Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Serial Killers: Profiling the Criminal Mind (1999)



Profilers (1997), written by Jeff Tarkington, about criminal profilers who base their analysis of prospective suspects on the crime scene investigation (C.S.I.) and their previous interviews with convicted serial killers. Here we see how FBI profilers John Douglas and Roy Hazelwood help to convict Wayne Bertram Williams, Robert Hansen, and Larry Gene Bell, though with a victim count of 2, Bell just qualifies as a serial killer. Of the 3 cases, Williams is the most curious, where it is said by Douglas that he "almost played out his own script" (whatever that means), and is seen to be stalked by the media before he is arrested and it appears that the police have named him as their prime suspect. Douglas' ploy to make Williams demonstrate his "anger" on trial is said to be the turning point in the case, though anger being interpreted as "rage" must certainly be subjective.

Dahmer: Mystery of the Serial Killer (1993), written by Michael Husain, and focusing on one of the more grotesque serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer. This episode also traces past serial killers. Described as the "embodiment of evil" and like Haley's comet by his defence attorney - who thankfully "only appears once every 75 years", excerpts from Dahmer's trial are seen here as is his own address to the court, though Dahmer has his back to the camera. Forensic Psychiatrist Park Dietz diagnoses Dahmer as being accidently conditioned in puberty to associate sex with violence, control and mutilation, and though he is described as a necrophile, his taste is more for "sex zombies" created from the crude lobotomies of his victims, than corpses. Dietz also comments that Dahmer needed to be drunk to kill and dismember, with Dahmer's alcoholism said to be as compulsive as his murdering. The medical examiner describes what the police found in Dahmer's apartment as a "localised disaster", and the trial scenes also include the testimony of escaped victim Tracy Edwards, and Dahmer being abused histrionically by one of the victim's family. Perhaps because Dahmer was killed once imprisoned, his tale has a more mysterious resonance.

Buried Secrets (1996), written by Judy Cole, and about John Wayne Gacy, Jr. This episode has multiple use of the same imagery, especially one photo of Gacy that is zoomed in on over and over again, which reads as lazy film-making. We see Gacy dressed as Poco the clown, and the camera pours over handcuffs and rope, for expressionist effect, and we hear Gacy's voice from Defence Attorney's taped interviews. We are told he was such a social manipulator that he could "con people into killing them", and that his police confession was a "4 hour monologue". The weakness in this presentation is that it does not make clear the reality of Gacy's disposal of his victim's bodies under his house, where access looks decidely limited. However, some amusement comes from Gacy toying with his police surveillants, and his grim joke "I was only guilty of running a cemetary without a licence".

Charles Manson: Journey into Evil (1995), written by Alan Goldberg. This episode is unique in that we see Manson interviewed to-camera, though I could have done without the faux flames over one photo of him. Roman Polanski's emotional press conference after the death of his wife Sharon Tate by Manson's "family" is interrupted, though Patricia Krenwinkel's telling of the Tate house murders is chilling without being graphic.

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