The Strangler (1964)

The Strangler (1964)

This film opens with a written message, announcing that the creators wish to express their gratitude to several police departments and psychiatrists for giving them access to their files and offering assistance with their research. If it weren't for them, the profile of the titular serial killer would never have been this disturbingly realistic and convincing. Now, attention-grabbing gimmicks at the beginning of a horror movie like this can either mean two things. Either it's sincere and the producers had something genuinely ambitious in mind, or it's just a cheap and sleazy trick to mislead unwarily viewers. You know, like falsely claiming a movie is based on true events. Initially I assumed it would be option number two in the case of "The Strangler". Lead star Victor Buono previously already played an obese guy with a strangely eerie mother-fixation, so it would be the ideal occasion to further exploit the success of that classic by revolving an entirely separate film on this concept. Moreover, "The Strangler" came out almost immediately after the apprehension of Alberto DeSalvo – the real life Boston Strangler – and it is prototypical for a low-budgeted exploitation movie to quickly cash in on media hypes.

Four years later, director Richard Fleischer presented his version of the factual murder case, starring Henry Fonda and Tony Curtis as the infamous Alberto DeSalvo, and that particular film, and the success of that much more commonly known and widely acclaimed film is presumably the reason why "The Strangler" is a relatively obscure and hidden gem. But let me assure you there honestly isn't the slightest reason to feel skeptical or wary towards this movie. "The Strangler" is a chilling and atmospheric effort, with obvious echoes to Hitchcock's "Psycho" naturally, but also more than enough qualitative aspects of its own. It's rather brutal in tone and execution, with some extremely grim and unsettling moments (especially considering the time of release) and the vivid performance of Victor Buono is undeniably the movie's main trump. 

Buono depicts the naturally perverted and heavily overweight hospital lab researcher Leo Kroll. Despite of his arrogant wittiness and obvious intellect, Kroll's bed-ridden mother still dominates his life and she uses every opportunity to reassure her son that he's fat and ugly and that no woman will ever love him. Maybe that's the reason why Leo Kroll is a misogynist serial killer who already strangled eight women; all of them nurses. His trademarks are to use stockings and leave broken play dolls at the scene of the crime. The stalk-and-strangle sequences are extremely suspenseful and many of the undertones and sexual insinuations are quite controversial and ahead of their time. Buono's performance is courageous, powerful, stellar and pretty freaking convincing! Buono is authentically sinister, especially when he behaves calm and sophisticated.  (IMDB Coventry)

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