The Strangler (1964)

Genres - Thriller  |   Run Time - 89 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

The Strangler is pure exploitation, but at least the passage of time means that it's no longer offensive: when originally released in 1964, the concurrent real life Boston Strangler murders gave an unpleasant tinge to the film. Strangler clearly is a low-budget "quickie," and as such its screenplay is strictly a matter of "get something up on the screen that mostly makes sense and don't worry about art." Much of the screenplay is clich├ęd and all of it is manipulative, and the sexual nature of the crimes certainly allows for ample scantily clad women. It also doesn't help matters that screenwriter Bill S. Ballinger clearly saw Psycho a number of times. Perhaps a visionary director could have taken this lump of clay and created a film with a life of its own, but -- with a few exceptions -- Burt Topper uses predictable methods to create whatever tension and life he can. There are, however, moments that indicate that Topper would have liked been a bit more imaginative in other circumstances. For example, the manner in which the first murder fills the titular character's eye shows promise. Topper at least has the very good fortune of having Victor Buono on hand as his brow-beaten murderer. Buono fills the screen with his bulk, which contrasts beautifully with the manner in which his character tends to withdrawn within himself -- and which makes for marvelous contrast when he comes alive as he is claiming his victims. Buono is a delicious little horror show, and it provides the film with whatever punch it has.