New Article on Fincher's "Zodiac"

Zodiac Movie PosterRoger Ebert coordinates a set of "Far-Flung Correspondents" over at the suntimes.com blog. Apparently, these correspondents, who are scattered across the globe, regularly comment on all things movie. A couple of days ago, one of the correspondents--Gerardo Valero from Mexico City--took on David Fincher's Zodiac (2007). I've commented on the article here.

For ease of reference, I'm duplicating the comments in this post:

To be sure, the film is an excellent bit of movie making. However, it clearly suffers from being primarily based off of Graysmith's book. For starters, Arthur Leigh Allen almost certainly was not the Zodiac. DNA, fingerprints, palm prints and handwriting have all excluded him. One can argue about the particulars of each, but the bottom line is that there is very little in the way of non-circumstantial evidence that points to Allen.

One part of the movie I wish Fincher would have done differently is include the murders of David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen. They were the first Bay-Area victims and they deserve to have been included. The commentary from the Director's cut describes that they were omitted because there were no eyewitness accounts as to what happened. However, in my judgment, that's a weak reason.

The one point I disagree with from the above article is regarding the line: "...he [the Zodiac] gladly took the credit for crimes he couldn't possibly have committed." Apart from the ever increasing "score" (i.e. the killer's implied claims as to how many people he had murdered), it's a reasonable possibility that the killer was responsible for the crimes for which he took credit. Nowadays people are more skeptical about Cheri Jo Bates (October 1966 in Riverside) and SFPD has vehemently denied that he was responsible for the murder of Officer Richard Radetich in 1970 (which the killer seemed to imply). But there are reasons to believe the Zodiac was, in fact, responsible for both. Certainly, it's a possibility. And then there's the theory that the killer was not responsible for abducting Kathleen Johns, which was even highlighted in the movie. In my estimation, much too much is made of this possibility.

I have to say that the movie had an especially good tagline that clearly communicated the essence of the story: "There's more than one way to lose your life to a killer." And despite its moderate shortcomings, I find it hard not to like a Hollywood mega-production that gives such a high degree of exposure to the case.

If you'd like to read more about the Zodiac, please have a look at: Who was the Zodiac killer?

Michael Cole

5 comments

  1. Steve 12 May, 2012 at 05:33 Reply

    I disagree with the comment that Fincher should have included the ’68 murder and that not doing so due to lack of eyewitness accounts being called a weak reason.
    1) It was not as well of a ‘documented’ case as the other Z cases
    2) Fincher was meticulous in making this movie, and in doing so he probably wanted to only include the crimes which were more heavily documented , rather than relying on an artist’s impression (more or less, anyway) of how the LHR event unfolded.
    3) (Correct me if I’m wrong here) the only link to Zodiac with LHR was that he “killed those kids last year” and listed facts “only I and the police know.” Unlike the Berryessa crime, where he donned a Zodiac hood, the BRS murder where it is a high probability Z knew Darlene and have had a history, and the Paul Stine murder where Z sent swatches of a bloody shirt.
    It is these reasons that I believe Fincher left out the LHR murders in his movie, so in my opinion not a weak excuse at all.

    I generally agree with all other points though 🙂

    • Mike 12 May, 2012 at 10:05

      Thanks for the comments, Steve.

      I understand what you’re saying and I agree that the crime is less well documented. There is also, probably, an argument to be made that the movie could not afford to be much longer in terms of run time. However, those two murders are, in my view, a fundamental part of the story. There are only four definite attacks. By leaving out one of them, Fincher is omitting a significant chunk of the known crimes.

      I also think about the question from the perspective of the victims’ families at times. Here you have family members murdered as the first victims to a never-identified serial killer. And when the story is finally told by way of a big-budget, Hollywood mega-production, there’s nothing more than a passing reference.

      If the desire was there, I believe the writers could have worked around the lack of eyewitness testimony. If nothing else, they could have told the sub-story from the perspective of the responding officers. There also was an account from Stella Borges who was the first person to come upon the crime scene after the killer had left.

      Regarding the Zodiac killer not being responsible for the Lake Herman Road crime, I believe the probability of that being true is extremely small. So small, I don’t consider it a reasonable possibility. The police quibbled with the killer over the question, but that was, pretty clearly, a ploy to goad him into writing more. It’s also pretty clear that all the quibbling was what drove the killer to come up with the idea of taking part of Stine’s shirt so he could have an incontrovertible way of establishing his identity as the murderer.

  2. ggluckman 12 May, 2012 at 12:54 Reply

    I finally got around to watching the movie.

    It was a pretty good job of story telling, by my estimate. I don’t expect a great deal of accuracy in a Hollywood production, so I wasn’t disappointed.

    That said, I agree that it would have been better if they included a bit more about LHR.

    My only other complaint is that Z’s voice should have sounded a bit more Canadian. ;D

    • Mike 12 May, 2012 at 15:06

      My only other complaint is that Z’s voice should have sounded a bit more Canadian. ;D

      Ha! I should have guessed that you would have that complaint!

      Thanks ggluckman…

  3. David 7 February, 2015 at 15:22 Reply

    If anyone is interested in who the Zodiac “REALLY” is; please see my YouTube videos on the subject. I actually met the killer in Mexico City 44 years ago. It seems I had blocked the whole thing out; I guess because he stalked me and tried to kill me on multiple occasions. Him and his stupid “Tit willow.” You will have to type in my code name “David Gold” then “Zodiac” into YouTube search. I am writing a book on the subject.

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