Boston Strangler, The (1968): Fleischer’s Crime Thriller, Starring Tony Curtis

Richard Fleischer directed The Boston Strangler, a noir thriller loosely based on the true story of the Boston Strangler and the book by Gerold Frank.

In one of his richest roles, Tony Curtis stars as Albert DeSalvo, the strangler, and Henry Fonda as John S. Bottomly, the detective who achieved fame for getting DeSalvo’s confession.

The cast also featured George Kennedy, Murray Hamilton and Sally Kellerman.

Rights to Frank’s book were bought for $250,000, and Brit Terence Rattigan was hired for the script, but the producer was unhappy and brought Edward Anhalt.

After three murders of elderly women, the victims being strangled and penetrated with foreign objects, the Boston police hold that it’s the doing of a serial killer.

Massachusetts Attorney General Edward W. Brooke (William Marshall) appoints John S. Bottomly (Fonda) as head of a “Strangler Bureau” to coordinate the multi-state investigation.

As the body count grows, Bottomly calls in a psychic, Peter Hurkos (George Voskovec), who pinpoints Eugene T. O’Rourke (William Hickey), a man who fits the profile.  He is taken in for psychiatric observation, but nothing implicates him. Another murder is committed while O’Rourke is under observation, which clears his name.

While the 1963 funeral of John F. Kennedy is on TV, Albert DeSalvo (Curtis) leaves his wife and children, presumably for work. He gains entry into the apartment of Dianne Cluny (Sally Kellerman) by posing as a plumber and attacks her, tying her to her bed

In one of the film’s powerful moments. DeSalvo is taken aback by the sight of himself in a mirror as he tries to subdue Dianne; he flees when she bites his hand.

He tries to enter the apartment, but the woman’s husband is home. DeSalvo is apprehended by a passing police patrol. Incompetent to stand trial, he is committed to a hospital for psychiatric observation.

By chance, Bottomly and Detective Phil DiNatale (George Kennedy) pass by DeSalvo in an elevator, where they had been visiting Dianne. Observing the wound on DeSalvo’s hand, they make him suspect for the Boston Strangler.

Interrogation is ineffective as the physician thinks that DeSalvo suffers from a split personality, identities unaware of each other. His “normal” personality fabricates memories in place of the memories of murder committed by the “strangler” personality.

After several sessions, Bottomly manages to reveal DeSalvo’s hidden personality, and the criminal slips into catatonic state.

Tony Curtis as Albert DeSalvo
Henry Fonda as John S. Bottomly
George Kennedy as Det. Phil DiNatale
Mike Kellin as Julian Soshnick
Hurd Hatfield as Terence Huntley
Murray Hamilton as Sgt. Frank McAfee
Jeff Corey as John Asgeirsson
Sally Kellerman as Dianne Cluny
William Marshall as Atty. Gen. Edward W. Brooke
George Voskovec as Peter Hurkos
George Furth as Lyonel Brumley
Leora Dana as Mary Bottomly
Austin Willis as Dr. Nagy
Carolyn Conwell as Irmgard DeSalvo
Jeanne Cooper as Cloe
Richard X. Slattery as Det. Cap. Ed Willis
William Hickey as Eugene T. O’Rourke
James Brolin as Det. Sgt. Phil Lisi
Alex Dreier as News Commentator
John Cameron Swayze as T.V. Narrator
Elizabeth Baur as Harriet Fordin
Carole Shelley as Dana Banks
Tim Herbert as Cedric
Tom Aldredge as Harold Lacey



FXM Retro showed the movie March 26, 2020.