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  • I just saw this on TCM this morning. I agree that the other actors were quite wooden and some of the things the police overlooked (or the scriptwriter conveniently left out) were ridiculous, but Victor Buono was perfect as the killer and that is the reason to watch this film. They got much right about serial killers and their MO and "type" and Buono's ability to move from tenderness to arrogance and hatred creepiness and craziness - all with his face - was quite a thing to see. Just watch it for his portrayal. Ellen Corby as the harridan of a mother is quite fine too. The women who worked at the arcade were a bit dense, though I was glad to see the mother's nurse and the woman who worked with Buono in the lab were not. The movie is of its time, but Victor Buono is so good in this, it shouldn't be discounted.
  • This film was a pleasant surprise. I bought this on DVD with another film on same DVD because I liked the description, at a very fine price. I was not disappointed. Victor Buono of Batmans King Tut fame and Ellen Corby of Waltons fame were excellent as son and overbearing crippled mother. The scenes where Ellen Corby verbally abuses her son were as important to the film as the actual murders taking place. It truly does give the viewer somewhat of a sense as to why the killer turned out the way he did. I thought the police investigation and interrogation scenes were wonderful as well and truly stood the test of time to modern day film experiments such as Law and Order or CSI . The writers of this movie really did their homework to bring out an exceptional film in all facets, covering all bases. The film is timeless for the most part, except for smoking in the hospital. I thought that was strange lol. I surely recommend this film with an eerie soundtrack though very simple stage set. Victor Buono very underrated actor, probably because of his girth. Enjoy this film ASAP.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Victor Buono is an overaged momma's boy whose hypochondriac "mom" later became Grandma Walton. Buono is quite interested in women but momma never hesitates to remind him that he's too fat, boring and poor to gain any woman's interest. He therefore, rather predictably, reacts by strangling women who conveniently strip down to their skivvies before the event. Eventually he meets a girl he truly cares for, which turns out to be the downfall of both he and his mother.

    It's hard to rate this movie. The strangulation scenes are not overly graphic but the sexual aspect and the killer's apparent gratification in that regard were pretty risqué for the time. While the direction and production are cheap and at times poorly done, this seems to give the film an oddly realistic, almost documentary style that contributes to its disturbing qualities. Too undeveloped to be a first class thriller yet not quite dumb enough to be funny, it's still an interesting film that's sick enough to upset the sensitive.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is an excellent film detailing the police manhunt for a psychopathic serial strangler of women in a large unnamed city. Based on the case of the Boston Strangler, the film introduces us to one Leo Kroll(VICTOR BUONO), an obese, mother-dominated hospital lab technician with a pathological hatred of women engendered by his lifelong negative relationship with his mother. Watching the interaction between them gives the viewer the insight needed to understand why he turned out the way he did. The respective performances are just amazing to watch-this is as real, believable and lifelike as it gets. ELLEN CORBY gives a wonderful performance as Mrs. Kroll- a coronary care patient confined to a hospital room who berates, belittles and criticizes her son for everything and anything whenever he comes to visit her. And it's obvious that this has been the pattern of their whole relationship from the time he was a little boy. It is quite apparent that Leo, a very large and obese man, feels much nervous fear and trepidation around this small elderly invalid with the critical tongue. But he also feels incredible hatred for her as well. Mrs. Kroll is an angry, embittered, domineering shrew of a woman who has made her son's very existence miserable from Day One. She claims to love him, but we see that it's not true, honest, caring love. It's false and manipulative. In one scene, she tells Leo "You love me and I love you." The way she says it and the look on her face tells us that this is an evil, controlling woman who uses her son for her own devious ends- another version of the Mrs. Bates persona from PSYCHO. When the movie starts, Leo Kroll is racking up his eighth strangulation murder and the police Homicide Division is stumped. The Detective Lieutenant in charge of the investigation, Lt. Frank Benson, is played by The Marlboro Man(David McLEAN). McLean turns in a very believable performance here. He is COP PERSONIFIED. He looks the part and acts it- tired and haggard, yet tough, tenacious and determined. After Kroll is interviewed by the police, they develop more than a passing interest in him. A battle of wits ensues between the detectives and Kroll, with Kroll seeming to upstage them at various points. The most humorous line in an otherwise dark movie is when Kroll tells them that he wasn't able to afford completing his medical school education, but that he has sufficient training to become a policeman! The film explores the psychopathology of the woman-hating serial killer by having the Department Psychiatrist do a profile workup for the Lieutenant. This clinical aspect of the film is quite informative and revealing and the conclusions portrayed herein have been substantiated by experts in the field of abnormal psychology. In addition to venting his hatred for his mother by murdering women(he seems to specialize in young, attractive nurses), strangling these women also gives him a sexual release. By his bodily twitching and shaking and sweaty, perspiring features, it's quite obvious what we're seeing. Obvious though understated. Leo's one glimmer of hope for some happiness is a young woman named Tally Raymond(DAVEY DAVISON), who works at the Ring Toss concession in the local penny arcade. Smitten with her and starved for affection, he mistakes her kindness to him for love. An interesting aside- Tally has a co-worker named Barbara Wells, played by DIANE SAYER. Barbara seems to be quite interested in Leo and she doesn't hide her interest. She comes on to him but he's not interested in her at all. He's brusque with her and treats her in a very perfunctory manner. Here's a guy who has been rejected by women all his life. Yet when he encounters one who wouldn't mind being with him, he summarily dismisses her. This is a man, who, at the age of 30, has never been with a woman or had a normal relationship with one. He has no idea what it involves. All he knows is that this woman Tally showed him some kindness and he's going to propose to her. When he does, offering her his now dead mother's engagement ring, she is understandably alarmed and taken aback and tries to diplomatically turn him down. But this final rejection is the one he can't walk away from. It leads to an ending which is predictable but nonetheless tragic. This is a very well-crafted crime noir thriller with excellent performances throughout. VICTOR BUONO is just perfect in this film. This part was made for him. I think he deserved an Academy Award for his performance. The film has an eerie score which I found to be quite unnerving. It helps create the film's unsettled tone. This is a minor classic and I give it a 10 out of 10.
  • mercury422 April 2002
    This movie is actually based on the Boston Strangler. There are many hints to it such as; women setting up bottles in front of their door so they can hear the strangler coming in, the stocking tied around the victim's neck and the fact that most of the women killed were nurses. At the time of the murders, they also believed the Boston Strangler was mother fixated, as Leo Kroll is in the movie. There are many things I like a lot better in this movie than The Boston Strangler with Tony Curtis. I love the plot, the score, and of course, the great acting by Victor Buono. Although it is hard to say whether Buono is better than Tony Curtis. You never really see Curtis strangling in his movie. You barely see Tony Curtis at all in The Boston Strangler. That's probably because no one is absolute certain that Alberto DeSalvo was the Strangler. The interesting thing about this movie is that the real Boston Strangler could've very well been a guy like the one in this movie.

    After seeing this movie and a couple other movies of Buono, I think he is a great actor. The black and white cinematography is also very good. One thing that definitely sets the mood is the eerie music while Buono is hiding from his victims in the dark. There's even an incredible point of view shot through the Strangler's eye in the beginning. One thing that is very realistic is the fact that Buono gets pleasure while he is strangling, like a real serial killer. Buono also got me to sympathize with him in the movie. Even up until the very end. One of my favorite parts in the movie is when there is a sudden burst of violence when Buono strangles his mother's nurse. Especially great acting by Buono in that scene. At first I thought this would just be another B movie, but it wasn't. It was very well made. See this movie. You won't be disappointed.
  • 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. Great suspense flick, highly recommended!
  • Oddball, but enjoyable low-budget horror film features Victor Bruno as an overweight, insecure lab technician with an overbearing mother, which somehow drives him to become a serial killer, strangling nurses at the hospital where he works. "The Strangler" capitalized on Bruno's Oscar nominated performance in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" and although this clearly a lesser film, it does have a low rent William Castle type of charm. Bruno carries the film, giving a creepy performance as an unassuming killer along the lines of David Berkowitz or John Wayne Gacy, far removed from the usual more flamboyant of serial killers presented on films (i.e. Hannibal Lecter, Patrick Bateman in "American Psycho," Harry Powell in "Night of the Hunter", etc.). Overall, it's not a classic and is not for all tastes, but if you're in the mood for something along the lines of "Strait-Jacket" or "Homicidal," you'd probably enjoy this low budget chiller.
  • The Strangler is an excellent film of its genre.Victor Buono gives an excellent performance as the disturbed lab technician who hates women because of his over possesive,critical and domineering mother.Jeannie Bates who played his mothers nurse would have been better off letting the miserable old bat die than trying to keep her alive.IF ONLY SHE KNEW.Buonos acting was superb,he could act calm and mild mannered at one point and seem like a total nutburger at another.You have to say one thing about Buono,he really put his whole heart and soul into his little hobby of killing.This man would have done "The Boston Strangler" proud. This movie makes "Frenzy" look like "Little Women" The word strangle deserves a definite place in history thanks to buono who gives new meaning to the word.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    THE STRANGLER – 1964 This low budget film is based on the Boston Strangler files. There have been eight murders in an unnamed major city. All eight have been nurses. The Police are at a loss to identify the killer. All they really know is that all eight were strangled with pantyhose.

    The killer is seemingly mild mannered hospital lab technician, Victor Buono. Buono is a man with a problem. His mother, invalid, Ellen Corby, rides Buono all the time. "You are a loser, everyone laughs at you, no woman would want you." This of course causes a less than ideal response by Buono when dealing with the opposite sex.

    In charge of the Police investigation are Detectives, David McLean and Baynes Barron. Helping the Police is psychiatrist Russ Bender.

    Since all the victims have been nurses, the Police interview all male hospital staff at the various hospitals. Buono is interviewed by the detectives but seems harmless. The Police investigation is going nowhere fast.

    The only time Buono remotely feels happy, is when he visits the "Fun Palace" games arcade. He has taken a fancy to several of the girls, Davey Davison and Diane Sayer, who work the ring toss game. They always talk nice to him. Whenever he wins, he always takes a small doll as his prize. And every time he wins a doll, someone dies.

    His mother, who suffers from a bad ticker, has an attack but is saved by nurse Jeanne Bates. Buono is less than pleased with this, as he can't wait till the old bat keels over. Bates is next on the man's hit list.

    Now the Police are really interested, as Buono knew this victim. They pull the man in for a polygraph test. The Police are somewhat surprised when Buono passes the polygraph without a hic-up. The Department shrink, Bender, tells the Detectives that a true sociopath would have no problem passing the test. The Police have no option though but to release Buono.

    Buono, who is slowly unravelling, pays his mother a visit. He gives Corby a bit of her own medicine and verbally attacks her. Corby, who believes that she was always the "perfect' mother, is shocked by this. She of course has a massive heart attack and dies. Buono could not be happier with this turn of events.

    The Police again pull Buono in for a chat. A few questions about his mother are asked which Buono just shrugs them off. His mother was a sick woman.

    Detective McLean finds Buono a bit too unemotional and is sure he needs to be watched. The Police interview everyone from all his haunts to see if they can dig up anything. Buono sees Detective Barron taking to Diane Sayer at the arcade. Needless to say that Miss Sayer ends up with a set of pantyhose wrapped around her throat.

    Buono now returns to the arcade and expresses his love for Miss Davison. "I'm free now, and would like to marry you." Davison tries to explain to Buono that simply being nice to him was not an expression of love. Buono adds Davison to the list of people that need to die.

    The rattled Davison contacts the Police and is grabbed up for safekeeping. She identifies Buono as the man they want and the Police put out an all points. Davison insists that the police take her to her apartment. She wants to pack up and catch the first bus out of town. She is scared to death.

    The Police oblige and drive her home. Needless to say our man Buono is hiding inside with a handy pair of pantyhose ready. When he makes his move, the Police are close by and interrupt his murder attempt. He ends up going for a nosedive from the fifth-floor apartment.

    Not a cinematic gem by any means, but not a waste of time either. Buono, in one of his few leads, is quite good. So is Ellen Corby as the "harpie" mother who drives Buono around the twist.

    Others in the cast include, Wally Campo, Byron Morrow, Mimi Dillard and James B. Sikking. David Mclean was known to a generation of television viewers, as, "The Marlboro Cigarette Man." The director was bottom-rung helmsman, Burt Topper. Topper churned out such masterpieces as, TANK COMMANDOS, SOUL HUSTLER and DIARY OF A HIGH SCHOOL BRIDE.

    The writer was, Bill S. Ballinger. Ballinger wrote dozens of television episodes. He also wrote the novels that the films, PUSHOVER and WICKED AS THEY COME are based on.

    The d of p was Jacques(ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN)Marquette.
  • It's a Buono showcase. His restrained portrait of an unattractive, mother-hating serial killer is a grabber. No wonder he loathes his bed-ridden mom. Obviously, she's brow-beaten him his whole life, taking what little self-esteem he ever had. Now, at thirty, he lumbers around like a fat rhino among sleek gazelles, picking off single women one-by-one and leaving cheap arcade dolls in their place. Somehow in his twisted mind, however, she won't stay dead. No matter how many times he kills her, there she is back again in her bed, making whining demands. He's almost a figure of pity as much as loathing, and it's to actor Buono's credit that he manages to create the difficult mix.

    I like the cops here, especially Sgt. Clyde (Barron). They come across more like real cops than the usual. At the same time, their interviews with suspect Kroll (Buono) are little gems of thrust and parry. Director Topper films in straightforward fashion, without the sinister lighting that might be expected, but with good judicious use of close-up. This is not a slasher-type movie. In fact, despite the lurid material, the movie comes across more like a dark psychological study than a horror film, thanks mainly to Buono's shrewdly calculated performance and Topper's refusal to play up the violence.
  • While this is not by any stretch of the imagination a good film, because of the slow pacing, the inane police sequences, and the thuddinmg obviousness of much of it. It still has it's imaginative stretc hes. For example, showing that the killer has an orgasm every time he kills is unusual and quitye ahead of the time. Several of the strangling scenes where suspensilly paced, but weakened by how quickly the victim usually died (it only takes him about 10 seconds to strangle each woman with a silk stocking!) and also weakened by having every woman changer into her underwear before she gets killed. Basically much of this is saved by Victor Buono's performance which is not his best, is still quite menacing and one of the more realistic serial killers on film. His exaggerated false smiles of respectability brought to mind similiar ones I had seen on the faces of John Wayne Gacy. And the scene where he trashes the apart ment the hole time his mouth workingh inadvertenly was magnificent.
  • Was very intrigued by the story for 'The Strangler', being a fan of murder/mystery/psychological films this was the sort of story that would have appealed to me straightaway, and have liked Victor Buono in other things. The racy content that 'The Strangler' has been referred to as having was another interest point.

    'The Strangler' turned out to be a nicely done, entertaining and intriguing film that does much more right than it does wrong. Not great or a masterpiece but well above average and worth a watch, would say too that it deserves more attention than it gets. It is very rarely seen now and it deserves better than that.

    It does lack finesse visually, with it looking like it was made hastily. Occasionally the pace creaks in spots.

    Other than Victor Buono and Ellen Corby, the rest of the cast don't really stand out, not because they're awful but their characters are nowhere near as interesting. Would have liked a slightly clearer motivation for what drove Kroll to target nurses perhaps and why he chose the methods.

    Buono however is the main reason to see 'The Strangler'. He clearly has a ball here and while he is often chilling Buono succeeds in making Kroll more than that and gives him a sympathetic edge. Corby is suitably beastly as the dominating mother figure. The direction is more than capable and much of the script is taut and thought-provoking. The music is haunting without being intrusive.

    From start to finish, the story is compelling with lots of suspense, especially in the build ups to the killings, and it is hard to not admire the film's raciness in its unconventionally (at the time) brutal tone, that provides some genuine unsettlement, and the ahead of its time content. The pace is mostly both controlled and tight and the investigative/procedural approaches are fascinating.

    On the whole, well done. 7/10 Bethany Cox
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Victor Buono gives an excellent performance in what is otherwise a straightforward crime movie. In fact it's a safe bet to say that Buono's acting elevates this film as a whole and makes it worthwhile. As crime movies go, it pretty much plays by the book and doesn't offer up much in the way of surprises or shocks. Indeed, the format of the film is simple, a scene of stalking and murder followed by police investigation, repeated over and over.

    The black and white photography is sharp and clear, so no problems there. The police investigation is kept interesting as we watch how the police work, piecing together their clues and the like, and gadgets like bugs and lie detectors are brought into play. The acting of the supporting cast is adequate as well, and the two women working in the ring booth are particularly sympathetic and believable. This is a fairly racy film for the time, as it shows each victim stripping off her clothes before the murder, and implies that Buono gets sexual gratification from the act, themes that would become more explicit as the years passed.

    The real drawing point of this film is Buono's character, and his portrayal. Leo Kroll is a sympathetic murderer, whose psychology has been warped by a cruel, oppressive mother who has stopped him ever having any friends in his life (shades of PSYCHO here). He is unable to kill her directly, and so instead takes his anger out on the various women he murders. Of course, this is only part of it, as he's obviously a bit of a pervert too, so what we have is a pretty disturbed and complex guy. Buono's performance is an alternatively smug and twitchy one, and he does just the right job of being realistic, likable to the audience (his is the leading role, after all) and tragic in a way. There are no two ways about it, THE STRANGLER is nothing more than a low budget B-movie through and through. Yet Buono's acting and the professionalism of the film make it suitably entertaining and interesting in its own right.
  • Straightforward and with very few frills this one has almost a too-real-feel that makes it a rather disturbing Movie. The Acting and production look fine and it all unfolds at an even unsettling pace. The murders are quick but quintessentially quirky and there is very little restraint on the Sexual-Psycho aspect.

    Keeping with the post Psycho (1960) theme that it's all Mother's fault, this is another Boy who was dominated and ridiculed from birth by his MaMa and that means trouble. This is quite heavy handed here even throwing in a significant Doll that says Mama, Mama. But most of the Psychological aspects and Police procedures are done with some attention to detail.

    Overall, with a great performance from the rotund Victor Buono with his expressive face and brightly shining eyes, and some fine work by the production staff this is an above average entry in the popular Genre of Serial Killers that really got going in the 1960's.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In the 1960s and 70s, Victor Buono made a niche for himself playing crazy guys or playing in films with other crazy folks--much like Anthony Perkins did. This is the fourth such Buono film I've seen and I am sure he did more. And, believe it or not, his crazed strangler in "The Strangler" is not among his weirdest and sickest roles--in one film he played a butcher who made sausages out of his neighbors!!

    "The Strangler" is a film obviously inspired by the Boston Strangler, though the stories are quite different in many ways. Buono plays a man who absolutely hates his mother. However, instead of killing her, he displaces his anger on innocent women--many of whom are nurses who take care of his horribly nasty mother (Ellen Corby) in a nursing home. Eventually, however, his crimes come back to haunt him in an exciting finale.

    The film is amazingly blunt for a mid-1960s film. The movie uses the word 'rape' (a rarity for the time) and shows some brutal murders. Some might think this is a bit salacious but I appreciated how the story was direct and unflinching. About the only thing I did not like about the film was the doctor's description of schizophrenia--much of it was wrong--even for 1964. Still, it's a small complaint and another successful sicko film for Buono.
  • Very watchable thriller featuring the rotund funny-man Buono in a decidedly unfunny portrayal of an unhinged mummy's boy and daytime lab scientist whose over-bearing mother leads him to commit a series of murders of young women placing the city in the grip of fear. Buono essentially reprised the role several years later in the Italian black comedy "The Mad Butcher", his MO virtually identical albeit in a more farcical manner.

    Rugged Marlboro Man David MacLean is the tired, dairy devouring (was the milk drinking scene a product placement ad?) detective under pressure to make the city safe again, whilst a plethora of female victims include Jeanne Bates, Mimi Dillard, Davey Davison and the defiant Diane Sayer set up as bait to lure the killer as his crimes escalate to more brazen opportunism and flagrant audacity. James B.Sikking (Hill Street Blues) has a bit part as a police sketch artist.

    The film is nicely photographed in B&W whilst the set decor is detailed and the pace and plot neatly executed. All round, it's a coherent little thriller (loosely inspired by events of the time), taut, economical and well worth watching more than once.
  • Hey_Sweden26 November 2016
    The real-life Boston Strangler killings were still unsolved and fresh on peoples' minds when this well done thriller hit theatres. The screenwriter (Bill S. Ballinger) and filmmakers obviously took their pains to make this as authentic as they could, given what they'd learned about the psychology of serial killers and the methods employed by the law to identify and apprehend them.

    The legendary Victor Buono (of "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" and 'Batman' fame) stars as Leo Kroll, a lab technician with a doll fetish who's dominated by his shrewish mother (Ellen Corby, eventually to become known as Grandma Walton). He symbolically strikes back at her by murdering various unfortunate young women. The cops on the case include Lt. Frank Benson (David McLean), Sgt. Mack Clyde (Baynes Barron), and Detective Mel Posner (Michael Ryan), who get something of a break when he begins to deviate from his routine.

    Crisp black & white photography (by Jacques R. Marquette), effective music (by Marlin Skiles), and capable direction by Burt Topper ("The Devil's 8", "The Hard Ride") result in a pretty good movie that generates a respectable amount of suspense. Given that our villain is a strangler instead of, say, a slasher, the level of violence won't be too much to take for some viewers. Various attractive female cast members are sometimes shown in states of undress.

    One key to this movies' effectiveness is Buonos' masterful performance. It takes a special kind of talent to bring ANY level of sympathy to a madman who often comes across as pompous and contemptuous of others. Ms. Corby is memorable as a Norma Bates type matriarch. Diane Sayer and Davey Davison are appealing, and the solid supporting cast also consists of performers like Russ Bender, Jeanne Bates, Wally Campo, and Byron Morrow. Look for a young James Sikking ('Hill Street Blues', 'Doogie Howser M.D.') as a police sketch artist.

    Worth a look for those film fans fascinated by serial killers, whether factual or fictional.

    Eight out of 10.
  • While "The Strangler" may have been very hard-hitting when it first came out, especially with The Boston Strangler case still fresh in moviegoers' minds, it has lost some of its power over the years. The unfolding of the story and many story elements will seem very familiar to viewers nowadays, who have seen the same basic story many times on television shows. Also, the tone and pace of the movie will seem a little dry and slow to many modern day viewers. Though personally I did find the low key feeling somewhat refreshing after seeing many times before watching this film this basic story extremely hyped up. Another aspect of the movie I liked, one that makes the movie worth a look, is Victor Buono's performance. He makes for an interesting villain, coming across as believably creepy, though at other times almost sympathetic. If you are prepared for watching a very familiar story, the movie does end up being a fairly compelling example of the serial killer genre.
  • Here's something to contemplate - thousands of films are released in a year, from all different countries and at such a rate that leads to an often alienated public because of an overblown market of films. Many of us stick to what we know and what we see advertised and ignore what we don't want to see, as well as failing to look over the fence that has already been built around us. Sometimes films get a small release and are never even heard from again. With this happening year-after-year, it's simply inevitable that great films go unseen and films are almost completely forgotten about or ignored, with the only hope that blind luck occurs and cult-like interest is established for certain films.

    I'll be crossing my fingers that such luck occurs for Burt Topper's The Strangler, a masterful little B-movie based off a real life string of murders committed in the Boston area in the 1960's. The Strangler was made while the killings were still occurring and the case still unsolved, which may provide us with a vivid explanation as to why this particular film was lost in a shuffle. For one, its release was limited, and two, it depicted ongoing murders that would only further scare an already tumultuous and nervous public.

    Leo Kroll (Victor Buono) plays the titular character here - man dictated by his domineering mother whose only personality trait is frequenting a local carnival to talk to the two women operating the booth and to play their game to win dolls to add to his collection. Due to his feelings of alienation, his mother who never seems to appreciate what he does, and his inability to fit in with the public, Kroll takes on a violent life of sporadic, unplanned, impulsive murders that goes onto rock the entire nation and puzzle local-area detectives. Writer Bill S. Ballinger does a nice job at illustrating the relationships Kroll has in the film, from the spur-of-the-moment conversations with the local carnies to the one with his controlling mom, giving us an intimate portrait of a man with a collectively numb life.

    Because The Strangler was written, shot, and released before the serial killer's crimes were solved, the film has the rare ability to allow personal beliefs and creative writing exercises to dictate its story's direction and outcomes. This makes the picture rather unique and subversive for its time.

    While watching the film, I continuously kept thinking about Charles B. Pierce's The Town That Dreaded Sundown, another massively underrated film that concocted a similar concept for its story. The film centered around the series of murders that began occurring in Texarkana, Texas in the mid-1940's. The Killer was nicknamed "The Phantom" and boasted an attire of a blue-jean jacket, work pants, and a plain white sheet with two small holes for his eyes as his mask. The film used silence, beautifully-executed music cues, and atmosphere remarkably, and was released in 1976, when the case was still cold.

    The Strangler doesn't have the same power on the horror level that The Town That Dreaded Sundown had but the film works as a truly remarkable little drama. This is largely thanks to a sophisticated performance by Buono, who handles this difficult material with a sense of subtlety and intrigue, exercising fright and believability quite wonderfully. Furthermore, director Burt Topper does the brave thing in the regard that he does not romanticize the violence in the picture, portraying the cold murders in the way they should be portrayed - as evil and unjustifiable. The bravery needed to make and release this film in 1964 was astronomical and the result paid off in an unbelievably rare way.

    Starring: Victor Buono, David McLean, Davey Davison, Ellen Corby, and Jeanne Bates. Directed by: Burt Topper.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When I first discovered that this was an AMC Monsterfest release a shiver went down my spine. Not because of their commitment to supply us with scary films that chill the blood, but because my experience with AMC has been of terrible print quality, hissy sound and, well, that's bad enough. I was also nervous to discover that Victor Buono was playing a serial killer. I have only seen him in his Oscar nominated performance in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, where he seemed to be channelling Oliver Hardy. It was with some trepidation that I finally slipped the DVD in and turned down the lights.

    My worst fears were confirmed right from the beginning. I'm grateful to AMC for making these films available to us at such a low price, but a little care in the transfer process wouldn't go amiss. The opening title sequence reveals it has been cropped on the sides, leaving you to guess what some of the words are supposed to be. However, once you get into the film itself this becomes less noticeable. But enough of my whining about the print, what about the movie? The Strangler is purported to be based on the case of the Boston Strangler (also the basis for a Tony Curtis movie of the same name), but how true to life it really is I couldn't say. Buono plays Leo Kroll, an overweight, single man who until recently lived with his overbearing invalid mother, played by Ellen Corby. She is now in a hospital, and berates and nags him every time he visits, reminding him that he is unattractive to women and only she can love him. It is this dominating, controlling mother that presumably led him down the path of serial strangling. He is a pleasant, unassuming lab assistant by day and a meticulous murderer by night, whose method involves strangling women with their own stockings. This conveniently means he has to wait until they've stripped down to their underwear before he moves in for the kill. It is here that the filmmakers reveal their true intentions, that titillation is the order of the day, rather than a revealing insight into the schizophrenic mind of the serial killer.

    Much of the film time is spent following the police efforts to catch Kroll, who manages to elude them despite being interviewed twice as a suspect, once with a lie detector test. They also manage to miss him during a stakeout, as the police man takes an ill-timed coffee break. They also allow their chief witness, and potential next murder victim, to go home unprotected with Kroll still at large. You would not want this police force protecting you.

    One of the most interesting story elements is Kroll's obsession with china dolls, which he collects and then strips after each murder. This is somehow used to signify Kroll's disturbed mind and his sexual thrill from killing these women, as the victims themselves are untouched. Unfortunately more is not made of this predilection, perhaps for fear by the director of presenting him as too perverted for audiences to relate to. We do pity Kroll, particularly when he visits his mother, and is rejected by the woman he loves/ has an unhealthy obsession with. We even view the murders through his eyes, making us complicit voyeurs in his nocturnal activities. It is as though we are meant to be on Kroll's side, and you do begin to feel concern for him that he might get caught if he's not careful.

    So despite my initial misgivings and complaints about the print (yes it is over-scanned, scratched, and occasionally missing frames), I would have to recommend this film to those interested in low budget crime and thrillers. It is worth it just to ask the question "How does such a large man (and he really is) manage to break into women's apartments without being heard, or getting stuck?" The filmmakers use their low budget creatively to draw you in to the complex mind of Leo Kroll, and although there are shortcomings, particularly the convenient ending, it is definitely a good example of what can be done with a couple of cheap sets and a lot of imagination. Buono also puts in a great performance, demonstrating his immense capabilities as an actor that would also be put to use in such roles as King Tut in Batman and, er, Fat Man in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Fascinating character study, loosely based on the actual Boston Strangler. Victor Buono's killer, Leo, is absolutely convincing as a psychopath. It's fitting that Leo dominates the screen--the movie is about him. The supporting cast generally give good performances, particularly Ellen Corby as Leo's domineering mother.

    His victims are realistically unique: Diane Water's Barbara is flirty, and a bit ditzy, Tally (Davey Davison) is pretty much her friend's quiet and careful opposite. The two police detectives, David McLean's Lieutenant Benson and Sergeant Posner (Baynes Barron) give very authentic portrayals. All of the scenes at the police station crackle with intensity and genuine emotion, with much more nuance and personality than we usually get in crime movies.

    Corby, given a very difficult role, is mesmerizing as Mrs. Kroll. The way she shifts from neediness to dismissiveness, sometimes in the same sentence, with just a facial gesture or two, shreds Leo's self-esteem. He's absolutely crucial to his mom, and, simultaneously, completely useless. Leo's one act of independence is pretty clever. Knowing that news of her nurse's death (one of his recent victims) destroys the one relationship that gives her comfort, he relishes his opportunity to tell her that the nurse is dead.

    Although not technically a murder--the news kills her. Ironically, this is the only death with a tangible motive. Some of the women that he deliberately kills he actually likes. It's painful to watch him interact with Tally and Barbara; he just can't deal with women socially. On the other hand, he puts on a haughty mask with his co-worker Thelma (Mimi Dillard). He's spending the whole movie looking either anxious or smug, in subconscious emulation, perhaps, of his mother's mood swings.

    The last part of the movie, beginning with his pathetic 'proposal' to Tally, picks up the sometimes slow pace, and ends up in the noir-like sequence up and down the shadowy staircases and corridors of his hotel. The last scene, leaving him crunched on the pavement, with one of his dolls just out of reach, is a final humiliation.

    A problem I have with The Strangler is logistical: how does he find out where all of his victims live? Even when most people had their names in a phone book, the addresses could be left out, and first names could be disguised with initials. That's even assuming he would know their last names--very unlikely with Tally and Barbara.

    The other quibble would be with the psychologist who explains schizophrenia to the Lieutenant. I think he's really talking about split personality, ala Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, not the dissociative state that describes Leo's condition. Leo doesn't switch personalities, rather he can't control his actions when triggered by social phobias (he fears dealing with women).

    Other than a couple of miscues, this is a compelling look at a desperate, downward-spiralling, doomed man. Not to be missed for those interested in psychological crime dramas. 9/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When Laird Cregaresque actor Victor Buono more than held his own as the opportunistic pianist in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane", the die was cast and no matter how much he explored characterization, he was doomed to a series of oddball roles. But how fantastic he was in "The Strangler" - he dug deep to give Leo Kroll sympathy and understanding. "The Boston Strangler" killed his last victim in January, 1964 and this movie was the first depiction of the crimes, most of the victims were nurses, the killer always uses a victim's stocking and in a brief scene where he and his work colleague are chatting (well, she is chatting, Les couldn't be less interested if he tried) she details a lot of the fear that people around the area were feeling, including putting bottles and glasses outside so the strangler will be heard!!

    The film opens imaginatively with a victim seen through the strangler's fixated pupil, he is already hiding in the flat so the victim doesn't stand a chance. She is Helen Lawson who once worked at the centre where the lonely, over weight Leo Kroll works as a laboratory technician, so along with everyone else he is hauled in for questioning. He has a very unconcerned demeanour and is dismissed as unimportant but in reality he has a lot of problems. He is under the thumb of his over bearing mother who even though at a nursing home still manages to make Leo's life a misery. (Ellen Corby is good but it's Buono's movie all the way). Many of the victims have at one stage nursed his mother who in her smothering desperation has confided to Leo that the latest nurse was responsible for saving her life. The scenes between Leo and his mother are gripping - she belittles him about his weight, his poverty (he couldn't afford to finish medical school and lives a poverty stricken existence, all because he is paying his mother's nursing home fees). He is a broken man but Leo cannot relate in a normal way. He is attracted to a nice girl who runs a pitch and toss booth. She is nice to him because he is a customer but he at once reads too much into it and at the end bombards her with marriage proposals and his mother's engagement ring.

    The last victim is killed in a fit of passion, different from the others and all loose ends seem to be leading to Leo. The police doctor who is a renowned psychologist feels the killer is a psychopath who can dissociate themselves from the crimes and Leo lets his blasé guard down when he expresses admiration for the doctor's book detailing abnormal killers.

    Despite his nuanced playing in this and "Baby Jane", Buono, even though praised, intelligent films were sparse and he turned more and more to the stage before his death at the age of 43.

    Highly Recommended!!
  • 1963's "The Strangler" offers screen newcomer Victor Buono rare star billing in a low budget Allied Artists quickie designed to capitalize on the ongoing crimes of the Boston Strangler, who remained at large until after its release. Buono's only other leading roles were also genre efforts ("The Mad Butcher," "Moonchild"), but here he must carry everything on his mountainous shoulders as lab technician Leo Kroll, claiming his 8th victim to open the picture, obviously achieving an orgasmic thrill out of killing young women with their own stockings after first watching them disrobe, leaving each corpse at rest with eyes closed. What drives him is his inescapable fixation on his ailing mother (Ellen Corby), as clinging and demanding as Norman Bates' schizoid mother, alternately assuring her son that she's the only one who ever really loved him, then scolding him for thinking that any woman would go out with a young man who's both ugly and fat (ouch!). Kroll is supremely confident and virtually blase when dealing with the police, and like 1960's "The Hypnotic Eye" the scenes depicting our hard working law enforcement come off as entirely passionless and predictable, while Buono's forcefulness proves to make for a despicable yet fascinating villain. The strangler makes his first mistake when dispatching the nurse who saved his mother's life, using his bare hands in outright anger before throwing a doll against her bedroom wall, repeatedly and silently mouthing its one word message ('Mama') in committing the deed. We know early on about the killer's fixation on dolls as his unerring accuracy tossing rings at a funhouse booth earns him another doll as a prize on each visit (claiming that they go to his many nieces and nephews). He keeps these in a locked desk drawer in his apartment, carefully stripping them nude after each murder, even removing the stockings as he saw his victims do. Reluctantly paying another nightly call on his mother, he cannot resist spilling the beans about the sudden death of her 'vacationing' nurse, delightfully watching her expire from the shock before quietly walking out without a care in the world, convincingly feigning sorrow at the fateful phone call about her passing. Kroll next targets one of the female employees at the booth after she spoke to an inquiring police detective (strangled in the shower), making her coworker next on his short list unless she accepts his sudden proposal of marriage. Ellen Corby became so beloved as Granny Walton during the 70s that few people remembered her lengthy movie career as a nosy busybody, and in just two scenes shows us the depth of the strangler's frustration with her twisting him around her little finger, taking an almost equally perverse satisfaction in watching her die. A cultured gentleman of gargantuan talent, Victor Buono brings more to the table in overcoming the natural pitfalls inherent to a cheap cash-in inspired by real life tragedy, somewhat uncomfortable with the subject matter yet able to deliver a towering performance of genuine depth that even Anthony Perkins might just appreciate.
  • Leo Kroll (Victor Buono) is a lab assistant moonlighting as a serial killer who strangles women with stockings or pantyhose. He seems to get sexual satisfaction from his killing, as well as playing to his mother fixation. His home is like a shrine to her while this domineering mother (Ellen Corby) is ill in hospital with a heart condition.

    Loosely based off the recent Boston Stranler murders who murdered 13 women in the early 1960s, this B movie is presented as a procedural thriller which does a decent job looking at both the analysis of the crimes and the psychology behind the killer, with a well formed character and performance from Buono as the troubled and secretive man in what was probably his best film.
  • I watched this film for the first time when I was about 8 years old and I thought it was rather creepy. I'm now 36 and I see this film for what it is, pure exploitation. The only ones that turn in credible performance is Victor Buono as Leo Kroll the strangler and Helen Corby as Leo's harpy of a mother. All the rest of the actors in this flick are a bunch of amatures and this was probably the only jobs they could get at the time. But the thing that I think makes this is an exploitation pic is that the victims, for the most part, are all in various stages of undress just before they are murdered, especially the third victim who is killed in the shower ("Psycho" rip off anyone). This is quite interesting because of the fact that this was filmed in 1964, four years before the MPAA ratings were initiated and this surely would have gotten a PG-13 by today's standards. Other than the performances, this is not a bad flick considering the exploitive nature of it.
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