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Killer Movie

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Three Zodiac victims: San Francisco cabdriver Paul Stine; Cecilia Shepard; and Shepard's boyfriend, Bryan Hartnell, who survived Lake Berryessa.  

BACKSTORY
After 35 years of investigation, San Francisco police officially declared the Zodiac case “inactive” in 2004. Yet among the suspects, Arthur Leigh Allen, convicted pedophile and general creepshow, has always garnered the most attention. For one thing, he reportedly told someone that he’d fantasized about going on a killing spree. For another, in a police interview, Allen, unsolicited, talked about “the two knives I had in my car with blood on them”—chicken blood, that is—when discussing the 1969 attack on a young couple at Lake Berryessa in Napa County (news of which, of course, had been all over the media). And he had this vaguely suspicious wristwatch … But Allen was never arrested, and in 2002, DNA evidence seemed to clear him—ten years after he’d died of a heart attack at age 58.

Other suspects have included the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, who lived in the Bay Area during the time and also liked to send letters to the authorities (he and the Zodiac shared a fascination with bombs, too), along with about a thousand others. One Vallejo, California, lawyer even held a press conference in 1991 to say that his dead brother was the psycho. Nice.

Perhaps the most intriguing suspect to surface in recent years was a wealthy, retired San Francisco businessman. An amateur Zodiac investigator named Mike Rodelli, a former advertising copywriter from New Jersey, claims to have compelling evidence that points to the guy, based in part on letters he wrote under his own name to local papers. But in 2000, the unnamed 81-year-old in question told the San Francisco Chronicle, “You can’t find anybody in this city that’s less likely to be the Zodiac killer than me. I haven’t hit anybody since I was a kid. It’s goofy.” —Jonah Green

Zodiac
Directed by David Fincher. Paramount Pictures. R.

Black Snake Moan
Directed by Craig Brewer. Paramount Vantage. R.

The Cats of Mirikitani
Directed by Linda Hattendorf. PBS. NR.

E-mail: filmcritic@newyorkmag.com.


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