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Ghost Canyon

'Ann Rule Presents: The Stranger Beside Me'
(Billy Campbell, Barbara Hershey, Kevin Dunn, Suki Kaiser, et al / Blu-ray + Digital / NR / (2003) 2019 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: While working at a Seattle clinic for women in the 1970s, aspiring crime writer, Ann Rule, unwittingly becomes friends with serial killer Ted Bundy.

Blu-ray Verdict: Ann Rule (Emmy« and Golden Globe« winner Barbara Hershey, Beaches) is an ex-cop working the suicide hotlines in Seattle.

To make ends meet, she indulges in another obsession - writing true-crime stories. She has a daughter, a fulfilling life, and a good friend in a man named Ted Bundy (Golden Globe« nominee Billy Campbell, Once and Again), a handsome and intelligent charmer who's just been accepted into law school in Utah. It's being called the most intriguing unsolved series of crimes since Jack the Ripper and she's been offered the chance to turn her articles into a book.

But the more she digs and uncovers, a dreadful and unavoidable truth is staring her directly in the face - her friend Ted.

The phrase "serial killer" didn't exist before Bundy. His first suspected victim was when he was a paper boy in Tacoma at the age of 14. He finally officially confessed to 30 murders in 7 states from 1974 to1978, but later said there were several others and respectable estimates range from 60-100 or more.

He was first locked up in Utah in 1975 for kidnapping and assault, which is shown in the movie. Bundy subsequently became a suspect in an increasing list of unsolved murders in several states.

Imprisoned in Colorado for homicide, he amazingly enacted two successful escapes and committed further attacks, including three more homicides in Florida, before his ultimate apprehension in 1978.

He received three death sentences in two separate trials for the Florida murders. Bundy was electrocuted in Starke, Florida, on January 24, 1989. He was 42 years-old.

What's strange about the Bundy case is that he was a highly educated, charismatic man with Hollywood good looks. Combined with his likable gift of bullshit he was able to dupe those closest to him, including Ann Rule, until the evidence against him piled up.

This explains why one Washington woman allowed him to stay with her after he was released from confinement in Utah as a prime suspect, not to mention Kelly Parker's marriage to him while he was in prison in Florida for 11 years.

One of the first murders shown in the movie, the one that occurs in the parking garage, actually took place at a state park. Yet it successfully shows how the affable killer made himself appear harmless to his victims.

Despite story changes like this, as well as obvious anachronisms, the gist of the movie account is true and the film is compelling. Campbell uncannily looks like the serial killer and does a potent portrayal.

Moreover the movie inspires you to look up the facts. It also shows how women in general, and particularly nubile ones, need to be aware when dealing with strangers or dubious people and use their innate intuition, even if the person is thoroughly charming, intelligent and seems harmless. This is the only movie based on Bundy's crimes that I've seen. People say that the 1986 TV movie 'The Deliberate Stranger' more closely adheres to the facts, but that one was released almost three years before the murderer's execution.

This one, by contrast, fittingly shows Bundy's just wages. What a sick fool and what a waste of humanity, both him and his myriad tragic victims, not to mention the dozens of na´ve souls he hoodwinked into believing his pathological lies thru his amiable mojo. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.