New to Blu-ray/DVD: The Strangler, Justice League Unlimited: The Complete Series, & Spenser For Hire: The Complete Third Season


Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 8.51.41 AM

Editor’s Notes: The Strangler, Justice League Unlimited: The Complete Series, and Spenser For Hire: The Complete Third Season are available now on their respective formats 

The Strangler

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 8.42.25 AM

The Strangler (Warner Archive), released in 1964, capitalized on the then-current (then unsolved) Boston Strangler murders. Leon Kroll (Victor Buono, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), a paranoid schizophrenic with a mother fixation and a doll fetish, murders ten women in Boston before the police take him down. Kroll is a 30-year-old bachelor whose domineering mother (Ellen Corby) has raised him alone. Her constant put-downs have given him a case of low esteem and a consuming hatred of women. Leon hates his mother and is pleased that she has been in a sanitarium the last two years for heart trouble allowing him to stalk and dispatch his victims without maternal interference.

Director Burt Topper provides a disturbing portrait of Kroll, a hospital lab technician who equates his dolls with his victims. The character is an amalgam of Norman Bates, Charles Manson, and Jack the Ripper. Kroll’s corpulence, dispassionate expression, and preoccupation with dolls make him a creepy villain in this lurid tale of crazed homicidal obsession.

This was a rare starring role for Buono, who usually played supporting roles in feature films and TV shows. Buono is reminiscent of Laird Cregar, a 1940s actor who took on similarly dark roles, such as Jack the Ripper in The Lodger and a crazed classical musician in Hangover Square. Both men were similar physically and in their ability to suggest a loner with lethal tendencies. Buono would later go on to play King Tut on the Batman TV show. Ellen Corby would play gentle, loving Grandma Walton on The Waltons. There are no bonus features on this DVD release.

Justice League Unlimited: The Complete Series

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 8.46.43 AM

Justice League Unlimited: The Complete Series (Warner Home Video) is a three-disc set containing all episodes of the animated series that ran from 2004 to 2006. The Justice League has saved mankind many times from terrible dangers, but the cost has been great. Their ranks have diminished after fighting off an alien invasion. With new dangers arising faster than ever, the remaining crime fighters realize that protecting the entire world is going to take more technology and more manpower.

The original seven — Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, J’onn J’onzz, Green Lantern, and Hawkgirl — are now joined by a large selection of allies, including Green Arrow, Supergirl, and Black Canary. Meanwhile, after years of foiled plots and repeated beatings, the galaxy’s worst villains finally have a plan: strength in numbers. Led by Lex Luthor, the Legion of Doom prepares to dominate the universe. Its first order of business: destroy the Justice League.

Many of the best comic book stories made it to this series, and it did not steer clear of adult themes, such as booting Huntress from the League for attempting to kill a man. Hawkgirl is back after betraying her teammates in the previous series, and has to deal with the repercussions from her actions. The tone of the stories varies from action-packed to romantic to lighthearted.

Special features on the Blu-ray release include Creator’s Commentary on “This Little Piggy” and “The Return;” a look at the revamping of the series with new characters and a new creative direction; “Cadmus Exposed,” a feature with Mark Hamill and creative personnel discussing the series’ story arc; and series writers, producers, and directors discussing their favorite moments from final-season episodes.

Spenser For Hire: The Complete Third Season

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 8.48.41 AM

Spenser For Hire: The Complete Third Season (Warner Archive) stars Robert Urich as the Boston private detective who’s not only well read, but is a gourmet cook, an ex-boxer, and former Boston policeman. Operating out of a converted firehouse, this modern-day Renaissance man drives around in a vintage Mustang solving crimes and looking after those who want some class with their private investigating. His main street contact is Hawk (Avery Brooks), a tall menacing black man who operates on both sides of the law, and Sgt. Frank Belson (Ron McLarty) is Spenser’s chief contact in the Boston Police Department.

The third and final season (1987-1988) finds Spenser’s independent minded love interest, Susan Silverman (Barbara Stock), returning from the West Coast determined to work out their differences. Spenser’s longtime friend and valued ally in the Boston PD, Lt. Martin Quick (Richard Jaeckel), gets sidelined with a heart condition, but Hawk and Sgt. Belson are still on hand to cover his back. Spenser’s cases this season see him providing shuttle diplomacy between a judge and a gangster, tackling sexual harassment within a college university, solving a murder in old Plymouth during Thanksgiving, and revisiting the case that’s been haunting him for years — the case that cost him his police career. Guest stars include Samuel L. Jackson, E.G. Marshall, Ving Rhames, Andie MacDowell, William Hickey, Philip Bosco, Shirley Knight, and Giancarlo Esposito.

The 5-Disc DVD set has no bonus features.


About Author

For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.