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Michael Feifer
David Faustino, Andrew Divoff, Kostas Sommer, Joe Torry, Corin Nemec, Jen Nikolaisen, Johnny Liska, Caia Coley
Writing Credits:
Michael Feifer

A chilling new aspect of the psychology behind the self-proclaimed Boston Strangler's false confession rears its ugly head in this horrific crime thriller based on real events. This untold tale examines the manipulative relationship of Albert De Salvo and his mysterious cellmate, and how the former was convinced to participate in a devious plot allegedly designed to afford both prisoners the notoriety - as well as the reward money - associated with the serial killer's case. Meanwhile, an intrepid detective by the name of John Marsden (Andrew Divoff) attempts to piece together the puzzle. David Faustino and Corin Nemic star in this disturbing thriller, the true horror story of the Boston Strangler.

Box Office:
$1 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 7/22/08

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Michael Feifer, Composer Andres Boulton, Editor Roberto Jimenez and Actor David Faustino
• Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 21, 2008)

Bud Bundy: serial killer? That’s the casting impression left by 2008’s The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story. Married With Children’s David Faustino plays Albert De Salvo, the man who confessed to the Strangler’s crimes. However, much doubt exists about his guilt. The film starts with a 1973 phone call he makes from prison in which he claims he wants to reveal the truth behind the killings.

From there we leap back to see what led Albert to jail. After some assaults, Albert ends up in a police lineup, but another man gets fingered as the assailant. We see Albert schmooze and rape a college girl, but it’s not clear if Albert is the actual Strangler. We follow his subsequent escapades as well as the police investigation headed by Detective John Marsden (Andrew Divoff).

I decided to give Strangler a look because serial killers fascinate me. Of course, with efforts like The Silence of the Lambs, Zodiac and Se7en, we’ve gotten some classic films about such psychopaths. Serial killers are great raw material for cinematic drama, and I often find a lot to like about these movies.

Unfortunately, Strangler falls far, far short of the levels reached by the flicks I mentioned. Heck, it doesn’t even live up to the more modest standards of average films such as Red Dragon. Strangler comes closer to nonsense like The Zodiac, a 2005 piece of junk.

Everything about Strangler gives off a bargain basement stink. Oh, I wouldn’t call it amateurish per se, but nothing here stands out as particularly well executed. Instead, the film feels awkward and stiff most of the time, and that affects every aspect of the production.

Acting? Broad and hammy. We get lots of “pahk my cah in Hahvahd yahd” accents, as many of the participants try to adapt to the Boston setting. They fail, and even those who pull off the accents don’t do much with their characters.

Faustino actually isn’t bad as the nominal lead character, though he doesn’t get all that much to do until the third act. The police side of things moderately dominates Strangler, though not in a satisfying manner. Indeed, the movie jumps from De Salvo to the “maybe Strangler” to the cops without much logic or smoothness. The various sides of the tale fail to mesh together in a concise manner, so the film progresses in a stilted, disjointed way that makes it less compelling.

That’s the fault of writer/director Michael Feifer, of course, and his visual conceits don’t help matters. Feifer seems unsure what styles he prefers so he uses a whole bunch of them. This means occasional forays into artsy black and white footage, and we also get lots of the usual jerky, pseudo-documentary handheld work that’s all the rage these days. Strangler embraces so many styles that it feels muddled and never comes together in a dynamic way.

When I reviewed 2005’s The Zodiac, I indicated that I hoped someone would take the potentially interesting subject matter and make a good film of it. David Fincher did just that with 2007’s Zodiac, so maybe there’s hope for the Boston Strangler as well. Unfortunately, The Untold Story proves consistently unsatisfying, so we’ll have to hope a more talented filmmaker eventually grabs hold of it. This version leaves me cold.

By the way, is it just me or is it insane that the movie comes with a disclaimer that “the characters and events depicted in this motion picture are fictional. Any similarities to actual persons living or dead are purely coincidental”? The film is based on a true story! How can it be “fictional” and “coincidental”?

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C/ Bonus C

The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not exemplary, the transfer seemed perfectly satisfactory.

Sharpness usually looked fine. I noticed mild edge enhancement through the flick, and that led to some occasional softness in wider shots. Nonetheless, the movie seemed pretty concise and accurate most of the time. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and source flaws remained absent during this clean presentation.

Much of the time Strangler went with a subdued, somewhat desaturated. Occasional instances of brighter hues occurred, but the palette preferred to stay chilly most of the time. Within those constraints, the colors were acceptable, though not any better than that; even when I adjusted for the stylistic choices, I thought the tones tended to be a little flat. Blacks were reasonably dense, and shadows showed decent clarity. Low-light shots could be a bit dark, but they were fine for the most part. This added up to a “B-“ transfer.

In the same vein, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Strangler seemed acceptable but not much more. Audio quality suffered in terms of speech. On-the-set recording wasn’t particularly good, so those lines seemed somewhat stiff and reedy. A bit of edginess also materialized, though the dialogue always remained intelligible.

Other aspects of the audio seemed better. Music showed good range and delineation, as the score was consistently warm and lively. Effects offered pretty positive reproduction as well. Some of the lackluster on-the-set recording affected those elements as well, but the effects were usually clean and accurate.

The soundfield provided moderately involving material. Music presented nice stereo spread that filled the front well. Effects created a more sporadic sense of life. They used the forward channels in an acceptable way, though they could be a bit “speaker-specific” and didn’t mesh very well. The surrounds were left without much to do, so they usually just supported the forward information. Nothing seriously problematic emerged here, but I felt the track remained consistently average.

In addition to the film’s trailer, the disc presents an audio commentary with writer/director Michael Feifer, composer Andres Boulton, editor Roberto Jimenez and actor David Faustino. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss cast, characters and performances, story and editing, music, sets and locations, research and fact vs. fiction, the short production period, and filmmaking on a low budget.

Though all four chime in, Feifer dominates the commentary, with Faustino in second. At times this becomes a reasonably informative piece, as we get a decent overview of various production choices and issues. However, quite a lot of happy talk comes along for the ride, so we sit through endless remarks about how good various aspects of the flick are. This costs the track some points and makes it average in the end.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Diary of the Dead, Flashpoint, The Mist and The Rock.

After 45 years since the crimes occurred, the Boston Strangler remains an intriguing tale. However, The Boston Strangler: The Untold Story fails to render events in a compelling and involving manner. It seems stiff and amateurish too much of the time. The DVD presents decent picture and audio along with a decent audio commentary. I can’t recommend this pretty terrible movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.6363 Stars Number of Votes: 11
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