The Deliberate Stranger (1986)   2 comments

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Ted Bundy admitted to killing thirty women in seven states between 1974-1978.  Police believe, but cannot confirm, that he killed many more starting years earlier.  Ted Bundy fooled everyone.  No one knew the charming, handsome man who picked them up hitchhiking or asked for help putting a sailboat on his car rack was a serial rapist/killer and necrophile.  His carefully constructed front worked until it didn’t.  At some point his compulsions and arrogance and disdain for humanity showed through the facade of this golden boy with a great future.  People who had known Bundy for years were stunned that the friendly, capable legal student was really a twisted psychopath.

bundybeach

“Want to try my candy handcuffs?”

THE DELIBERATE STRANGER, a made-for-television movie aired, in two parts, in 1986.  Mark Harmon plays Bundy as a smart sociopath who knows the right things to say, but has none of the real feelings behind them.  The film begins right before Bundy’s move from Washington to Utah to attend law school.  Similarities in the disappearances of several young women convince police to look for one perpetrator.  Since these murders happened in the 1970s, before national criminal databases existed, police in different jurisdictions have no idea that their neighbors might be dealing with the same criminal.  This lack of communication helps Bundy and he’s able to kill women all over several western states without notice.  Detectives in Washington, played wonderfully by Frederic Forrest, John Ashton, and M. Emmet Walsh start hearing about other, similar crimes in Utah and Colorado and soon those departments are sharing information.  Well, most share.  Some think their missing women are unrelated which makes the process move more slowly.  Bundy disposed of his victims in wooded areas as well so it could take years to find them.

found

“She had more hair in the photos.”

I’ve always liked this film.  It’s told as a police procedural and I love those.  You get to learn what detectives were thinking at the time of the murders.  For instance, the term deliberate stranger implies a criminal who has never met his victim, but chooses her just the same.  Bundy often stalked his prey for weeks until he found an opportunity to strike.  It seemed to many victims’ friends and family that their loved one simply vanished.  One minute they saw her, then she walked out of sight and was never heard from again.

bundybad

“Would you like to take a ride?  I have duct tape.”

George Grizzard plays Richard Larsen who later wrote Bundy: The Deliberate Stranger.  Larsen, a Seattle Times reporter,  knew Bundy in Washington before he was suspected in the murders.  Grizzard does a nice job showing his change of heart on Bundy.  At first, he’s a fan and supports Bundy.  After it becomes obvious that Bundy is the killer, Larsen tries to learn more about him and why he became such a sicko.  Then there are the women in Bundy’s life.  Glynnis O’Connor and Deborah Goodrich play women romantically involved with the killer.  O’Connor drops him when she realizes he’s murdered 30 women. Nice move, G!  Goodrich, not so much.  Her character might be modeled after Carole Ann Boone, who moved from Washington to Florida to be near Bundy and later married him in court.  Ahhh love.

notdead

“Not tonight, honey.  You’re not dead enough.”

Now, a word about Mark Harmon.  Yes, I know.  I remember SUMMER SCHOOL.  Trust me.  Harmon’s good.  He pulls it off. You see the wheels turning behind that handsome face.  Harmon was a sharp casting choice.  He has the looks and the chops.

jail

“Don’t forget the profile, Ed!”

Anyway, I realize THE DELIBERATE STRANGER isn’t a typical Halloween choice, but I can’t think of anything scarier than an attractive face that smiles at you while he plans your death.  Boo.

national-museum-of-crime & pun

Ted Bundy’s VW on display at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment in Washington, D.C.

haunty

 

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2 responses to “The Deliberate Stranger (1986)

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  1. There doesn’t always have to be a supernatural element present to make a good scary movie, it’s true. ‘Duel’ is a suspense-thriller that scares. From the same cloth, ‘Jaws’ has often come out as #1 on Favorite Horror Films lists even though the ‘monster’ and the happenings are natural, if unusual. One of the most frightening films I’ve seen as an adult was ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’ loosely based on the case of Henry Lee Lucas. The casual and deliberate ease with which the murders are committed is unsettling, and moreso for me than the over-the-top, less realistic, gleefully lethal hijinks in ‘American Psycho’.

    • I agree! Jaws is a horror/drama/action/buddy picture/comedy. Jaws also changes your oil and keeps your breath minty fresh. Yes! Henry was chilling. I’m more frightened of things that could actually happen too. Ghosts and goblins are fun, but serial killers are frightening.

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