Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killer Movies

The Stranger

Ted Bundy Wanted Poster
Ted Bundy Wanted Poster

In 1974, young women were disappearing in the Pacific Northwest.  In one case, witnesses offered descriptions of a man named "Ted" who had driven a tan Volkswagen Beetle.  But Ted was on his way across country, stopping in Utah and Colorado to grab several more victims.  One got away, and Theodore Robert Bundy was arrested and imprisoned.  Before his trial, he escaped, ending up in Tallahassee, Florida.

On January 15, 1978, he entered a sorority, attacking four girls and killing two of them.  Yet a witness had seen him, and it was a matter of time before Bundy was apprehended — but not before kidnapping and killing a twelve-year-old.

Once in custody, Bundy swaggered and bragged about his notoriety, eventually confessing to more then thirty murders.  He went through two trials, identified by both the sorority house witness and the bite mark he had left on one of the victims.  He attempted to defend himself but inadvertently admitted to his involvement.  Found guilty, he was sentenced three times to death.  Bundy claimed that his compulsion to kill and mutilate had been inspired by the need to possess his victims totally, especially after death. 

Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy

What's notable about him is that he lured women with his good looks and charm, and often with an added touch of feigned neediness or the pretence of being a police officer.  He said of himself that during these encounters some malignant portion of his personality took over.  As he said to his mother just before his 1989 execution, "Part of me was hidden all the time."   

The Deliberate Stranger
The Deliberate Stranger

Four movies have been produced about Bundy thus far, three of them specifically for television.  In 1986, a two-part miniseries, The Deliberate Stranger starred Mark Harmon in the role of Bundy.  While it was influenced by Anne Rule's definitive book, A Stranger beside Me, another movie by that name was aired on the USA Network in 2003.  This time Billy Campbell played the notorious killer.  More interesting in some ways was the A&E film of Robert Keppel's book, The Riverman, in which Cary Elwes, as Bundy, talks with law enforcement about the as-yet-unidentified Green River Killer.  And finally, Bundy was featured in one of a series of bio-pics directed by Matthew Bright.  In this one, Michael Burke was the star.

Bundy's not alone in being an attractive killer who spawned a film, but what sets the next one apart is her gender: she was a female.


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