A series of brutal murders in Boston sparks a seemingly endless and increasingly complex manhunt.
In the 1960s, a man by the name of Albert DeSalvo became known worldwide for murdering more than a dozen women in the Boston area, mostly by strangling them with nylon stockings, amongst other brutal ways. He was known as 'The Boston Strangler', and even confessed to the killings. The manhunt, capture, trial, and his final years were widely covered by the media and is often talked about when discussing serial killers. Of course, Hollywood wanted to make a film about it and added some A List stars to the film, some of which were nominated for awards.
Based on the novel by Gerald Frank, filmmaker Richard Fleischer ('20,000 Leagues Under the Sea', 'Fantastic Voyage', 'Doctor Dolittle', 'Tora! Tora! Tora!', and 'Soylent Green') took this true story and added a bit of entertainment value for the big screen. Being so fresh on everyone's mind, that may have seen a little uncouth to add some different story plots to this true story that would seem to have you sympathize for the killer, but none-the-less, 'The Boston Strangler' has excellent performances and some original filmmaking and editing choices for the time period.
You could say that Fleischer paved the way for the editing style of '24', as 'The Boston Strangler' consistently has multiple frame shots on one screen as we can see the killer stalking his victims, while the police detectives are trying to work and find him. It's a fairly suspenseful way to tell this story, in addition to focusing on the search for the killer, rather than showing the brutal killings up close. The story starts out after three murders pop up of elderly women, all done in the same manner, force John Bottomly (Henry Fonda) to set up a "Strangler Unit" to better utilize the capture of this insane person.
George Kennedy ('The Naked Gun') is set up as lead detective with a few other officers assigned to the case, which turns up a few oddballs, but never the killer. The murders ramp up during this time, which results in the 'Strangler Unit' hiring a psychic to help out capture their suspect, which turns out to be Albert DeSalvo (Tony Curtis). From here, the film plays out partly in court as well as the detectives trying to get a confession out of DeSalvo in a state institution.
Fleischer uses strong panning closeups to give hints on the twist at the end of the film throughout along with his multiple action frames to give everyone's perspective at once during the manhunt and interrogation. The flashbacks are done very well too, as DeSalvo tries to recall his murders. Tony Curtis turns in a spectacular performance as DeSalvo, which he was coming off of many of his comedy films at the time, and he proved once again that he is one of the top actors in the business during this time period.
Henry Fonda and George Kennedy also do well here too, but Curtis definitely shines above all. This is a very well made film, which pioneered some of the editing and filmmaking techniques that so many directors would use in the future. Billing itself as a true story definitely doesn't do any justice for the victims, since some of the film makes you sympathize with the killer, but is understood for entertainment purposes. With brutal violence, compelling characters, and great story telling, this 50 year old film still holds up.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Boston Strangler' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Twilight Time and is Region A Locked. There were only 3,000 copies made. The disc is housed in a clear, hard plastic case with an insert that consists of an essay by Julie Kirgo on the film.
'The Boston Strangler' comes with a good 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. For being 50 years old, Twilight Time has done a great job in this newly mastered print. Closeups reveal excellent detail in the actor's faces, which show tons of makeup blemishes and effects, specifically bruise marks, individual hairs, and stitching in the 1960's clothing.
Wide shots of the city looks excellent too, along with background items and sets looking vivid, which gives this aging film a ton of depth. The colors are well saturated and realistic and never muted. The exterior shots of sunny Boston simply pop off screen. Black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are always natural. There were no major issues with any debris, banding, or video noise, making this video presentation surprisingly excellent.
This release comes with both a DTS-HD 2.0 stereo mix and that rate DTS-HD 3.0 option, both of which do an excellent job providing some immersive aspects to the soundscape. Sound effects are good, but don't sound too realistic, but that's from the time period. They are still managed very well. Ambient noises of cars driving by in Boston, as well as people screaming and chattering sound great with some very good directionality.
Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow with some excellent directionality as well, particularly in the flashbacks and multi-frame sequences. There were no signs of hiss, pops, cracks, or shrills here, leaving this audio presentation with good marks.
Audio Commentary - Film experts David Del Valle and Steven Peros give an engaging and informative commentary track about the making of the film, the real life story, and all the actors and filmmakers involved here. This is definitely worth listening to.
Split-Screen Personality (HD, 23 Mins.) - Filmmaker William Friedkin ('The Exorcist'), who was sought after to direct this movie, talks about the film, the performances, and the real life story of the serial killer.
Real Killer, Fake Nose (HD, 32 Mins.) - Cinematographer Richard H Kline, actress Sally Kellerman, and Richard Fleischer's son Mark all discuss the making of the film, how it did at the box office and critically, as well as its impact.
AMC Backstory: 'The Boston Strangler' (SD, 22 Mins.) - This is an excellent behind the scenes featurette that has Tony Curtis, Richard Fleischer, Sally Kellerman, Richard Kline, and Richard Zanuck talking about how the movie was made and the differences from the real life story.
Fox MovieTone Newsreel (SD, 4 Mins.) - The actual newsreel of some of the victim's bodies being found and rolled out, as well as some interviews with the detectives.
Isolated Score - You can click this option to watch the movie with the score and effects only playing.
Trailers (HD, 4 Mins.) - A teaser trailer as well as a theatrical trailer is included here.
Twilight Time Booklet - This is a fully illustrated booklet with stills from the movie, poster artwork and an essay by Julie Kirgo on the film.
'The Boston Strangler' is still a damn good movie, even some fifty years later. It is brutal, very well made, and has some award winning performances by Tony Curtis, Sally Kellerman, and Henry Fonda. Twilight Time has done a great job in restoring this film that has a great audio and video presentation. The extras are all worth watching as well. Highly recommended!