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Married To A Monster
The two things most often said about serial killers are: I always thought there was something not quite right about that guy - and - he was one of the nicest blokes I've ever met, I never would have suspected. Or words to that effect.
The man who became known as the Green River Killer falls into the second category; if he wasn't overwhelmingly nice, Gary Ridgway was one of the last people anyone would suspect of being a monster. This short documentary speaks to the woman who married him. Both Ridgway and Judith Mawson had been married before, he twice; her first marriage ended when her husband told her he was bisexual. After this let down, Ridgway was everything she thought she was looking for. Even after he was questioned on suspicion of being the Green River Killer she never lost faith, and why should she have? Not only were the police undoubtedly questioning numerous other men, but he passed a polygraph. Even after advances in DNA profiling caught up with him she appeared unshaken, and was taken aback by his guilty pleas, which took the death penalty off the table.
Not mentioned here is the lawsuit brought against her by the mother of one of Ridgway's victims. Opal Mills was murdered before Judith met Ridgway. The suit was dismissed in 2005.
Joanne Dennehy: Serial Killer
On March 19, 2013, Joanne Dennehy murdered her first victim; ten days later she murdered two more. Technically that makes her a spree killer rather than a serial killer, but that is as pointless as arguing if her name is Joanne or Joanna. She would go on to viciously stab and nearly kill two total strangers for the thrill of it.
Susanna Reid is better known as a talking head, but here she takes time off from presenting the morning news to host this one-off documentary about one of the most dangerous and evil women alive. Although she is no militant feminist, Reid can't help asking if a man was the trigger for this murderous spree, and says as much to John Treanor, Dennehy's first lover and the father of her two daughters. Treanor denied this emphatically, and it is clear from evidence elsewhere that whatever his past he has been a good parent. Dennehy's eldest daughter does not appear in this documentary but has disowned her mother. Treanor said Dennehy deserves to die for her crimes.
Unlike the American police who typically release huge amounts of material, especially in high profile cases, the British police are extremely reserved, but they have released a bit more here. The picture painted of Dennehy is chilling. She has been called a manipulator of men, but the star tattooed on her cheek, the stud through her tongue and the self-inflicted scars on her arms must surely disqualify her from manipulating all but the most feeble-minded of men, like the seven foot three Gary Stretch who was described at the time as her nodding dog. Her only contact with men in future is likely to be professionals, ie prison officers. We can dispense with the prison psychiatrists and other so-called mental health professionals. Evil is not an affliction, it is simply evil.
The Player (1992)
Is this a comedy, a drama, black comedy...? Some consider it satire, but although it is based in Hollywood, the basic plot could be transferred to any other jurisdiction, any other industry, or none. Our hero/anti-hero is receiving threatening missives from someone he has slighted, the question is, who? He thinks he has worked out the mystery man's identity, so goes to confront him. The prime suspect is unhinged and very likely the perp, but they come to blows in a dark street, and he ends up killing him. You know what happens next, another threatening message arrives. And although the death of the unfortunate innocent was passably manslaughter or at worst second degree murder, the police are investigating it as murder one, and he is clearly in the frame, even if at first they pretend he is simply a witness.
There is a bit more to it than that, but not a lot. Read whatever you like into "The Player", but it is a quite unexceptional film.
"Prison" begins with an inmate being walked slowly to the electric chair then fast forwards two decades. A new prison is to be opened, rather the old prison is to be re-opened, and to this end busloads of inmates are shipped in.
There is a mystical connection between the inmate executed and the warden of the new place, not only that, people start dying in mysterious circumstances. The first death is misinterpreted as a murder, or perhaps that should be a murder by a live human being. From there things go downhill, and the film itself never really goes uphill. We've all seen this sort of thing many times before and since. Sadly, most other films do it better.
Dr. Renault's Secret (1942)
Dr Renault's Secret
Once you take a gander at the good doctor's assistant, it isn't much of a secret. This film is best described as the island of Dr Moreau meets Beauty and the Beast. The sub-plot adds nothing to it, and the resolution is a tad obvious.
The best thing that can be said about "Dr Renault's Secret" is that it is mercifully short. Even the attempts at humour fail to save it. And would the police really have been so thin on the ground after the first murder?
This is yet another low budget horror film from the nether regions of Australia. Low budget and low everything else. A film needs to have if not a plot then some sort of excuse for a plot. A documentary about a spree killer shooting people at random has a plot by default, namely following the people hunting him. But a film in which a bloke goes around pummelling people to death with a hammer, and next to nothing else doesn't really cut the mustard.
True, there is the inference that somehow turbines are responsible, or maybe the guy has a brain tumour like real life spree killer Charles Whitman. There is a punchline at the very end which is perhaps not what the viewer would expect, but really, this one has nothing to offer.
The Frame (2014)
If nothing else, this is a film that will make you think. A professional criminal and a paramedic meet through his TV set, like he turns on the TV and they talk to each other. They both question their own sanity, and additionally he thinks she may be more sinister than supernatural. It doesn't take her long to work out that he is a character in a TV series, and he soon realises she is one too. The obvious thing to do is meet up; he pressurises her to give him her address, which she does, but when he arrives, her apartment is occupied by someone else.
So they are not only real as well as TV characters but living in different dimensions though occupying the same space. There is quite a bit more to it than that, but if you manage to figure it out, chances are no one else will quite agree with you. The one criticism that can be made of "The Frame" is that in places it is rather slow.
Mystery Street (1950)
Although made in black and white, this detective outing is not quite "film noir". It begins with the woman we might rightly assume is the lead actress waylaying a drunk and hijacking his car to meet with a mystery man. All's well and good, then ten minutes in she is murdered by the same dude.
Fast forward four months, and what is left of her turns up on the beach. Now we have a possible murder, and an enthusiastic, resourceful detective. The identity of the killer is soon revealed to the viewer, though not to the police, who haul in their fish without realising it is a red herring. There are other twists to the story, and implausible though it may seem, it makes good viewing, certainly more than a lot of other films of this period with bigger casts and budgets.
House At The End Of The Street
This is a fairly low budget film, the bulk of its action happening in one house. It begins with a double murder in Nowheresville, USA: a girl stabs her parents to death and vanishes off the face of the Earth, presumed drowned in the local lake.
Fast forward a few years and our heroine relocates to this small town with her mother. We learn there was actually a family of four affected by the tragedy, the son was out of state when it happened, but for some reason he has become a pariah with the locals. Extrovert new girl meets shunned introvert denizen, lots of sympathy, what can go wrong? We learn in due course that although he was indeed out of state when the double murder happened, things were a lot more complicated.
There is not much to find fault with in this film but ask yourself this, if you were stabbed in the stomach with a sharp knife then thrown down a flight of stairs, would you really get up off the floor to whack your assailant round the head with a blunt instrument?
Surviving Dennis Nilsen (2006)
Surviving Dennis Nilsen
This is far from the first documentary about serial killer Dennis Nilsen, who died in May 2018, but it is slightly different from most of the others in that it is viewed largely through the eyes of one of his victims and someone who knew him for four years.
Carl Stottor was strangled by Nilsen then nearly drowned in the bath. Miraculously he survived, and even more miraculously, Nilsen decided not to finish him off in his apartment, although he appears to have decided to murder him later in the woods but was dissuaded from this by a man out walking his dog.
Martyn Hunter-Craig may have also been a potential victim, although Nilsen never actually tried to kill him during their lengthy liaison. He described Nilsen as a fun character, though appears to have kept his distance for much of the time.
Both men have experienced long term psychological disturbance on account of their encounters with Nilsen, especially Stottor, understandably.
We have contributions too from one of the men who arrested Nilsen, a journalist, and airhead Kerry Daynes who is a typical psycho-babbler. If you learn anything from this film it is don't go home with strange men. And that applies to you too, ladies!
Fig Leaf: The Biggest Cover-Up In History
The ancient Greeks were totally unabashed about the human body, the original Olympic Games were performed nude at one point. The spread of Christianity changed all that. Neither Orthodox Judaism nor Islam get a mention herein, but one such religion is enough.
We all know the story of the fig leaf, which need not be a literal fig leaf nor even a real world object, but herein presenter Stephen Smith concentrates largely on real fig leafs rather than metaphorical ones. Yeah, fig leafs; fig leaves doesn't sound right.
He visits Rome - where else? - and ends up in London. Rome appears to have been the place the fig leafing of public works of art started. Michelangelo's famous statute of David was of course erected in Florence. If you knew that, you probably didn't know it was pelted with stones when it was unveiled. Fortunately it appears to have avoided serious damage at least. Not mentioned here is the fact that the original was moved indoors in 1910 and that two copies can be found outside in the city.
In London, the fig leafing of statues began with the erection of the first public nude. Yes, we must use that word. What Smith doesn't mention is that some statues were not simply fig leafed but castrated, though not at the behest of Queen Victoria we are told here, one of several myths about our second greatest Queen.
He ends by visiting a couple of artists who are odd, as artists tend to be, though one makes the point that while artistic nudity is frowned upon, nudity and especially sex is all around us all the time. As Joni Mitchell said, sex sells. So, curiously, does prudery.
Death On Duty
On November 18, 2005, two women police officers answered what they considered to be a routine false alarm call in Bradford. When they arrived, they were both shot. Teresa Millburn survived. Just. Sharon Beshinivsky didn't, becoming the first female officer to be murdered in the line of duty this Millennium. As well as a police officer, she was a wife and mother. November 18 was her youngest daughter's fourth birthday.
The documentary makers speak to those who knew her including her devastated husband and Teresa Millburn. The officer in charge of bringing the killers to justice is also given time to explain the hunt, and the extradition of Mustaf Jama who had fled to his native Somalia, a country he had previously claimed was so dangerous for him that he had to seek asylum in the UK. Days after the murder, Jama's brother Yusef had participated in the gang-rape of a woman in Birmingham; this earned him a 12 year sentence in addition to his 35 year tariff life sentence.
In short, these men were and are total scum. In addition to archive footage, this programme includes reconstructions, but nothing graphic.
The Mad Magician (1954)
The Mad Magician
Don Gallico is a brilliant man, a technician and inventor of magicians' illusions, but when he decides to embark on a stage career of his own, he is thwarted in cruel fashion, an act that pushes him over the edge and results in his murdering the cause of the problem.
To cover his tracks he impersonates his victim. Had he done this for a day or two rather than keep up a lengthy and pointless pretence, he would surely have gotten away with it, but it wouldn't have been much of a film then, would it?
As often happens, one lie leads to another, or in this case, one murder leads to another, and another. And almost another, but surely the two damsels in the climax scene could have been more proactive than simply screaming out of the window?
This is classic Vincent Price, the decent man wronged, losing it, then declaring war on the world. With a bit of humour thrown in.
Sin City (2005)
How to describe "Sin City" - Twenty-First Century film noire with a splash of red thrown in, fantasy combined with comic book violence and sadism? Somewhat disjointed, especially if you haven't read the associated graphic novel. On the other hand, perhaps the viewer is not meant to read much or anything into it.
This one is strictly for devotees of the genre. At around two hours it is also heavy for the uninitiated. Its saving grace, if it can be said to have one, is a half-decent soundtrack.
Captive Wild Woman (1943)
Captive Wild Woman
This film sounds like a turkey and has the makings of one: the mad scientist who will stop at nothing to complete his insane experiment for the "benefit" of Mankind, even if he has to commit a murder or two. The plot is actually quite silly but its redemption is its animal act. No, not the gorilla who is of course a dude in a monkey suit, but the fool who locks himself in a cage with not a lion, not a tiger, not a lion and a tiger, but what must be close to a dozen of them. He has a whip, a chair, and a pistol that is little more than a sound effect.
How these big cats were trained is little short of a marvel, but three quarters of a century on and more, marvel tends to give way to revulsion as the use of wild animals in circus acts has drawn contempt from the public and legislation from governments.
James Bulger: The New Revelations
This documentary was screened for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the conviction of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables for one of the most heinous murders in English criminal history. It was not the way the poor two year old died that earns that title, gruesome and horrific that it was. There have been many similarly gruesome or even worse murders. It was the fact that his killers were both ten years old.
UK viewers will be aware of and at least partially familiar with this case, whatever their ages, and the crime buffs among them will realise the title promises a lot more than it delivers. True, we do hear from Thompson, but his words from 2001 are spoken by someone else. We hear from a lot of people herein, including some new ones, but was it really necessary to give so much space to the moronic David James Smith? Yes, they were evil, and clearly Venables still is. We all have choices in this life, and we have to live with their consequences, even ten year olds.
The Real Linda Lovelace (2001)
The Real Linda Lovelace
Linda Lovelace became the star of a notorious sex comedy, a film named "Deep Throat" which was made on a shoestring budget but brought in tens of millions at the box office at 1972 prices. If you haven't seen the film, you have surely heard the cultural reference. Her fame was short lived, and so was her fortune. This led to her turning against the porn industry and especially her husband, Chuck Traynor. This film was made shortly after her death in a car crash; Traynor, who appears herein, died from a heart attack shortly after it was finished but prior to its release. Although he is scored as the villain of the piece, he comes over badly but not that badly.
The truth is that Linda Lovelace was an incredibly depraved woman. Prior to "Deep Throat" she made a film that involved her having sex with a dog. That is discussed here. Lovelace and her second wave feminist friends would have the viewer believe she was the victim of multiple rapes by Traynor and of gang rape by his chums, something she bowed to only at the point of a gun. How many women do you know who would have sex with a dog, even at the point of a gun?
Don't be fooled by her little girl lost image; Linda Borman authored her own misfortune. She must have made a fair amount of money. Had she squirreled some of it away, she would never have given the time of day to the likes of Andrea Dworkin.
Freeing Bernie Baran (2010)
Freeing Bernie Baran
Although not the first of the American day care sexual abuse cases, Bernard Baran was the first to be convicted. This full length documentary has a clear agenda, the homosexual involvement is obvious, and it is far from clear Baran was targeted purely because he was homosexual.
Can anyone really be said to "come out" at the age of fourteen, and is it really a myth that prostitutes and homosexuals are more likely to contract gonorrhea than the general population? In spite of all this nonsense, "Freeing Bernie Baran" does highlight an investigation and prosecution that far from being simply biased was corrupt, notwithstanding that there was clear sexual abuse involved here, even though the wrong person was identified as the perpetrator. The first alleged victim had gonorrhea of the throat; the second alleged victim was a girl!
The film-makers speak to Baran himself - who died in 2014, to his brother, his mother, and a number of people involved with his second appeal.
If it was unwise for a homosexual to work with pre-schoolers in the 1980s, it is if anything even more unwise for any man to work with the young in the second decade of the Twenty-First Century. Ask Kato Harris.
Footprints In The Snow
This is an important documentary about one of the worst cases of parental alienation syndrome on record. Sandra Grazzini-Rucki had everything: she was a mother of five with a wealthy husband. What could spoil that - how about a divorce?
Not content with an equitable split, she decided to falsely accuse David Rucki of child abuse and spousal abuse. Not mentioned herein are her allegations of sexual abuse, which may have been added after it was filmed. On January 24, 2018, Michael Volpe, a man with more compassion than sense, uploaded a video of her to YouTube in which she makes a plethora of allegations against David Rucki. Surprisingly, it hasn't been taken down, because if half the things in it were true, they would have locked him up and thrown away the key.
Sandra is hot on accusations, but when it comes to backing them up, they vanish into the ether. Probably thinking they wouldn't take her up on it, she gave the "20/20" team permission to access her legal papers. They spent hours trawling through them without coming up with a single official document that incriminated David Rucki; they also drew a blank with the local police department. Who do you believe, her, or your lying eyes?
A Mother's Betrayal
Kathleen Bush was the mother of two boys. Unlike them, her third and somewhat younger child, her daughter Jennifer, was very ill. In fact, she suffered a series of maladies and underwent a number of surgical procedures in her formative years. Unsurprisingly, this raised suspicions, and eventually Kathleen Bush was indicted, tried for, and convicted of, being the cause of these illnesses.
She received a somewhat lenient sentence at the end of the day, and remained in denial. So did her husband and sons. Not mentioned here due to chronology is the fact that Jennifer, now a married woman, has also come to believe her mother was totally innocent. That being said, the case against Kathleen Bush remains compelling, not only her at times bizarre behaviour but the fact that Jennifer thrived when she wasn't around, and was only ill when she was. In the words of William P. Hoar, the long arm of coincidence can stretch only so far.
If you haven't seen this film you've certainly seen one like it: two guys and two gals go down to the woods, or in this case a cornfield and a lake,
and...Obviously the guys have the girls on their minds while something nasty is out there intent on turning them into toast, or in this case literal scarecrows.
The film is more scatalogical than most of the genre, if you can believe that, but the innuendo and sexual adventures don't last long as they are kidnapped by the faceless psychopath and dragged off to his lair. There is a bit more to it than that, but not a lot, the usual wanton sadism and the sadly predictable ending. Give this one a miss.
Old 37 (2015)
Or "Ambulance 37". What do we have here? Another modern day tale of unbridled sadism, but one coupled with revenge. Young dudes who keep their brains inside their trousers; young floozies who are more than willing to play ball with them, reckless games bordering on suicidal stupidity played with fast cars. If you haven't seen this film, you've certainly seen one like it, perhaps the slightly later "Bodies" that also includes an ambulance.
The most merciful thing about "Old 37" is that it is reasonably short, but don't watch it if you like horror with a meaningful plot and characters with even a little depth.
I Know Where Lizzie Is (2016)
I Know Where Lizzie Is
This is a slightly unusual film in that it has two lead femmes fatales, a reluctant bad guy who is married to one of them, and the usual weak script we have come to expect from American TV and lower budget cinema. A feisty teenager is kidnapped, and who is going to locate her? A fast rising local psychic, a woman who we soon find out is 100% flim-flam, as are all psychics. Ask James Randi.
That being said, she manages to convince the detective on the case, having researched his background including his late wife's passion for music. Again, this is something psychics have been known to do, usually with a lot less subtlety. What is the purpose of the kidnapping? Money and fame, not necessarily in that order, but it gets complicated when femme fatale number two breaks the news that this is a kidnapping with a pay off but no delivery of the goods.
Just for good measure there is some karma thrown in. Pity the lowlife bit player journalist comes through it with flying colours, but who said life was fair?
Crime Stories: The Roaming Rapist (2007)
The Roaming Rapist
The title of this documentary is slightly misleading and more than slightly understated. The crime spree started in Oklahoma with the murder of an older man. Ed Cash was beaten and strangled to death in his own home. In the space of a month, Gary Alan Walker murdered five people, four of them women.
Leaving aside the wanton sadism, Walker's behaviour was odd in the extreme. When the son of his first victim - also named Ed - returned home after being questioned by the police, he found someone inside watching television. He retreated to phone the police, and the man escaped, but his fingerprints matched those at the murder scene. Next, a woman disappeared off the face of the Earth. Then a woman was murdered in her own home and her car stolen.
The police had their first real break when a woman reported being kidnapped and raped; she managed to give Walker the slip, if she hadn't, she would surely have been murdered. Then a young mother was kidnapped. Then another woman who was abducted at knifepoint and raped contacted the police. This time, incredibly, Walker released her.
Obviously there was never any possibility of him getting away, the real problem was damage limitation. In the end, Walker was arrested without a struggle and confessed freely to his myriad crimes. His various trials are not detailed here, but he was finally executed by lethal injection on January 13, 2000.
The documentary makers spoke to relatives of the victims and also to some of the men involved in the investigation.
What is most notable about this case in our near total surveillance state is that Walker was caught on surveillance video with one of his victims, and the quality was absolutely terrible. Contrast that with regular smartphone footage and the CCTV cameras that are now everywhere; chances are this psychopath would have been brought to book earlier.
The Deltona Massacre
This senseless crime is also known as the Xbox Murders. There is no mystery about the killers, all of whom were brought to book in double quick time, as might be expected, but there is a real mystery here, namely how was instigator Troy Victorino able to induce three teens, who were all really strangers to him, to force entry into a home at dead of night then batter and stab six strangers to death?
We hear from relatives and criminal justice professionals, but all the talk and analysis in the world gets us nowhere. Not mentioned here due to chronology is that Victorino's death sentence was overturned on appeal for purely technical reasons. Whether or not he is ever actually executed should bother no one as long as he is never allowed to walk the streets again.