His notable film roles were What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), The Silencers (1966), and Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), but it really was TV where he really made his lasting mark.
Directed by Burt Topper with a screenplay by Bill S. Ballinger (Wicked as They Come (1956), Pushover (1954)). The film was inspired by the notorious Boston Strangler, a serial killer of the 1960s and of course Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) . The cinematography was by Jacques R. Marquette (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)), and the music was by Marlin Skiles (Music Department for Gilda (1946), Framed (1947) Sudden Danger (1955)).
|Title sequence art|
|Leo Kroll (Buono)|
|Mother Corby (Ellen Corby)|
|David McLean (Lt. Frank Benson)|
|Tally Raymond (Davey Davison) as Leo's heartthrob|
Leo Kroll (Buono), is a mama's boy who absolutely hates his nagging domineering mother (Corby). Leo has got a serious schoolboy crush on the Odeon Fun Palace arcade ring toss gal Tally (Raymond). He spends his days working as a mild mannered lab tech and most of his nights (when he can't get away to the arcade) at his mother's Park View Hospital bedside. Leo murders nurses (because they keep his mother alive) and collects dolls which he uses as sort of trophy tchotchkes for each of his kills. His usual m.o. is to follow his targets home, break into their apartments and strangle them from behind with their own nylon stockings. He then composes their bodies into a restful pose.
When Leo gets back to his house, he takes the doll he carries (which somewhat looks like his latest victim) out of his pocket and undresses her. The doll (something along the lines of a Barbie Doll) even has nylon stockings which Leo removes one one by one. When the doll is naked Leo places it in a locked desk drawer along with the others he has collected.
|"Guess what I did?"|
|talking to a cop|
|Barbara Wells (Diane Sayer)|
Of course this aberration in the m.o. at first throws the police off. With His mother now dead Leo finds his aversion to women abating. He approaches Tally and proposes to her cold turkey. She rejects him. Leo now believes everything his mother told him about the evils of women. This sends Leo into a death spiral towards Noirsville.
|ah the perfect mate....|
Burt Topper and cinematographer Jacques R. Marquette display a bit of style, one shot at the beginning of the film is from the POV of the peeping Leo, we see a woman victim undressing through the pupil of his eye, and then not a whole lot else at that level that quite approaches the first six minutes. Too bad, it was a promising start, this film could have used a lot more of the same. Strange Compulsion (1964) did the noir stylistics infinitely better. Had The Strangler gone a bit more into the sexploitation route as Strange Compulsion with the strength of Buono's performance it would be much better regarded. As is it's about a 7/10.
One more concluding observation, the film prominently displays almost everyone either sucking on tar bars (one shot lingers on an office smoke stand another shows a cigarette machine in the squad room), or curiously drinking milk from rectangular containers. It must have been some product placement deal, lol.
These screencaps are from the Sinister Cinema DVD, there is also a Warner's release available with hopefully a better restoration. It would be worth checking out.