27 April 2020

The Strangler

Its sleazy, lurid opening shot (the reflection in the strangler’s eye of a nurse undressing), immediately followed by some ripe degeneracy (the strangler strangles the nurse, then compares her corpse to a child’s doll, takes doll home, strips doll naked and sweatily orgasms!) promises a great sicko classic. Alas, the remainder of the film is a fairly routine early serial killer flick (quickly shot in 1964 to cash in on the real-life Boston Strangler hysteria).

The Strangler is saved from becoming a complete yawn fest by Victor Buono’s performance as the troubled protagonist. Buono (if remembered by anybody for anything it’s as King Tut in the campy Batman TV series) is a grossly obese, prissy, egotistical hospital lab geek with a doll fetish and a smothering, nagging, bitter, sickly mother (badly played by Ellen Corby, who would go on to her most notable role as the humorless grandmother in The Waltons).
The strangler’s psychological profile could be sketched as proto Edmund Kemper, and Buono plays it with a fair degree of creeper skill, mixing in periods of morbid ecstasy with child-like innocence (the fat man is most happy and at ease when playing games at an amusement arcade). The rest of the cast's acting skill is best described as low-grade wooden, with the notable exception of Diane Sayer, who has a dirty bed sheet sparkle as the bad girl co-worker of the strangler's wholesome arcade girl crush.
Besides Buono and Sayer, the film's other saving grace is that all the strangler's victims, for some reason, strip down to their bra and panties just before meeting their maker:
[An interesting thing about the above picture of Diane Sayer (and if you remember her at all, you probably don't remember her name, but if you ever watched Leave It To Beaver, she was the red hottie Wally had a crush on in one episode, but she turned out to be way too fast for the sXe Cleaver boy): she's been dead for almost twenty years, if she were alive today she would be in her eighties, but here she is in this photo, and in this moderately successful motion picture, in the full bloom of youth. So full of the life force, as you watch the moving pictures fifty-six years later, and as you are stirred, her stinking carcass is rotting six feet under—there's just something so. . .so. . .I don't know, so quantum about it. . .the bittersweet entanglement of the past and the present.  Sadly, cruelly, she died of breast cancer.]

Anyway. . .and that's kind of a bummer, I know, to include in a movie review, but anyway, yeah, The Strangler, not the worst movie ever made, in fact, better than most of the garbage Hollywood sets on the curb today, and an eternal celluloid flame burning in memory of Diane Sayer, Victor Buono and all the other extinguished stars of the movies. . .
[Free with minimal ads on bargain bin streamer Tubi]

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