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An Update on Brian De Palma's THE BOSTON STRANGLERS!

Beaks here...

We haven't heard much about THE BOSTON STRANGLERS since it was announced last June as a potential directing gig for Brian De Palma, but, according to producer Gale Anne Hurd, it's still (tentatively) scheduled to go before cameras in 2009. For those of you questioning the need for another "Boston Strangler" movie when Richard Fleischer did such a bang-up job with his 1968 feature (I'm not a fan), here's Hurd defending her project to UGO's intrepid movie blogger, Jenna Busch:
It’s based on Susan Kelly’s book called The Boston Stranglers, because everything that we think we know is wrong. There was a film made right after the events called THE BOSTON STRANGLER starring Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda. And it posits that Albert DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler, but the truth is, if you scratch beneath the surface, Albert DeSalvo was never charged with the crimes. He was actually incarcerated for another series of assaults, and there was not one shred of evidence linking him to the crimes. So the film is very much (about) how did things go so wrong, that to this day we all think Albert DeSalvo was tried and convicted as the Boston Strangler?
The massive-in-scope screenplay (a recent draft by Alan Rosen ran over 160 pages) starts small with DeSalvo's first string of crimes (he talked his way into the homes of lonely/neglected women by pretending to be a scout for a modeling agency), but quickly turns into a multi-layered dramatization of the botched police investigation, the intense, often unhelpful media scrutiny (courtesy of an ambitious young female reporter for The Boston Herald), and DeSalvo's jailhouse confession to convicted murderer George Nassar (who got F. Lee Bailey involved). It's kinky, bloody and full of betrayal; in other words, it's ideal material for De Palma. Right now, he's just got to find the narrative throughline. (According to De Palma a la Mod, the director is currently overseeing a rewrite of that earlier, very lengthy draft.) Being that it's a period yarn, securing the requisite financing could prove difficult. Are there any affordable international locations that could convincingly double for 1960s Boston? By the way, you should definitely read the rest of Busch's interview with Ms. Hurd. She also discusses a remake of ALIEN NATION, a take on the Arthurian legend called GALAHAD, and the Top Cow comic MAGDALENA.

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 26, 2008, 10:33 p.m. CST

    Hope he does a better job than Black Dialia.(sp?)

    by GQtaste

    Now that was a huge piece of shit!

  • Oct. 26, 2008, 10:36 p.m. CST

    Josh Harnett gets to play grown up again!

    by canucklehead

    God save us all.

  • Oct. 26, 2008, 10:44 p.m. CST

    Josh Hartnett..

    by Harold-Sherbort

    ..isn't still involved with The Rum Diary is he? Is that movie still in the works? WHAT THE FUCK?!!

  • Oct. 26, 2008, 10:59 p.m. CST

    Dahlia is underrated, dammit

    by Nasty In The Pasty

  • Oct. 26, 2008, 11 p.m. CST

    Josh Hartnett's DEFINITELY doing this!

    by Player 1

    Someone read this book, and laugh with me, or cry, even....

  • Oct. 26, 2008, 11:14 p.m. CST

    The Black Dahlia improves on a 2nd viewing

    by Powers Boothe

    I saw it in the theatre back in 2006 and hated it. Watched it HD on Starz or Showtime recently and really enjoyed it. Second viewings can sometimes be quite illuminating.

  • Oct. 26, 2008, 11:40 p.m. CST

    Gloss over the Punisher War Zone hatchet job...

    by Spacker Dave

    Hurd is a STUDIO fan, not a COMIC fan. Can't someone get Lexi Alexander out of this ridiculous gag order and comment on the butchering of her movie by this evil being?

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 12:10 a.m. CST

    so, it's Zodiac, but in Boston?

    by BadMrWonka

    and with crappier cinematography and lots of zoom shots, presumably...

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 12:17 a.m. CST

    Riley Martin

    by BadMrWonka

    I know! when I misspell a word, guess what? it's underlined for me. are these people writing on an Apple IIc+?<p>and one of my biggest pet peeves is when people misspell things and write (sp) next to them, and they aren't even PHONETICALLY correct. <p>it's so lazy, when you see someone try to write a word like "gorgeous" and they write "goreguos" or some shit. if you pronounced that, it would sound like "gor-ee-goo-us". so how could that POSSIBLY be the correct spelling? at least fucking TRY to spell it. don't just mash your fist into the keypad and HOPE a discernible word comes out. (see right there, I misspelled discernible as discernAble, and it UNDERLINED IT AND I FUCKING FIXED IT!!<p>can you tell I taught high schoolers how to write essays for 2 years? the horror...the horror

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 12:36 a.m. CST

    Nasty In The Pasty and Powers Boothe

    by StraightToHell

    Amen there. The first viewing on The Black Dahlia left me pretty cold. Loved the visual style and De Palma can still pull out an awesome set-pies in his sleep (i.e. the discovery of the body as the shootout takes place in the foreground), but something didn't click with me the first time. But upon subsequent viewings the movie started to take hold with this weird, fucked-up vibe that it has. Not an all-out success like some of De Palma's masterpieces (Scarface, Carlito's Way, Untouchables, Blowout) but certainly nowhere near the disaster many made it out to be.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 12:46 a.m. CST

    And speaking of Carlito's Way

    by StraightToHell

    Just watched it again not too long ago, and the shootout in the back of the barber shop is still one of the greatest suspense sequences ever filmed. The way De Palma sets up the fact that Carlito sees someone in the bathroom and immediately realizes that this is a set-up, and then has to play it cool while trying to figure out how to get out alive, is just astonishing. I love the way Carlito sets up this fake trick-shot, which then plays out beautifully when Carlito's takes out the two pool playes. The cinematography and the music in this is just perfect. A knock-out movie moment. Of course, De Palme then proceeds to top this sequence tenfold with the whole chase in the finale. Just a superb film.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 3:36 a.m. CST

    he's better when it's all nonsense

    by welbrick

    i don't think depalms's perspective really lends itself to the real world. he's such a brilliant stylist; i think his point of view is best left to dream logic &/or movie logic. when he's relying on reality, his direction feels artificial, stagey in a dishonest way. this contrivance works beautifully in films like 'body double' & 'femme fatale' cus they're about film - which is what the man is really interested in. but i don't think his aesthetic translates so well in 'the black dahlia' or 'casualties of war', where he's striving to tell a compelling, realistic story.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 4:29 a.m. CST


    by ledbetter51

    Mmmm... set-pies [drooling sound]

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 4:38 a.m. CST

    the black dahlia

    by max404

    will slowly but surely be regarded as a classic. which happened with a lot of De Palma's movies (the ultimate example being 'scarface' which was bashed at it's release). The choir that's bashing his films is always largely filled with people simply copying each other's opinion instead of having one thelmself. period.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 5:42 a.m. CST

    Brian De Palma made a few solid movies

    by palewook

    and has spent a solid decade plus trying to make another one. <p> wish Brian De Palma luck, he could use a hit.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 6:01 a.m. CST

    No, max404

    by comedian_x

    the BLACK DAHLIA will never be regarded as a classic -- it is horribly miscast (Hartnett, Swank, etc.) and has a poor script that doesn't do the book justice. <p> I say this as someone who loves De Palma (Scarface, Blow Out, Mission Impossible, Untouchables, and Snake Eyes are my favorite) and it just doesn't hold up to his other true classics.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 8:27 a.m. CST

    I really liked The Black Dahlia

    by Samuel Fulmer

    Being a film noir fan, I appreciated it. It was as if De Palma went back to 1947 and made a noir in color with sex and violence. I can understand why people hate it (because the acting is over the top, much like a 40's noir), and the script is definitly scaled down compared to the epicness of the novel, but I still liked it. I guess people were expecting another LA Confidential, and this film was done in a totally different sytle. In a way the Black Dahlia shares a lot with a film that came out around the same time, the Good German. Both were good throw back films that were dismissed back in '06.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 8:30 a.m. CST

    "so, it's Zodiac, but in Boston?"

    by Samuel Fulmer

    If you're going to knock De Palma, cinematography is the last area to do it. His work with Stephan Burnum and Vilmos Zsigmond is some of the best of the past 30 years of cinema. And I don't know where you're getting the zooms from. Other than Redacted (in which it was done as an obvious nod to Barry Lyndon), I can't name one De Palma film with zooms.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 9:24 a.m. CST

    Uh, any word on his script for the POTP remake?

    by Anna Valerious

    Just curious...

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 9:49 a.m. CST

    The Black Dahlia...

    by Droid

    showed how hard it is to adapt Ellroy. That film just plain does not work, despite De Palma having his moments (the discovery of the body scene is brilliant). LA Confidential is genius. How Helgeland managed to adapt the book is amazing. It hits all the same necessary plot points and arrives at the same conclusion (with one exception). Ellroy himself thought the book was unfilmable. Read it and ask yourself where you would start trying to make that into a usable screenplay.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 9:51 a.m. CST

    I love De Palma a ton...

    by DanielKurland

    And granted, he's made some bad movies lately, but they're not bad because of him. Black Dahlia for instance is absolutely gorgeous and visually fun as hell. It's a bad screenplay though. That he didn't write. I could go on for pages about the visual choices De Palma makes, and how they in turn lead to his movies raising several echelons. For example, Snake Eyes is not a good movie, but that 12 minute long opening tracking shot is a work of art. I bought the movie for that. If you give De Palma the right script, he'll deliver a good movie.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 9:57 a.m. CST

    Someone should really mention Dressed to Kill...

    by DanielKurland

    The only complaint I can actually recognize from De Palma haters is that he is just ripping off Hitchcock. Which I agree, is totally apt, but I've heard De Palma defend himself over this, and he does it quite well, and I'm willing to be forgiving when his films offer so much in terms of cinematography. Each of his films have at least a few really amazing examples. You'd think he invented the split diopter, like how Kubrick did the Steadicam. Also, say what you will about the acting in Black Dahlia, but Mia Kirshner and Aaron Eckhart do a fantastic job.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 10:49 a.m. CST

    Michael Imperioli is DeSalvo's doppelganger!

    by blackmantis

    He absolutely must play that part.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 10:56 a.m. CST

    Compare DTK to Disturbia

    by Samuel Fulmer

    And see what a true artist can do when inspired by Hitch.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 11 a.m. CST

    The "Hitchcock plagarizer!" people...

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    It amuses me that so many people complain about De Palma "ripping off" Hitchcock. Considering most of today's filmmakers want to be either Michael Bay or Brett Ratner, is it *really* that bad that De Palma appropriates cinematic devices from the GREATEST SUSPENSE FILMMAKER OF ALL TIME? I'd rather watch someone "ripping off" Hitchcock than the hyperactive visual bullshit of today's "thrillers". De Palma ALWAYS delivers the goods visually, even in his weakest films (like the aforementioned tracking shot at the beginning of the otherwise mediocre Snake Eyes). Dahlia has flaws (Fiona Shaw's hysterically dreadful performance mainly, although at least it's confined to only two scenes in the movie), but it was still a classy throwback to classic Hollywood noirs, and deserves some damn respect.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 12:18 p.m. CST

    Imperioli would be brilliant casting

    by Samuel Fulmer

    Let's hope he's on the list.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 1:53 p.m. CST

    DePalma used up his talent a decade ago

    by Charlie_Allnut

    Mission Impossible was very well done, and Snake Eyes was a passable pulp thriller, but he hasn't done anything good since. The Black Dahlia was miserable and Noir is my favorite genre (30's to present). Honestly The BD was incompetent film making, not the work of a master...which leads me to believe the well is dry.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 1:58 p.m. CST

    Samuel Fulmer

    by Charlie_Allnut

    Not to belittle you're opinion, but I think to compare The Black Dahlia to 40's noir is impossible - I mean come on you're going to compare it to: The Big Sleep, Murder My Sweet, This Gun for Hire, Laura, The Killers etc etc???? Watch LA Confidential for 40's style noir done right in a modern movie.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 3:11 p.m. CST

    Uhmmmmm actually Charlie

    by Samuel Fulmer

    I will compare Black Dahlia to 40's noir. Did I say it was as good as the films you I did say that it is done in the same 40's style (acting, plot, dialogue, etc.) LA Condidential is not a 40's style noir done right. What exactly stylistically in Confidential makes you call it a 40's style noir. I can't think of one noir from the 40's you could compare it to in any way. LA Confidential is a progressive noir since it is done in a more realistic, less stylised 90's form. It's a great film, but it bears very little resembalance in any way to any of the films you listed. The Black Dahlia in a lot of ways is like those films (not in quality mind you, but in style).The acting in Black Dahlia is straight out of the 40's, which is why people hate it. The acting in LA Confidential is method acting straight out of 1997. I think that's why people loved LA Confidential and hated Dahlia. They were expected the more realistic tone of Confidential, but instead they got something that was a throw back to the old 40's noirs.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 3:21 p.m. CST

    I was gonna suggest Adrien Brody

    by jackmac

    but yes, Michael Imperioli would be perfect.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 6:33 p.m. CST

    Film should open with credits

    by Garbage

    rolling and "Midnight Rambler" by the Stones--the whole song. The full song should appear at least three or four times throughout the film, and there should also be a happy-go-lucky (no pun intended) montage featuring "Happy" or "Honky Tonk Woman" at some point. Yep.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 8:46 p.m. CST


    by Charlie_Allnut

    I agree its not like those films in quality because its a piece of shit. And I think people hated Dahlia not because its not like LA Confidential but rather because its a piece of shit. That said perhaps I should suffer through the sorry excuse for a film to see if I can fathom what you are talking about stylistically. Perhaps you are right...but its still a crappy movie.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 9:13 p.m. CST

    Dahlia and classic noir movies...

    by DanielKurland

    Obviously this was De Palma's intention. All of the editing and transitions in the film are done how they would have been done back then.

  • Oct. 27, 2008, 11:59 p.m. CST

    Make a real movie, Brian

    by Boxcutter

    De Palma will always get my buck, because there is always something, no, several things worth watching - even if, as in The Black Dahlia's case, it's a poor movie as a whole. But I'm running out of patience. He needs to make a solid, engaging piece of work again. Agree with whoever made the excellent point that real life isn't his metier; he works best in dream logic. How can you not get swept up DTK and Blow Out and The Fury. But now, just hanging around waiting for bravura set-pieces and admiring all the technical wizardry born of a fetishistic love of style and "film" aren't enough. Yes, Snake Eyes and Femme Fatale I'm talking to you. And even even without the likes of Hartnett, Shaw and Swank fouling up the screen every few minutes, Dahlia was a huge disappointment. Ellroy isn't unfilmable, but maybe unscreenplayable. LA Confidential was a great, great try and I think it earned much of its kudos for the fact that it didn't fuck up the dense, twisted beauty of the book too much. Oh, for a premium cable series of the LA Quartet, a nice 24-parter. And when is that crusty old bastard going to finish the next book? It seems decades since The Cold Six Thousand.

  • Oct. 28, 2008, 11:18 a.m. CST


    by malpaso

    Can we expect: killer sneaking up behind the victim as hero struggles, in EXTREME SLOW MOTION, to come to her aid (usually impeded by a large crowd or random people who seem to weigh 700lbs each), complete with overly dramatic Hitchcockian score?