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Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Brian De Palma will reteam with producer Gale Anne Hurd to film The Boston Stranglers, according to Jay A. Fernandez at the Hollywood Reporter. The film is an adaptation of a 1996 nonfiction book (updated in 2002) titled, The Boston Stranglers: The Public Conviction of Albert DeSalvo and the True Story of Eleven Shocking Murders, written by Susan Kelly. In the book, Kelly claims to debunk the confessions of Albert DeSalvo, who was convicted of strangling 13 women between 1962 and 1964. According to Kelly's book, the Boston murders were the result of several killers, and DeSalvo was a pathological liar who craved celebrity. One striking detail of the murders was that there was never a sign of forced entry into the victims' homes, most of whom were sexually assaulted before being strangled, often with their own nylon stockings (the killings were also referred to as the silk stocking murders).


In 1968, Richard Fleischer directed a film titled The Boston Strangler, starring Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda, and based on the Gerold Frank book of the same name. Fleischer's film is noted for its use of split screen, a technique De Palma had begun to experiment with around the same time. While Fleischer's film focused on DeSalvo as the true killer, when the film was first shown on television in 1974 (the year after DeSalvo was stabbed to death in prison), a voiceover was tacked on at the end to state that several experts had become convinced that DeSalvo was not the killer. Kelly's book includes chapters about Fleischer's film, which was filmed on location in Boston and Cambridge, creating a media frenzy and a local stir. The film itself became a key part of a trial, detailed in Kelly's book, in which DeSalvo went up against Twentieth Century Fox over the rights to his life story. At one point early in the trial, the judge and the attorneys attend a private screening of the Fleischer film.

The Hollywood Reporter article mentions that "De Palma similarly plumbed real-life-derived atrocities in Casualties of War, Redacted and The Black Dahlia." This film could be interesting as a postmodern pluralized ("Stranglers" instead of "Strangler") revision of Fleischer's picture, which nevertheless takes De Palma back to the decade at the heart of his cinema, the 1960s. The director also must feel at home in reteaming with Hurd. While the two were married, Hurd produced what was surely De Palma's most personal film of the 1990s, Raising Cain (1992), which De Palma wrote and directed. De Palma and Hurd, who also have a daughter together (Lolita De Palma), seem to have remained friends over the past decade and a half, and it will be nice to see them team up again professionally. Hurd will produce through her own Valhalla Motion Pictures (Hulk, Terminator 3, Dick). In a statement quoted at Reuters' Fan Fare blog today, Hurd said that De Palma "has the perfect visual and thematic sensibility" for The Boston Stranglers. Hurd has also produced both Hulk movies, the second of which (The Incredible Hulk) is released June 13th.

Carl Franklin
had previously been attached to direct the Boston Stranglers project, which Hurd has had lined up at Paramount since 2001 (the Hollywood Reporter article does not mention Paramount, or any other distributor attached at this time). Alan Rosen, a TV writer/director/producer, had written the first draft of the adaptation from Kelly's book, and then worked with Franklin on a revised version. In 2002, Sid Quashie was assigned by Paramount to work with Franklin on a new draft. Franklin had still been attached through at least January of 2005, when he mentioned the project during a USA Today chat, indicating that the script was still being reworked. According to the Hollywood Reporter article, Rosen is the screenwriter of choice now that De Palma is aboard the project.

The Hollywood Reporter article gives no indication as to when The Boston Stranglers might go into production, stating simply that De Palma has signed on to helm the project. In April, William Boyd mentioned during a Book Slam Podcast that he hoped De Palma's adaptation of his book The Blue Afternoon would go into production by the end of 2008. Last month, Redacted producers Simone Urdl and Jennifer Weiss announced at Cannes that they would produce two De Palma scripts, one titled Print The Legend, and an untitled political thriller. The two producers indicated that Print The Legend would go into production first, and it is highly conceivable that this low-budget project may already be flying under the radar. De Palma also continues to be involved with a prequel to The Untouchables, which is still in the casting stages, although Gerard Butler has already signed on for that film. Meanwhile, De Palma's latest film, Redacted, will screen at the Melbourne International Film Festival, which runs from July 25 through August 10.

Posted by Geoff at 10:05 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 10:23 AM CDT
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