The Todd Killings (1971)

THE TODD KILLINGS (1971)
Article 5158 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 5-15-2016
Directed by Barry Shear
Featuring Robert F. Lyons, Richard Thomas, Belinda Montgomery
Country: USA
What it is: Cinematic take on a true story

A charismatic and hedonistic sociopath, very popular with the kids in town, dismisses society and its values. However, he’s murdered one girl and buried her body with the help of a few friends. How long can the secret be kept?

‘The Motion Picture Guide’ classifies this adaptation of a true story of a series of murders in Tucson in 1965 as a horror movie, but the tag really doesn’t fit; it’s definitely played more as a drama, and though the killer eventually is responsible for deaths of three people, I’m not sure he really qualifies as a “serial killer”. Therefore, this movie is extremely marginal. On its own terms, it’s a moderately interesting drama with a very good cast. However, it occasionally finds itself flirting with cliches, and (after a strong opening) the first two-thirds of the movie gets a bit dull in its painting a portrait of the main character; Robert F. Lyons is a good actor giving a solid performance, but he can’t quite make his character as charismatic and fascinating as the movie needs him to be. It does pick up towards the end, and there are some interesting scenes involving the circus-like nature of the hunt for the bodies and the teens being less concerned about the murders than they are about losing their charismatic leader. The movie is helped by what amounts to a series of cameos by name actors, included Barbara Bel Geddes, Gloria Grahame and Edward Asner. The movie has its moments, but one senses this could have been much better.

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