The Night of the Strangler (1972)

THE NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER (1972)
Article 3520 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-10-2011
Posting Date: 4-4-2011
Directed by Jay N. Houck Jr.
Featuring Micky Dolenz, James Ralston, Michael Anthony
Country: USA
What it is: Offbeat crime drama

A woman announces to her two brothers, one of whom is racist, that she intends to marry a black man. Shortly after that, the woman’s prospective suitor is murdered. The woman is also killed shortly afterwards, and the killer makes it look like a suicide. A year later, more murders start taking place, all of them tied to the two remaining brothers. Who is the killer and what is his motivation?

The John Stanley guide describes the plot of this one as involving women dreaming they’re being attacked by a strangler, only to wake up and find themselves actually being attacked by a strangler. He’s either been misinformed or has it confused with another movie. In truth, this really isn’t a horror movie, though the deceptive title certainly doesn’t alleviate that confusion. It’s more of a crime drama/mystery, and actually not a bad one; I was genuinely curious as to who the murderer was and what his motivation would be. I was also curious as to whether the police would figure things out, which is something you won’t know until the last moment. Some plot points are made fairly clear and are handled quite cleverly; for instance, I like the way the movie establishes that the man and the woman at the beginning of the movie are killed by different people. The movie did keep me guessing till the end, especially as far as the motives for the murders. For those who want a couple of slight hints to help them figure it out, here they are. First, take note of the fact that in all of the investigations of the murders, the first murder is never addressed after it occurs. And secondly, you’ll notice that they avoid showing the face of the primary murderer, but there’s another character whose face is not shown.

Incidentally, I thought the presence of Micky Dolenz, former Monkee, in the cast would prove to be gimmick casting, but, truth to tell, he does quite a decent job as the younger brother. The fantastic content is provided by some of the bizarre murder methods.

The Strangler (1964)

THE STRANGLER (1964)
Article 2872 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-19-2009
Posting Date: 6-24-2009
Directed by Burt Topper
Featuring Victor Buono, David McLean, Diane Sayer
Country: USA

Police are searching for a serial strangler who specializes in nurses. The killer is a seemingly mild-mannered man with an overbearing and manipulative mother.

This movie has one big plus; Victor Buono was a great actor who was wonderful at playing sinister characters who outwardly don’t seem so at first, and that’s just what is called for here. He is fascinating to watch, and when he’s on the screen, he holds your attention. This helps to make up for the fact that the script falls a little bit short. I’m particularly disappointed that the movie doesn’t really give us an understanding of what drives the killer to commit the murders of nurses in the first place; instead, it concentrates on the murders that only have a direct bearing on his relationship with his mother, which are departures from his usual pattern. This means we never really get the insight into what makes him tick, as we only see the murders that are logically motivated. I suppose the lack of insight was to be expected; after all, the minute the psychologist confuses schizophrenia with split personality, I knew the movie wasn’t going to be psychologically incisive. Still, for a low budget movie, it’s efficient and mostly well-acted, though I wasn’t impressed with the acting from Davey Davison, despite the fact that she’s given a prominent credit during the opening. In short, it’s good, but not great.

The Strangler of Blackmoor Castle (1963)

THE STRANGLER OF BLACKMOOR CASTLE (1963)
aka Der Wurger von Schloss Blackmoor
Article 2668 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-12-2008
Posting Date: 12-2-2008
Directed by Harold Reinl
Featuring Karin Dor, Harry Riebauer, Rudolf Fernau
Country: West Germany

The tenant of Blackmoor castle finds himself terrorized by a hooded killer who strangles and decapitates his victims. The killer knows that the tenant was responsible for the death of another man and the theft of diamonds.

It’s krimi time again, and this is a good one. Like most krimis, it gets confusing during the middle section and it has too many characters, but the musical score is unique and effective, the comic relief (a Scottish landlord) is fairly decent, and it’s full of effective touches and scenes. Of the latter, I quite like the Toby-Damnit-style murder of the motorcyclist, the scene where we discover where the diamonds are hidden (it’s a wonderful hiding place), the scene where the tenant’s manic assistant threatens someone with his diamond drill, and a great climax in the swamp. Once again, it helps to know in advance that krimis are not really horror movies, but crime movies with horror elements, and I think this is one where the horror elements are quite strong. And I must admit to having been quite surprised by the identity of the murderer. For my money, this is one of the better krimis out there.

 

The Stranglers of Bombay (1960)

THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY (1960)
Article 2136 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-20-2007
Posting Date: 6-18-2007
Directed by Terence Fisher
Featuring Guy Rolfe, Jan Holden, Andrew Cruickshank

An officer of the East India Company investigates a series of disappearances in India. He comes to realize that they’re being caused by a murderous cult of Kali that specializes in strangulation.

At least one source of mine claims that this is based on a true story, though I haven’t found anything more at this time to back this up. If it is based on a true story, I’ve no doubt that some doctoring to the story occurred in this movie; much of it feels as if was plotted like a movie rather than a having been a recreation of real events. Still, it is a quite engaging movie and it did make me wonder about the true details of the cult. It’s well acted by all, and it’s quite brutal for its time. I like the touches of detail, especially during the scenes where the high priest indoctrinates the new members; the scenes where he relates the story of Kali’s battle with a monster (which explains why the cult uses strangulation) and the scene where he teaches a new member the methods of begging his way into caravan stick in the memory. There are rumors that two of the major roles were originally intended for Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (the Guy Rolfe and George Pastell roles respectively), but I think the movie works well enough without the extra star power. “Doctor Who” fans will enjoy seeing the Master himself, Roger Delgado, in a small role.

 

Sketches of a Strangler (1978)

SKETCHES OF A STRANGLER (1978)
Article 5091 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-26-2019
Directed by Paul Leder
Featuring Allen Garfield, Meredith MacRea, Frank Whiteman
Country: USA
What it is: Psycho killer

An artist living with his sister is a serial killer who strangles prostitutes. When the sister of one of his victims arrives in town, she decides to catch the killer on her own by… oh, no, not again!

It seems only a short time ago that I complained about this tiresome and stupid plot contrivance, but here it is again – the sister of a murder victim tries to catch the killer by putting herself in the exact same position as her sister did, and in this case, that means she takes up prostitution in an attempt to catch him. I’ve reached the point where I almost stop taking the movie seriously at this point alone. Granted, even without this plot contrivance, there’s not a lot that could save this movie; even the fact that the acting is quite good doesn’t compensate for the fact that there’s not a plot element here that I haven’t seen before, and the turgid pacing of the movie is another minus. This is one of the dreariest stretches of celluloid I’ve encountered in quite a while.

Strangler of the Tower (1966)

STRANGLER OF THE TOWER (1966)
aka Der Wurger vom Tower
Article 3708 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-24-2011
Posting Date: 10-9-2011
Directed by Hans Mehringer
Featuring Ady Berber, Birgit Bergen, Rainer Bertram
Country: West Germany
What it is: Krimi… but not from the usual people

A strangler is on the loose killing people who possess jewels that were cut from an allegedly cursed gem. Is a cult of Kali responsible?

I must have seen enough krimis to be familiar enough with the form now; after a few minutes of this one, I found myself checking the production company to see if it was different from the usual production company (Rialto), and sure enough, it was; it’s from Urania. That may be why I didn’t quite get the same feel from it as I do the other krimis, and, despite the fact that the movie currently has an 8.8 rating on IMDB, I found it fairly weak. It is nice to see the big hulking Ady Berber again as the title character, but, truth to tell, he’s barely in it, and the whole movie has a dry, forced tone to it. Berber’s killer and the Kali cult are the big horror elements here, but as is usual with the form, it’s more of a mystery than a horror movie.

Teen-Age Strangler (1964)

TEEN-AGE STRANGLER (1964)
Article 2669 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-13-2008
Posting Date: 12-3-2008
Directed by Ben Parker
Featuring Bill Bloom, John Ensign, Rick Harris
Country: USA

A strangler is on the loose, and the police believe he may be a member of a hot rod gang known as the Fastbacks.

The last time I saw a movie in which a strangler kills his victims and then leaves a letter marked on their foreheads was… yesterday, I believe, in THE STRANGLER OF BLACKMOOR CASTLE. I love coincidences like this, and since the movies were released within the same year or so, they could have made a double feature. Of course, this one would have been the second feature; though the movie has a certain likable sincerity to it, it’s amateurish awkwardness screams out from every frame. The acting isn’t as bad as in some other movies I’ve seen, but one senses that even the better ones here still had a lot more to learn about their craft. And in some cases, you’re not sure you’re seeing a performance or not; I found myself wondering just how much the actor who played the guilt-ridden, twitchy and awkward bespectacled younger brother of the prime suspect was playing a role instead of being himself, and I actually found myself feeling actively uncomfortable whenever he was on the screen. Overall, the movie does give us an interesting example of regional film-making; this one was shot in West Virginia.

 

The Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher (1979)

THE HOLLYWOOD STRANGLER MEETS THE SKID ROW SLASHER (1979)
Article 2103 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-18-2006
Posting Date: 5-16-2007
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Featuring Pierre Agostino, Carolyn Brandt, Chuck Alford

A Hollywood Strangler meets a Skid Row Slasher.

In this movie, the Hollywood Strangler photographs a model who starts coming on to him. He strangles her.

Then, the Skid Row Slasher (who works at a used book store) encounters a wino who offers her a drink. The wino wanders off and finds a place to sleep. The Skid Row Slasher follows him. She slashes him.

Then, the Hollywood Strangler photographs another model who starts coming on to him. He strangles her.

Then, the Skid Row Slasher encounters another wino who offers her a drink. The wino wanders off and finds a place to sleep. The Skid Row Slasher follows him. She slashes him.

Then the Hollywood Strangler notices the Skid Row Slasher. He is convinced she is different and will understand him. He pets some pigeons and plays with some dogs.

Then, the Hollywood Strangler photographs another model who starts coming on to him. He strangles her.

Then, the Skid Row Slasher encounters another wino who offers her a drink. The wino wanders off and finds a place to sleep. The Skid Row Slasher follows him. She slashes him….

This is a plot? No, but it is a Ray Dennis Steckler film, and I’ve come to expect them to be a little lax in the story department. I’ve noticed that he likes movies with more than one psycho in them, and I always thought it a bit strange that Mad Dog Click and the gang of psychos in THE THRILL KILLERS never met; here there is no such problem. The main character here is called Johnathan Click; I wonder if he liked the name.

Yes, the movie is bloody awful, but Steckler still manages to show just enough competence on occasion that the movie doesn’t become unwatchable. That’s some feat when you consider that it was practically shot as a silent movie, with all of the dubbing done afterwards (most of which is the Hollywood Strangler’s inner monologues).

As the movie progressed, I became aware that the movie would end in one of two ways. Either it just wouldn’t end – the Strangler would keep strangling and the Slasher would keep slashing – or it would end by…well, how would expect a movie called THE HOLLYWOOD STRANGLER MEETS THE SKID ROW SLASHER to end?

That being said, if you think of it as a romantic comedy, it’s a lot funnier than THE LEMON GROVE KIDS. And though I’m tempted to say that the topless roller disco sequence is gratuitous, that would imply that the rest of the movie isn’t.

 

The Night Strangler (1973)

THE NIGHT STRANGLER (1973)
Article #1224 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-21-2004
Posting Date: 12-18-2004
Directed by Dan Curtis
Featuring Darren McGavin, Jo Ann Pflug, Simon Oakland

Kolchak covers a series of strangulation murders which point to a killer who may be more than one hundred years old.

I first became familiar with Carl Kolchak via the TV series, and when I watched THE NIGHT STALKER for the first time many years after this, I was slightly put off by the differences in Kolchak’s character from that movie in comparison to how he would later develop. The Kolchak here is much closer to the one of the series, and this TV-movie plays somewhat like an extended episode of the series, though I would have to say that it does a better job of building the tension, especially during the final fifteen minutes. Darren McGavin and Simon Oakland are excellent as usual here, and it’s a great deal of fun watching Carl Kolchak interact with characters played by the likes of John Carradine, Wally Cox, Al Lewis, and the wicked witch herself, Margaret Hamilton. That was one of the joys I’ve always had from the Kolchak series; though the character of Kolchak is one the greatest and most memorable I’ve ever encountered, the stories never relied solely on his appeal, but were peopled by other strong and interesting characters. The basic story is a variation on THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET, and the cast also included Jo Ann Pflug and Richard Anderson.

The Brighton Strangler (1945)

THE BRIGHTON STRANGLER (1945)
Article #686 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-29-2003
Posting Date: 6-28-2003
Directed by Max Nosseck
Featuring John Loder, June Duprez, Rose Hobart

An actor suffers a concussion during an air raid, and takes on in real life the role he was playing at the time, that of a murderer known as The Brighton Strangler.

This is a fairly ordinary but moderately entertaining take on a common story, with a good performance by John Loder in the title role. The story itself is pretty predictable, but there are some nice setpieces here. I particularly like a scene in a movie theatre in which a murder is interrupted by a newsreel; there’s also a nice murder sequence during a snowstorm. It’s no classic, but it’s a pleasant enough time-killer that doesn’t wear out its welcome; it runs 67 minutes.