Reviewed by Kryten Syxx
Starring David Faustino, Andrew Divoff, Kostas Sommer, Joe Torry and Corin Nemec
Directed by Michael Feifer
Distributed by The Weinstein Company
The Boston Strangler is one of the great unsolved mysteries in American history. 13 murders were confessed to by a troubled man named Albert DeSalvo, but so much about the case built against him and subsequent DNA testing decades later shine a large amount on doubt about his confession. If DeSalvo only committed a couple of the thirteen deaths, then who was the real murder?
That question is what Michael Feifer hoped to examine with more detail and speculation with his newest direct-to-video true crime drama, The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story. Taken piece by piece, Feifer’s effort has a few strengths that are surprising in the low budget filmmaking world, but as a sum of both the positive and negatives … the Strangler chokes before he even lays a hand on the audience.
On the positive side comes an outstanding performance from former Bundy clan member, David Faustino. Yes, Bud Bundy is all grown up now and can still make us both laugh and twinge uncomfortably as he pursues women who don’t want his affection. Faustino plays Albert DeSalvo, and is pretty damn convincing as a two-bit thug stuck in a loveless marriage. Sadly, DeSalvo’s disturbing back story is never fleshed out (and holy damn did he have a horrible childhood) so we really have no rhyme or reason as to why he is the way he is, unless you’ve already read up on the real life person.
Regardless of the minimal amount of info we’re given on Albert, Faustino brings a bit of charm to the screen that he shares with the two other main characters of the film. Even after sleezing his way into a woman’s apartment, raping her and possibly accidentally killing her, it’s quite easy to feel bad for him. He grew up in violence, has a wife who doesn’t respect him and his lot in life has just plain sucked. That’s no excuse for his crimes, but when it’s all you know…
Another out-of-nowhere performance comes from horror familiar Andrew “Wishmaster“ Divoff as detective John Marsden, a man hell bent on catching, what he he believes are multiple stranglers. Divoff plays the total opposite side of the coin to Faustino. The detective is hard working, devoted, has a loving wife and never gives up. He is the moral center of the picture, who is never given enough to do on screen. The first half of TBS centers of large on Marsden’s investigation and the uphill battle he faces from others in the police department and local government. But this movie is called The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story, so we shouldn’t have expected him to get too much screen time at all.
Divoff practically disappears for the second half of the film, leaving an unbalanced feeling as the spotlight focuses mainly on DeSalvo and the case he builds against himself with fellow inmate, Frank Asarian (Kostas Sommer). Though the sudden turn in focus is a bit jarring (as Divoff was clearly the hero to follow), watching Faustino and Sommer work together to get both rich and off of death row is almost like a buddy comedy. It’s not played for laughs in the least, but there’s chemistry there that brings out a few laughs as these two murders attempt to use the media and public opinion to make a few extra bucks. Such a pity it didn’t work out in their favor.
That’s about all the good stuff we can say about TBS. It’s clear the director knew what he was doing with his leads, but that is almost where it ends and where the annoying negatives begin.
Continuity, it is for pussies. Those are the exact thoughts from director Michael Feifer thanks to the accompanying commentary track. You won’t need it to point out all the glaring problems this movie has, but it’s nice to know they were aware of all the goofs.
When making a piece set in the early ‘60s, it would help if you could keep the audience fixed in that time period. Too many times several pieces of modern machinery and technology can be spotted. This kind of continuity error can easy pull someone right out of the film and turns what could have been a decent flick into a drinking game where players get to spot the modern home alarm system, 2006 Toyota, or moles that swap from one side of an actress’ face to another. The filmmakers didn’t even attempt to cover up these glaring problems in the slightest. That kind of sloppy approach, even when your budget is small, isn’t really going to over well with people who bought the DVD.
Then there are the Boston accents. Jesus, they are laid on thicker than a ton of butter over a single Eggo waffle! Knowing this was filmed in L.A., it is easy to understand that a film crew can’t readily get real Boston actors to appear in a low budget feature, but come on! Having a subtle accent is far more appealing than making sure everyone in the audience knows this person is from that particular part of Massachusetts. Don’t attack us with the obvious.
There you have it. Stand out performances in The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story managed to win over even the most jaded of low-budget reviewers, but the sum of all its parts couldn’t hold the weight. Mr. Feifer, slow down with the barrage of true crime flicks and focus on making one really good entry into the genre. It’s clear you can do it right, but these things take more than just 10 days.
2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5