Monday, September 26, 2016

The Night of the Strangler (1972)

Employment options for ex-Monkees being what they were, it’s understandable that Micky Dolenz had to venture outside the mainstream to find onscreen work. Shot on a meager budget and telling a far-fetched story about a string of murders, The Night of the Strangler is comprehensively underwhelming. For instance, Dolenz’ leading performance is way too cutesy and upbeat to sustain the ominous mood this sort of material requires. Set in New Orleans, The Night of the Strangler depicts a family beset by tragedy. Easygoing youth Vance (Dolenz) rebels against the dictatorial manner of his older brother, wealthy lawyer Dan (James Ralston), especially when their sister, Denise (Susan McCullough), announces she’s pregnant with a black man’s child. Unapologetically racist Dan cuts her off from family money, and she kills herself. Meanwhile, Vance prepares to wed his girlfriend, so he listens to counsel from his clergyman friend Jesse (Chuck Patterson), who suggests Vance mend family ties. That’s easier said than done once local police discover clues suggesting Denise was murdered. Amateurish in terms of acting, directing, production values, and writing, The Night of the Strangler wobbles between melodrama and horror, with clashing performance styles exacerbating narrative dissonance. Ralston goes way over the top as the film’s main villain, while Ed Brown and Harold Sylvester veer into light comedy playing world-weary cops. Even the title is a misnomer, since only one of the film’s myriad kill scenes involves strangulation. Similarly, the picture’s alternate title—Is the Father Black Enough?—overplays the race-relations angle, since the film is a potboiler rather than a polemic.

The Night of the Strangler: LAME

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