Strangler, The (1964)

Strangler, The (1964)

“Everyone has to grow up, Mrs. Kroll — even your son.”

An overweight lab technician (Victor Buono) strangles a series of women, due to sublimated rage towards his overbearing mother (Ellen Corby).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Criminal Investigation
  • Grown Children
  • Serial Killers

Made during the midst of the infamous Boston Strangler killings, this reasonably effective exploitation flick (much less “authentic” than 1968’s The Boston Strangler, starring Tony Curtis) primarily serves as a vehicle for the inimitable Victor Buono, whose portrayal as a psychotic Mama’s boy is utterly creepy. Much like Laird Cregar’s “Jack the Ripper” in The Lodger (1944), Buono hulks around the screen like a wounded, petulant animal, his beady eyes betraying the deep-seated love-hate relationship he possesses with his abusive mother. While the narrative itself is fairly standard fare — frustrated detectives sigh each time a new strangling takes place, and vow to “catch the bastard” — Buono keeps us involved and eager to see what happens next.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Victor Buono as Leo Kroll
  • Diane Sayer in a bit role as a carny

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look.


One thought on “Strangler, The (1964)

  1. Not a must – tho, agreed, it is worth a look, primarily for Buono. He gives a very nuanced performance in a very B-movie.

    And that’s not meant to be disparaging; the fact that it looks and feels ‘B’ is what lends the film whatever punch it has. (Conversely, ‘The Boston Strangler’ does not have the ‘B’ feel; it does have a tight documentary feel. And it’s a much better film.)

    Note this exchange –
    Davison: Can’t you see? We can’t get married. People just don’t get married like that. They have to know each other and they have to be in love.
    Buono: But I’ve watched you for a long time – and you didn’t even know it.

    In terms of logic, Buono’s response is one big ‘Huh?’ But in terms of his character, it makes sense; Davison is still prey, but this time Buono does not want to kill. Who knows what he does want to do, but he does offer Davison a ring – directly from the dead hand of his freshly killed mother!

    What perhaps makes Buono’s performance so unique is that, though his appearance is certainly not, his behavior is nondescript – watch him with his lab assistant, or when he’s taking a lie detector test: cucumber cool.

    One wishes the film were of higher calibre because of him. His co-stars don’t help much. Given a major role for a change, Corby is merely ok as the hateful mom (the hospital scene in which she really lays into Buono gets most of its power from his reaction). ‘Marlboro Man’ David McLean has a great look as a cop, but not much else. Perhaps the only other noteworthy cast member is Diane Sayer, who has an interesting presence. (That same year, Sayer had a small but memorable role in the Ann-Margret camp classic ‘Kitten With a Whip’.)

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