The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
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THE STRANGLER (1964) *** ½

Victor Buono stars as the titular killer who strangles nurses and plays with baby dolls. He hates his crippled, controlling mother and wishes she’d croak. Because of that, he blames all nurses for keeping her alive for so long. While he’s out and about murdering women, the police try and gather clues to bring him down.

The Strangler is a great showcase for Victor Buono. When he’s trying to avoid detection, he’s meek, polite, and soft-spoken. There’s a funny scene where his assistant goes on and on about how she’d protect herself from the strangler and he just brushes her off and says, “That’s nice”. When he flips out and kills his victims, he’s truly menacing and creepy.

What’s intriguing about his performance is that you actually feel a little sorry for him. The scene where he proposes to a woman he’s been stalking is particularly sad. (When he says, “But you were nice to me”, she replies, “You’re a customer. I’m supposed to be nice to you.”) Besides, the berating he endures from his overbearing mother would turn anyone crazy.

The film works because of the concentration on the psychological workings of the killer. Unlike something like Psycho where we don’t learn the killer’s identity and motivations until the very end, we know who the killer is right from the get-go and have a pretty good idea of why he’s doing what he does. Again, thanks to the likeable performance by Buono, we sorta feel like a co-conspirator when he’s tiptoeing around the police or faking his way past a lie detector test.

Director Burt (The Devil’s 8) Topper handles the police procedural scenes in an effective manner. Usually in these sorts of films, the parts where the detective interviews witnesses are dull, but Topper keeps them moving along at a steady clip. They’re psychologically more complex than your average episode of Dragnet and play almost like a precursor to something like Seven or Copycat.

Topper also delivers a couple of solid murder sequences too. My favorite directorial touch was the opening scene when Buono is peeping on a nurse. Topper shows her undressing in a reflection in Buono’s eye and the effect is pretty creepy.

The next Horror-Ween Movie will be: Silent House!

Tags: .the 31 movies of horror-ween, horror, s
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