There have been many things written about or influenced by the story of the Boston Strangler, a serial killer (or killers) who terrorized that city in the mid-1960s. There was a 1968 movie starring Tony Curtis, episodes of TV series from “American Gothic” to “Rizzoli and Isles,” even a Rolling Stones song (“Midnight Rambler”).
As “She Said” (which I reviewed here) did with the NY Times journalists who broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal wide open, the new Hulu movie “Boston Strangler” tells the tale from the perspective of the two women who investigated and revealed many of the details for Boston’s Record-American newspaper, Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) and Jean Cole (Carrie Coon). Through dogged pursuit of leads and sources, they wedged their way into the male-dominated culture of both police and crime reporters and uncovered the pattern in the crimes.
For McLaughlin, the story was a chance to get out of the “women’s section” of the paper, designed to appeal to housewives with pieces about fashion and reviews of new toasters. Both she and Cole kept pushing until their reluctant editor, played by Chris Cooper, relented and let them work the case full-time. Like “She Said,” “Boston Strangler” shows the impact the gruesome killings and long hours had on the home lives of the reporters (particularly McLaughlin).
I never knew the full story of the Boston Strangler, but always thought there was a lone culprit, Albert DeSalvo. But writer/director Matt Ruskin’s screenplay doesn’t stop with the charges against DeSalvo. It also explores the likelihood that other men committed similarly brutal attacks on women in Boston and elsewhere in the northeast.
As the leads, Knightley and Coon are very good, displaying a mix of determination, curiosity, and fear as the murders pile up and the police mishandle the investigation. They’re assisted by a supporting cast that includes Alessandro Nivola as a detective who shares information, Bill Camp as the police commissioner embarrassed by the paper’s revelations, and Luke Kirby as DeSalvo’s attorney, F. Lee Bailey. Fortunately, Ruskin doesn’t force his cast to try to pull off Boston accents and rarely lets up in the pacing of the movie.
A few months ago, I made a list of the Best Movies About Newspapers. Today, I would revise it to include “Boston Strangler.”
I give it a 9 out of 10. Now streaming on Hulu.