The Zodiac Killer (1971)


This movie has the distinction of being the first released film about the eponymous serial killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area in the late ’60s. While it has all the low production values you might expect from a 16mm low-budget drive-in flick, the screenplay is structurally sound and does an interesting job marrying fact with fiction.

The Zodiac Killer starts off by presenting a few suspects who might be the murderous title character before honing in on one of them — a rabbit-loving mail carrier played not too terribly by Hal Reed. Since the real killer was never caught, the film obviously takes liberty with his suggested identity and motivations. But wherever possible, the filmmakers did their research to be factual — particularly in the presentation of the Zodiac’s many murder scenes.

As the body count rises, there’s a small subplot involving the police on the case, but the movie concludes with an open ending. On-screen text reads, “This is not the end.” Normally, that’d be nothing more than an exploitation gimmick, but since the real killer was still active and on the loose when The Zodiac Killer was released, the closing statement is merely the truth. At face value, the movie is for B-movie connoisseurs who can revel in the bad dialogue and stiff acting. But as a cultural artifact and precursor of other films about or inspired by the Zodiac Killer, it’s definitely of some interest. Directed by Tom Hanson.

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