his performance as the mild-mannered Albert DeSalvo, and if so, it was very well-deserved.
At the time of writing, The Boston Strangler can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.51 to £10.40
Used: from £2.57 to £10.00
Collectible: Currently only one copy available @ £6.99
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
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