Monday, 12 June 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1968: Tony Curtis in The Boston Strangler

Tony Curtis did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Albert DeSalvo in The Boston Strangler.

The Boston Strangler is a mostly effective film about the search for the titular killer that feels like a precursor to serial killer procedurals like Zodiac and Memories of Murder, though it isn't as successful as those films. It is yet another example of director Richard Fleischer seeming most adept at realizing darker subject matter though, even if he does unfortunately indulge in some of those forced attempts at an overt style so common in the late 60's.

The Boston Strangler follows the police as they work the case, following them as they struggle to solve it through various false leads while the killer continues to strike. The film over an hour in reveals the killer to the viewer as Albert DeSalvo played by Tony Curtis. Curtis is an actor who apparently wanted to be taken seriously, despite often being cast in pretty boy roles, and like his work in Sweet Smell of Success, that seems rather evident in this performance. Curtis isn't at all distracting, despite being a recognizable face, as he enters as DeSalvo. Although Curtis is playing a serial killer, he's not just playing a random loner psycho, but rather a man who was a killer while living as a seemingly normal family man. Curtis resists any possible urge to telegraph his performance, which would have been wholly ill-fitting given the film's tone, despite even the material setting up, inaccurately apparently, that DeSalvo suffers from a split-personality, more on that later. The initial scenes of Curtis though follow DeSalvo as he makes excuses with his family in order to go continue his murder spree.

The murder scenes, like Fleischer's masterpiece 10 Rillington Place, are handled without exploitation though that is not to say they are not brutal. They do not relish in the violence but they do depict the viciousness of it. Curtis's performance is part of this in his exact depiction of the serial killer who keeps killing as a habit. Curtis is chilling by the ease in which he portrays DeSalvo's manner in these scenes whether it is in asking the potential victims to let him in, like a workman just asking to be able to do his job, or when the assault begins. DeSalvo asks for silence, claiming he will not harm his victim to do so, Curtis delivers this calmly, a calm that is consistent within the scene. Curtis never goes broad with the killer even for a moment though realizing in such eerie detail this man going about his sinister task. This is particularly off-putting as Curtis shows how DeSalvo manages to get away with the crimes in that method of seeming so innocuous until the attack, then during the attack granting that disturbing serenity as he begins, though his eyes always tell of his true intentions for his victims.

Eventually DeSalvo is caught in a failed home invasion but not in a circumstance where it was obvious he was trying to murder someone. Curtis's work is striking by how natural he is in these scenes portraying such a honest fear in the man as he tries to plead to be let go. Curtis does not give away the killer instead showing the man behind all of it. There is a pivotal scene where he meets with his wife and Curtis is excellent because he does not telegraph any evil within this man. If you had not seen him participate in the crime it could seem as just a scared man who made a mistake through Curtis's realistic portrayal. It is rather remarkable to me that I just took Curtis as DeSalvo in the film, and the idea of Tony Curtis playing a killer wasn't even a thought in my mind due to how natural his work is here. Curtis is outstanding in the way he creates almost a sympathy by how genuine every facet of the incarceration and the separation from his family do afflict him. Curtis never dehumanizes the killer actually by showing the real ordeal the man is going through even beyond why he is there.

The film introduces though the idea that DeSalvo suffers from a split personality disorder, which Curtis takes as an idea but doesn't go with an obvious approach to realize it. He does not portray it as a simple switch, or a switch at all for that matter, that would be more akin to a villain in a different kind of film. Curtis instead maintains the tone of the film by creating this as something far less clean within DeSalvo's psychosis. Curtis reveals the broken psyche of the man as a mess, as the moments before his final interrogation, he keeps the indications subtle and incredibly effective in these slips into his urges and his madness. This film leads towards its final scene which is basically the confession of DeSalvo. This is depicted as prompted by the lead investigator (Henry Fonda) but the scene entirely falls upon Curtis's shoulders. The investigator prods the confession by going over with DeSalvo his crimes trying to force him to relive them. Once again Curtis's work is stunning by how subtle he stays for much of the scene. For quite a while he just reveals the intense and raw emotion swirling in the man's mind, just through the gradual unnerving change as he listens. Curtis, worthy of comparison's to Peter Lorre in M, conveys all the damaged thoughts in the man's mind as he suffers through his own remembrance. Eventually he prodded towards his reenactment which Curtis builds towards in a way that is bone chilling by the way he has DeSalvo give himself to the moment, and we see the full insanity of the man. Curtis is absolutely haunting in his depiction of this by giving this unmistakable life to such a monstrous act. It is never a single thing as he reveals with the act this harrowing cluster of lust, hate, and also pain in the act. The film abruptly ends with the end of the "confession". Curtis earns this decision as it feels as though nothing more should be said after that moment. This is an amazing performance by Tony Curtis as he creates such an unsettling and vivid portrait of the man that is the murderer.

44 comments:

Charles Heiston said...

Thoughts and rating for the rest of the cast?

I'm still yet to see this.

mcofra7 said...

Nice

Michael McCarthy said...

I love how unpretentious this performance is. Curtis never tries to be overly clever or subvert the expectations of the character in any way, it's just a captivatingly truthful portrayal of a psychopath.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Is this Curtis's best work.

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: After reading the review, not long after it was posted, I'd say it definitely is his best work.

Luke Higham said...

Louis & Calvin: With Chris Pine, it's truly remarkable, how far he's come since the first film I ever saw him in. (Princess Diaries 2, though that was forced on me by my elder sister)

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

I was forced to read The Princess Diaries once by my English teacher, I still can't live it down to this day lol.
Louis: Your thoughts on Ed Sheeran's "All of the Stars" from The Fault in our Stars. Although I guess you probably don't like it, it's the closest we'll get to getting an opinion on Sheeran from you xD.

RatedRStar said...

Truly great work, I am stunned he was nominated for a Golden Globe this is the kind of performance that awards are frightened of lol, its odd that this was only ten years after his Oscar nomination because he looks way way older for some reason lol.

Luke Higham said...

Everyone: As we'll likely be moving on to the 2000s next, which year would you prefer. 2003 or 2008.

RatedRStar said...

Luke: You seem to know which years come next lol =D I dont mind personally lol, 2003/2008 lead seems pretty easy, as for 2003 and 2008 supporting, good luck with that lol =D.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: I'm torn on either one of those. 2008 has more good films to watch, I'd say but I'd rather have 2003 next because I'm really looking forward to Crowe's review and hopefully upgrades for Astin and Bettany.

Luke Higham said...

2003 Lead
Alex Frost - Elephant
Billy Bob Thornton - Bad Santa
Robert Duvall - Open Range
Daniel Bruhl - Good Bye, Lenin!
Jason Isaacs - Peter Pan

And Russell Crowe - Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World

RatedRStar: The Son (Gourmet) is 2002.

RatedRStar said...

Luke: You have been looking at my spreadsheet again!!!!! lol =D, it ll get updated soon.

94dfk1 said...

I'd prefer 2008, but mainly because I wonder if anyone is good enough to top Ledger in TDK. Then again, if Ralph Fiennes in In Bruges can't do so, I doubt anyone can. So 2003 it is, since I haven't seen many movies from that year and the reviews could add a couple of movies to my watchlist.

I like to think the production company behind Star Trek saw Chris Pine in Smokin' Aces and figured that he'd be great for Captain Kirk hahaha. But I jest. He's come a long ways indeed.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: I'd prefer 2003. Despite 2008 having the better films. Although either are fine.

Calvin Law said...

Can't wait to read Billy Bob's review.

Luke Higham said...

I had thought about Will Ferrell in Elf, which is a top 2 performance of his, but having two Christmas comedies in the lineup would've been a bit much.

And for someone who hasn't seen Peter Pan in over a decade, I actually think Isaacs is the best Hook to date as well as being very good as the father.

Charles Heiston said...

Not a fan of Ferrell anyway. I'll be looking forward to Frost and Crowe. Since Frost is my #1 with Crowe as a close #2 for me.

omar said...

I'd like to see a review of both Remy Girarg in The Barbarian Invasions and Ivan Dobronravov in The Return for 2003.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: I'm not his biggest fan either, I like him in Elf & Anchorman and that's about it. Louis' not fussed on him either so it would've been rather unlikely, unless there were fewer contenders.

Luke Higham said...

Omar: Perhaps Dobronravov, but I have a feeling Louis' not gonna respond well to The Barbarian Invasions.

Michael McCarthy said...

I'm leaning toward 2003 just because I'm anxious to see another performance beat out Lang for the overall, and hopefullly see an upgrade for Depp. Although 2008 would also be an opportunity for another Philip Seymour Hoffman review.

Luke Higham said...

Michael: There's a really good chance of Crowe taking it and Depp's performance should go up, especially when Louis wasn't overly negative on him in DMC and AWE.

omar said...

Luke: yeah i can see why he would not like The Barbarian Invasions but never say never, while i think The Return is a great movie, Dobronravov is in my top 5 for Leading and Lavronenko is my win for supporting.

Luke Higham said...

I've re-watched Peter Pan and I really hope Isaacs does get into the lineup.

Charles Heiston said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Robin Williams in Awakenings

Alex Marqués said...

I'd like to see Joaquin reviewed for Two Lovers, so 2008 for me.

Anonymous said...

Luke: 2003 for me, just for Crowe.
94dfk1: I don't think there's anyone good enough to top Ledger. That performance is on a level of its own.

Anonymous said...

I really should check out this film. Seems intriguing.
Louis: Your thoughts on Norman and Marion's conversation scene in Psycho.

Luke Higham said...

*Elf, Anchorman and Stranger Than Fiction.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the shark fight in Adam West's Batman movie.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on The End by The Doors (Apocalypse Now), Who Wants To Live Forever by Queen (Highlander) and Layla Piano Exit by Derek And The Dominos. (Goodfellas)

Luke Higham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luke Higham said...

I've changed my mind on Isaacs placement, I'd personally put him in supporting. I'll go with Omar's suggestion instead.

Anonymous said...

Luke: What rating would you give for Ferrell in Elf?

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: Personally, I'd probably go no higher than a 4.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Depp should get raised for "this shot is not meant for you" alone.

Luke Higham said...

Depp should be at least a 4, IMO.

Depp's indulgent for sure, but that's precisely the point of the character and fits perfectly with the tone of the film.

Luke Higham said...

And compared to later films, he's far less indulgent in comparison.

Louis Morgan said...

Charles:

Fonda, Hamilton, Kennedy - 3.5,3,3 - (All are good within their limited roles of working the case. It doesn't really touch on them personally at all, and even within any given scene they really are not granted any superfluous dialogue in order for them to work in a bit of background. They are all good though, and Fonda is given just a bit more in his scenes with Curtis which I felt he handled well by essentially staying out of his way.)

Kellerman - 3.5(She's quite good in adding to the horror of her attack scene and is rather affecting in her later scene in revealing the damage her victim has suffered from the attack.)

Voskovec - 3.5(Liked his performance as a random odd-ball "investigator" thrown into the case as he brings the right ego and conviction in his performance yet he presents very much as a showman rather than someone genuinely interested in solving a crime.)

Hickey - 3.5(Very short but effective performance as he portrays a different psychologically damaged man. He's good as he shows a man who's off-putting and clearly not right head yet harmless in his behavior.)

Various of the other quick potential suspects and random witnesses are also well played.

Covered Williams in 90 alternate Lead results.

Tahmeed:

Yes.

All of the Stars - (Well I suppose it benefits to hear it separately from the film for me, since I was quite fed up when watching the film. I suppose I sort of prefer though intro and outro which was kind of reworked actually in "Thinking Out Loud" I feel, more effectively in a more optimistic arrangement of sorts. The song I feel is not wholly effective in its transition to its fairly generic chorus, though it's not bad nor is the song.)

Anonymous:

That's a brilliant scene in terms of the performances, the production design with the taxidermy, the writing, and Hitchcock's careful direction. It's impressive in the way is it creates a personal connection but also tension within the scene. It's particularly remarkable as it makes Norman unsettling without giving the truth either. The scene works as a fascinating contradiction as it works as Marion changing her mind to do the right thing, while also acting as a warning about the hotel.

Anonymous:

Classic Batman moment to be sure, and I must say I was once again disheartened by a few mentions of the original series recently that still failed to see that it was an intentional comedy. You don't accidentally put the "Benedict Arnold Monument" in a serious film. Anyway as an intentionally comedic scene it is hilarious in its ridiculousness but amplified by the sheer conviction that West gives every line.

Luke:

Nice try Luke, but they need to originate in a film.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Just can't win. :)

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Is Holm coming shortly or tomorrow.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Jack had an element of menace in the first movie that was absent from the sequels. There's a balance to Jack where the clownishness was evened out by the danger he presented. You could never tell if all of his tics were even real or just a ruse. That's what made him work, and that's what Depp and company seemed to forget later on.

Michael McCarthy said...

Well put Robert, I really hope Depp is another Rooney Mara in Dragon Tattoo situation.