Set in San Francisco in 1969 and filmed on location (without any permits) on a shoestring budget of $13,000, The Zodiac Killer claimed to be “based on real facts”. A narrator warns us that “Somebody sitting next to you or behind you has killed!”
At the start of the film, we are introduced to two men who could be the famous Zodiac killer. Grover (Bob Jones) is a balding truck driver who brags about scoring and sells dope on the side. At night he puts on an outrageous toupee and pretends to be a rich businessman at a bar.
His controlling ex-wife does not allow him to see their daughter which angers Grover who pulls a gun on his wife and takes his daughter hostage. This leads to Grover being shot to death by the police.
Jerry (Hal Reed) is a mailman who is a strict vegetarian and raises rabbits. He talks to them and when one dies he cries. He’s a nice, handsome, friendly chap – but when we see him in his basement worshipping Satan, it’s a good guess that he’s the mass murderer.
He shoots a couple and kills a waitress (she was serving rabbit stew). He puts on a black hood, ties up a sunbather, and stabs her repeatedly.
He kills an old woman with a spare tyre, shoots a cab driver, stabs a man and cuts off his ear, and shuts a car hood on a woman and jumps up and down on it.
Jerry kills a lot of people (while jazz drums are heard), calls the police, and leaves obvious clues everywhere. Voices speak to him and he rants at home – “Atlantis shall rise again! I am the super zodiac!”
There are some bad reaction shots, a microphone shadow is visible, and there’s a funny scene with a man in a wheelchair rolling down a hill, but The Zodiac Killer is actually pretty disturbing and effective.
The anti-female dialogue is very hateful. Even comedian Doodles Weaver (as Jerry’s neighbour) delivers a woman-hating speech, ending with. “I like them plump and juicy and dumb!”
The people behind this movie also made The Hellcats back in 1968.
Director Tom Hanson rented the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco and premiered the film on 7 April 1971 with the intention of luring the real Zodiac Killer to one of the screenings.
Kawasaki sponsored the event and offered a motorcycle as a prize to the audience member who wrote the best answer to “I believe the Zodiac kills because…” on yellow cards that were handed out at the door.
Hanson set up a team of people to analyse each entry for handwriting that matched that of the killer and planned to confront him in the lobby if a match was found.
Spare Tyre Murder
Car Hood Murder