The Boston Strangler was a true-life figure who purportedly killed 13 women in the early 1960s. Even though one Albert DeSalvo confessed to the murders, to this day, the debate continues over DeSalvo's guilt and theories abound as to who the killer(s) are (were).
The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story presents writer / director Michael Feifer's vision of what truly happened. It's an interesting movie with some neat casting, but unfortunately the film has a lot of flaws which keep it from being more than just a passing curiosity.
If you're not well-versed in the history of the Boston Strangler, you're not alone. The crimes were committed more than 45 years ago and unfortunately there have been many other serial killers who captured the media's attention over the intervening years. In the commentary track, even actor David Faustino (yes, the kid who played Al Bundy's son on the infamous Fox sitcom Married with Children is all grown up) confesses that he knew little about the case before accepting the part of DeSalvo. The filmmakers could have kept this in mind and provided a prologue / overview of the case at the start of the film but chose not to.
For those unfamiliar with the case, it may take a while to understand where this film is going. Much of the first act of this film transitions between two characters. We're introduced to DeSalvo, here a real loser. He's an awful husband and father who's prone to fits of rage and feeds his libido by attacking young girls. We're also introduced to John (Andrew Divoff of Wishmaster fame), a detective struggling with the case as the body count rises. The way that these characters are built up, one would expect some kind of dramatic showdown between them. But this never materializes.
Instead, DeSalvo is convinced by a cellmate to confess to killing the women in order to split the substantial reward money and cash in on future book and movie deals. DeSalvo agrees, believing he's going to be in jail anyways for crimes hid did, indeed, commit. Various officials become involved in the conspiracy for reasons of their own.
The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story works best as a character piece. The interactions between DeSalvo and his cellmate, Frank, are perhaps the best scenes in the movie. These could have been developed much further in order to better explain why Frank and Al develop such a close bond. Andrew Divoff's performance as John is really good, but his character is nearly abandoned in the second half of the film - and the audience is left wondering why, especially as he ultimately comes across as nothing more than a device in the screenplay to express the notion that there are doubts among the lead investigators as to the identity of the killer.
The weakest element of this film is its recreations of the killings. They seem to be tacked on to feed the audience's prurient interests and up the horror factor. However, they're rather clumsily filmed, lacking suspense and believability. I'm a huge horror movie fan, but it seems to me that in this case, the movie should have focused solely on the characters themselves without the unnecessary interjections of graphic violence.
Despite these flaws, if you're interested in true crime stories, The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story is worth a rental and should at least keep your attention.
Genius Products presents The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story in anamorphic widescreen. The image looks fairly sharp. Colors seem a little muted, though purposely so. Overall, this isn't a bad-looking film. It should be noted that the film's trailers are also anamorphic widescreen.
The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 5.1 and also sounds fairly good if rather uniform. Dialogue is always clear and the film's score is well-mixed, but don't expect a dramatically dynamic presentation.
Subtitle options are available in Spanish and English for the Hearing Impaired.
Trailers automatically precede the main menu for George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead, Flash Point, The Mist, and The Rock. While one can't access these trailers in the main menu, a separate link in that menu does give access to a trailer for The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story.
The more substantive extra is a feature-length commentary track with writer / director Michael Feifer, lead actor David Faustino, composer Andrew Boulton, and editor Roberto Jimenez. With four participants, the commentary is lively and fairly insightful while still being irreverent and humorous. Given the serious nature of the source material, the tone of the commentary may seem a little off-putting, although director Feifer does make a statement early on basically acknowledging this fact.
A featurette about the Boston Strangler would have been a great addition to this disc - but clearly this film is too low budget with a limited audience for the studio to justify such an extra. Too bad.
The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story is far from a perfect film, but it warrants checking out if you're interested in true crime stories. Rent it.