The Zodiac Killer (1971 - Tom Hanson)
Review By Rob Vertigo
Exploiters over the years have had no qualms with parading out cinematic atrocities based on real-life killing sprees. Time topical flicks like Satan’s Sadists and The Helter Skelter Murders hit theater marquees before the Tate and La Bianca hearts had even stopped bleeding. But in the case of this little charmer, I’m not even sure if the Zodiac was done completing his initial rounds. Shot in '69/'70 it begins with a hokey SF Chronicle blurb touting this film as a public service; like it’ was gonna’ keep you safe from the murders after you watch it. That might be the case had they stuck a bit closer to the killers’ M.O. - as I’m pretty sure the Zodiac never bashed a woman’s head repeatedly under a car hood or dressed in Marx Bros joke attire. If these are facts, they've evidently been left out of the books and bigger Hollywood productions.
Groucho needs slaves for the afterlife
This scungy gem of celluloid slop gives you two suspects to cast yer blame upon: a balding, disgruntled and alcoholic trucker going through a nasty divorce and a hostile yet sensitive postal worker (uh-oh) who talks to rabbits in his spare time. There's also a third screwloose that’s introduced; a weird old perv in high-waist pants who comes along to talk smack about women being worthless once out of their teens. “Keep ‘em young, plump and dumb…” he adjects. YIKES.
I'm not gonna’ tell you who gets saddled with blame, but one who doesn’t takes a mighty fall at the halfway mark. Directed fairly dry and in a very matter-of-fact (and fiction) fashion, Zodiac Killer plays out with made for TV charm, only with a few delirious scenes of violence sprinkled within. There are historically accurate moments - such as the lovers lane murders and the beach side hogtie killings - that are interspersed with random reckless retardedness - like the above car hood incident or the strange scene of the Zodiac praying at his Gods’ altar - but it’s hard to fault the filmmakers sensationalism when the case wasn’t even cold. You gotta' keep this shit entertaining, right? The “keeper moment" of the flick comes in the form of a strangely dark and hokey double stabbing incident on the beach. The sickly muted colors of the faded print paired with the victims’ grotesque American flag bikini and Tempera paint bloodletting- all lensed via fish-eye cinematography, mind you - makes for quite a grisly and effective segment. If the retractable knife wasn’t so obvious, it would border on a snuff believability.
OK Harry Reems, invite me to one of your Nicholson/ Beatty drugged out soirees or die
If yer into celluloid barrel-scrapers along the lines of Drive-in Massacre or Three on a Meathook, there should be something in this for you to grasp. If you can’t tolerate local college theater performances or think that the Don’t Answer the Phone serial killer monologues were too unrealistic - you should take the Golden Gate exit, pay the toll and head for safer pastures.
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