Monday, July 31, 2006

how many schizophrenics have you identified today, society?

I caught The Boston Strangler on Fox Movie Channel over the weekend. Tony Curtis stars as a cross-dresser on the run from the mob. Nope, that's not it. Tony Curtis stars as the Boston Strangler - no cross-dressing is involved.

[Spoilers abounding.] The catch is that the strangler has multiple personality disorder. (Which, admittedly, is not synonymous with schizophrenia.) Some of the time he's a well-mannered furnace repairman, other times, he's the brutal Boston strangler, killer of 13 women. His fits of strangling are usually triggered by some obviously-filmed, discrete event. Perhaps a bra ad (no joke) will flip the strangling switch or maybe someone stealing his parking spot. There's little to indicate what will next trigger his episodes of instability. Throughout the movie, it just kind of happens.

Whatever, standard fare for the most part. He then attempts to break into an apartment with an un-single woman. The husband chases him and the strangler ends up being hit by a car and taken into custody. At some point, he left strangling mode and entered furnace-repairmen mode.

Curtis is sent to a psychiatric hospital because the judge thinks he's incompetent to stand trial. Henry Fonda (lead investigator) interrogates Curtis, trying to get furnance-repairman personality to remember strangling-chicks personality. Eventually Fonda makes this happen despite the docotor's warnings that getting the one personality to recognize the other personality will cause Curtis's head (I paraphrase here) to explode.

Fine. Head explosion, final shot of Curtis in a milk man outfit, standing in a padded white room completely absent mentally. The end . . . until, a departing message, "This film has ended, but the responsibility of society for the early recognition and treatment of the violent among us has yet to begin."

Such a strange ending, really. The whole movie portrays him as a mostly normal guy (besides all the strangling), unable to control impulses that he doesn't even know exist. How exactly is society supposed to identify him? Twice-yearly psychological evaluations? I got the feeling they decided at the very end, "Hey for kicks, at the end of this thing we should blame it all on society." Surely a powerful (though completely out-of-place) message. Or maybe they were just emphasizing the fact that the movie was over.

(As it turns out this movie, while purporting to be based on actual events, bears little semblance to, you know, actual events. They both agree there was a Boston Strangler. After that, they diverge considerably.)


Blogger Joe said...

Hmmm...from what I recall, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo had the same problem when it came to diverging from the premise on which it was based. The only difference is that Tony Curtis wanted too much money to star in B2, so they hired Adolfo Quinones to play the role of Ozone (as Adolfo 'Shabba-Doo' Quinones). The rest, as they say, is history.

2:01 PM

Blogger NewYorkMoments said...

So, have they for sure caught this guy or what? Because I'm here in Boston. I want to make sure that the walk back to my hotel tonight is safe. I'll just wait here until you respond to this comment...

5:42 AM


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