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Behind the Scenes in the Mind of a Killer

by Ethan Thompson

[commentary by Jessica Short]

The opening of the clip in a classroom of the FBI academy lends validity to what the viewer is about to hear. It also foregrounds how the viewer is similarly going to be taught from a law enforcement standpoint as the professor of this class is seen largely within the documentary. This method also advances a more personal theme to the documentary which is an idea highly played upon throughout. For example, multiple serial killers are introduced including the Son of Sam killer, the Boston Strangler, John Wayne Gacy, and the “classic case” of Ted Bundy by showing intimate pictures of victims, weapons used in the crimes, and the serial killers themselves. This created a more real, tactile world for the viewer. As the pictures are presented, a voiceover narration, along with dramatically eerie music, attempts to create a familiar foundation for the all too unusual respective killers as they are repeatedly regarded as “all normal looking…men” who are sometimes “soft-spoken [businessmen]” or even “married with two kids”. This commonness juxtaposed against the revelation of their heinous crimes is the premise on which the remainder of the documentary is based—unidentifiable murderers. Despite the outlandishly unusual characteristics of these men, they are described as being “just like your next door neighbor…people you would not suspect”. It is because of this that they are difficult to identify and, in turn, granted the opportunity to continue roaming the streets undetected; free to commit their crimes.

Behind the Scenes in the Mind of a Killer

This documentary delves into the psychology of infamous killers in an attempt to understand their crimes.

from America Undercover: Murder: No Apparent Motive (1984)
Creator: HBO
Distributor: Peabody Archive
Posted by Ethan Thompson
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