The Boston Strangler – Richard Fleischer

Résumé : In Boston in the early 1960s, several murders of women appear to have been perpetrated by the same person. To speed up the investigation, the prosecutor entrusts its direction to John S. Bottomly (Henry Fonda), a senior official and renowned jurist.

Critique : This astonishingly modern feature film, based on a true story, is partly constructed as a documentary. It is also one of the first to use abundantly, but wisely, the principle of split screen, which consists in dividing the screen to show several scenes in parallel. Here, several sequences preceding a murder are thus presented simultaneously: the victim in his home, a subjective camera which shows the point of view of the murderer, or even the corridor of the building where the drama will take place… This process, far from blurring the understanding, gives the story an almost television truthful side. Moreover, the whole film gives this impression of reality: the police are not heroes and explore without affect the most diverse circles of society. The arrival of a new investigator does not seem to upset those who have been working there for a while, it is the banality of the police administration to deal with his decisions.

The main suspect, impeccably portrayed by Tony Curtis, will only intervene from the second hour of the film. Considered a “too light” comedy actor, he was not the producers’ first choice. It is the filmmaker who manages to impose it in a subtle composition, between a model family man and an impulsive psychopath. His confrontation with Henry Fonda is quite amazing and successful.

Inventive in his staging, Richard Fleischer, an eclectic filmmaker who deserves to be better recognized, signs here an excellent detective film, which has (almost) not aged a bit.

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