The Boston Strangler (1968)
“One by one the victims fell, each death more gruesome than the last….” The “true horror story” of The Boston Strangler kept many women off the streets at night. Today, the faithful horror viewing population can still relive the terror in this epic film. This film is an important film for all horror fans and film students. Whether it’s the film’s landmark shooting style, the controversial subject matter, or Tony Curtis’s finest performance on celluloid, you should be hanging your head in shame if you haven’t seen this film already.
Perhaps the most obvious of all the film’s attributes is the tremendously original shooting style. When The Boston Strangler is on the screen, the screen splits into anywhere from 2-5 screens so the viewer can see the Strangler ringing the doorbell, the stairs he’s going to walk up, the door to the apartment, and the victim in the apartment at the same time. While it seems as though this would be confusing, it is spectacularly done. Perhaps the most haunting scene is when you see a split screen of a roommate dead on the floor in her bedroom (with the door closed) and her roommates having a very casual conversation right outside her door, unaware that their roommate is dead. I would bet that most people would feel a chill up their spine in that scene.
The second attribute that deserves a mention is the controversial issues this film brought up. This film caused quite a stir with the censors as it dealt with the most horrible sexual crimes you could possibly imagine in explicit detail (there is an explicit discussion where it was revealed that one of the victims was raped with a wine bottle). Though I thought the latest sex-crime flick, From Hell, was horrifying, this movie is still miles past it in the “balls” department. Consider that this was a simpler time where murders such as this were never even considered to be exploited by Hollywood, coupled with the fact that this movie was made only a few years after the actual events took place, and it’s a no-brainer to realize that this movie has some serious balls.
Finally, Tony Curtis deserves more than a mention. Known as a “light and fun” actor, Tony Curtis would probably be the furthest from a casting director’s mind when trying to come up with a suitable actor to play The Boston Strangler. However “mis-casted” he might have been, he did an absolutely phenomenal job. Much like Bill Pullman in David Lynch’s Lost Highway, this is the one movie that showed Tony Curtis’s true acting ability. This was truly a marvelous risk taken by the director.
I saw this movie because I am now a Bostonian and was interested in it because of the history. I never knew what a gem it would actually be. Difficult to find, but worth the effort, this film is worth seeing for its unique multiple-screen technique. Your best bet is to see it when AMC has it on next. This is required viewing for all cinematography fans and for all classic horror fans. Beautifully horrifying and painfully mesmerizing, it has to be seen to be believed.