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STUDIO: The Weinstein Company
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
- Feature commentary
Looking for a well told serial killer mystery? Rent Zodiac. Looking for a horrible all around viewing experience? The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story is sitting on a rental shelf somewhere untouched.
Actors: David Faustino, Andrew Divoff, Kostas Sommer
Director: Michael Feifer
Throughout the early 1960’s a murderer terrorized the city of Boston, leaving 11 women dead and the city’s law enforcement officials scrambling to track down the killer. Then Albert DeSalvo, a young man with a checkered past, claimed responsibility for the crimes of the Strangler (as well as 2 other murders). Back then the police were more than happy to put the case to bed and, although there was no physical evidence to link DeSalvo to the murders, and his taped recollection of events leading up to and involving the strangulation deaths of the victims was questionable at best, he was adamant that he and he alone did it. DeSalvo was never officially charged with the crimes attributed to the Boston Strangler (instead he was charged and convicted for a series of rapes, and subsequently murdered in prison). Presently many people closely associated with the case feel that there was more than one strangler, and DeSalvo was none of them.
But to take the trip with director Michael Feifer, and watch his vision of how the real story of the Strangler may have went down, one may feel more confused about the facts than when they started the movie. Or, they may just feel like they wasted their time watching a steaming piece of shit pile up on their TV screen.
Like Kyzysztof Kieslowski and his Colors trilogy, which examines life in modern France, Feifer has also created a series of films dealing with people living in modern society, but he beats the crap out of Kieslowski by making five films instead of three on the subject, and making them about murderers instead of stuffy ol’ French people! His Filmography reads like a serial killer greatest hits list; B.T.K., Bundy: An American Icon, The Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck, Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield, and now The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story. But unlike the Oscar nominated Kieslowski, Feifer’s filmmaking talent is more akin to Ed Wood, without the enthusiasm, or ability to make a finished product that is at least fun to watch with friends.
His Boston Strangler movie does tell the story of the search for the killer of the film’s title, but it does it in such a messy way that it’s hard to make any sense of it. One scene has us following DeSalvo (Faustino) as he is coercing a young coed into letting him take her measurements under the ruse that he works for a modeling agency. Well, he ends up raping her (not murdering her, I think?). A few moments later, DeSalvo is inexplicably in jail. It is left to the audience to make the leap as to how the police tracked him down or discovered that he raped anyone. Most of the scenes in the film work this way, rarely meshing together with the next to form a cohesive whole.
The heart of the movie isn’t about convicting DeSalvo; it’s about proving that, although he was a rapist and a violent womanizer, he was too good a guy to be the Boston Strangler. So Feifer must had read a few pages of Wikipedia and based his story on the idea that, while incarcerated in a prison run mental hospital, DeSalvo allegedly confessed to being the strangler to his cellmate. In the film version, DeSalvo is the victim, coerced into confessing to the murders by his prison buddy Frank (Sommers) in hopes of cashing in on book and movie rights. This may be true, but either way, why would anyone watching this become emotionally involved in whether or not DeSalvo was duped into anything. He was a scumbag of a human being in the first place. You can’t keep showing gratuitous flashbacks of violent rape, and then show slow motion flashbacks of DeSalvo lovingly holding his wife at the end. Well, I suppose you can, and they did, but it doesn’t do anything but make watching his movie more unbearable.
So those are the main problems, and it could go on like this for pages. The film is terribly put together in every way. We have detectives having flashbacks of murders they never investigated in the film, dead bodies that just randomly pop up between scenes, and classy dialogue like this:
Police Chief: I’ve got so much pressure up my ass that I’m about to crap out of my mouth.
Classy indeed. And on the subject of class; If your going to make a movie about real events and real people who were involved and were victims of grizzly murders, at least try to honor them with a film that has at least the semblance of caring about them. Somewhere in the commentary (not sure where exactly and I watched this thing three times and am not going back to find out where) the director claims that the writing doesn’t have to be perfect, because the actors will do their own thing with it, and scenes don’t have to be acted perfectly, because good is good enough. According to Michael Feifer, if all the scenes are “good” then they will add up to “perfect” as a whole film. Amazing. And Feifer has tons of film- school-in-a-can knowledge like this in the commentary to lay on aspiring bad directors.
But there is one thing that is going to save this from being a no-star movie, and that’s David Faustino as Albert DeSalvo. Gathering all the information that one could from the commentary, it would seem that Faustino wasn’t given too much direction on how to portray his character, and while you turn off the picture not caring one way or another about DeSalvo, Faustino at least put all he had into it. Even his Boston accent works through most of the movie (and he seems to be the only actor able to concentrate on more than just nailing the accent). The rest of the cast (save for Divoff) seems more like they are putting on a small town production of C.S.I., but a little of the blame should lie with the director for just demanding they be “good” in their scenes.
The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story continues to baffle with its box art. If the film is offering up that it was Frank that was the Strangler and not Albert, putting him on the cover was the right choice. But adding a tribal tattoo to his neck is a bit misleading, since he didn’t have a tribal tattoo near his neck in the movie, but heck it sells the movie, right? Also, the Boston strangler never used wire to kill his victims like shown on the cover, but the film is only based on a true story really, so that’s small potatoes. The extras on the disc include the film’s trailer and a commentary with Faustino, Feifer, composer Andres Boulton, and editor Roberto Jimenez.
1.5 out of 10