Friday, January 14, 2011
#31: The Boston Strangler
The Boston Strangler doesn't appear in the movie until the first 61 minutes and yet when one finishes this 2 hour classic your mind is only filled with the stirring performance of the man who plays The Boston Strangler - Tony Curtis.
In what must count as one of the finest acts in the history of motion pictures Tony Curtis essays the role with so much perfection, it's hard to not be affected by it. That he manages to do it in the company of another doyen of acting - Henry Fonda embellishes it. Seldom must've Henry Fonda gone into a movie and come out second best as a performer. And that's just one aspect of the movie that is brilliant. Now let's take the story. A story has to be effective when the promo teaser of the movie says - 'Albert DeSalvo loved his wife, spoilt his children and brutally murdered 13 innocent and helpless women'. And the one question that you're struck with many a time during the movie is: "Is HE really the strangler? He can't be. Something must be wrong." When a story engages you to such an extent, it's obviously pretty darn good. It's also a pretty good example of how fact could be stranger than fiction- after all this is a true story.
Now if you've a story as brilliant, how easy it really should be to put it in motion when you also have a cast of Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda in the lead. And this is where director Richard Fleischer breaks all convention and invents a new visual technique of storytelling where at critical points of the movie the screen is divided into 6-7 small parts to depict the on-screen action. Especially in the context of the story where a killer is on the loose, the effect is so devastatingly claustrophobic you could smell the tension on the screen.
For a movie with 13 murders, the movie does exceptionally well in not going above board in displaying violence. The restraint is not just evident in this aspect but also in that of the entire cast. Each one is holding something back. Many a time, you would think Henry Fonda as the investigating officer is about to lose his cool and yet at a time when his team ends up making a mockery of itself, all he says is, "We seem to have made a beautiful landing at the wrong airport..."
Tony Curtis was too much of a dark horse to get this role, the studio executives were scared to touch this movie wondering if it was too violent and once when Curtis got himself hospitalized after an action sequence during a movie,there were even reports that he was being thrown out of the movie. The movie had so many things going against itself, that in course of time The Boston Strangler is irrefutable proof that if a story is good and you have men of conviction willing to go the distance with it-Edward Zanuck, the producer in this case, the movie will stand the test of time. And in the case of a movie like this, it will stand very very tall.