DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE ZODIAC KILLER (director: Tom Hanson; screenwriter: Manny Cordoza/Sam Cantrell; cinematographers: Wilson Hong/Robert Birchall ; editor: ; music:  Dennis Thomann; cast: Bob Jones (Grover), Hal Reed (Jerry), Doodles Weaver (Doc), Ray Lynch (Sgt. Pittman ), Tom Pittman  (Officer Heller), Manny Cordoza (Hippy), Paul Avery (Reporter); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Tom Hanson; Something Weird Video; 1971)

"Atrocious dialogue."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tom Hanson ("A Ton of Grass Goes to Pot"), a former pizza store owner and actor, directs this exploitation serial killer flick based on the random gruesome real murders in San Francisco in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where the maniac killer, known as the Zodiac Killer, is the killer still at large. The purpose of the film, according to the director, was to set a trap for the infamous killer, by setting up stakeouts to identify the killer in the San Francisco theater where the film opened. Too bad it's such a crappy film, one that offered the police no help and failed in its mission to capture the suspect.

It's written by hack writers Manny Cordoza and Sam Cantrell, who supply atrocious dialogue. The murders are incompetently filmed by the inexperienced director, and the film is watchable for all the wrong reasons--some people just seem drawn to train wrecks.

Using annoying scare tactics, it opens with a narrator, a real reporter, Paul Avery, from the San Francisco Chronicle, who actually covered the killings. He is hired by the filmmaker to be a consultant, and tells us the movie is a public service announcement. He then warns us that "Somebody sitting next to you or behind you has killed." We are also reminded that the film is based on a true story and the killer is still on the loose.

Hanson's main suspects are a mild-mannered Satan-worshipping mailman named Jerry (Hal Reed) and a bald violent misogynist trucker named Grover (Bob Jones). Jerry contents himself to staying home alone nights with his pet rabbits, while Grover, a loser, dons a toupee and spends most nights trying to pick up chicks at night spots.

The Zodiac murders include the stabbing of a pair of lovers, the killing of a waitress while serving rabbit stew, the killer dressed in a black hood repeatedly stabbing to death a sun bather, the shooting of a a cabbie in the head, a young girl on a bike stabbed to death (which never happened in real) and an old lady fatally hit with a spare tire.

Jerry is the weirdo who hears voices in his head and murders in order to collect slaves to serve him in the afterlife. The psycho prowls lovers' lanes and makes taunting calls to the police and raves about such things as "Atlantis shall rise again! I am the super zodiac!"

It's an ugly watch, further made more ugly by its anti-female tone and in being so pointless.

David Fincher made in 2007 a decent Zodiac killer film called Zodiac. It was a much more accurate film than this ill-advised mess.

REVIEWED ON 4/6/2015       GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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