The movie The Zodiac Killer (1971) is a slasher film directed by Tom Hanson and starring Hal Reed, Bob Jones, Ray Lynch and Tom Pittman. The plot is based on the murders committed by the Zodiac Killer in the San Francisco area, though it takes many liberties with the actual investigation and provides a name and back story for the killer .
The movie begins with a voice-over narration by the Zodiac Killer, who introduces himself as Grover (Hal Reed), a truck driver with a grudge against society. He claims that he kills people because they are “animals” who deserve to die. He also says that he enjoys taunting the police and the media with his cryptic messages and clues.
The movie then shows Grover’s first murder, where he shoots a young couple in a car at a lovers’ lane. He leaves a note on the windshield with his zodiac symbol and a message saying “I am the Zodiac Killer”. He then calls the police and tells them his name and location, but they fail to catch him.
The movie follows Grover’s killing spree as he targets different victims, such as a taxi driver, a woman in a laundromat, a school bus driver and a group of hippies. He also sends letters and ciphers to the newspapers, claiming that he has killed 13 people and that he will kill more unless they publish his messages. He also threatens to blow up a school bus if they do not comply.
The movie also introduces Jerry (Bob Jones), a mailman who is obsessed with the Zodiac case and tries to solve it on his own. He collects newspaper clippings and maps of the crime scenes, and he even buys a gun and a zodiac watch. He becomes suspicious of Grover when he sees him at a bar wearing a zodiac pendant. He follows him and witnesses him killing a woman in a park. He tries to confront him, but Grover escapes.
Jerry then contacts the police and tells them that he knows who the Zodiac Killer is. He meets with a detective named Matt Parish (Ray Lynch), who is skeptical of his claims but agrees to investigate. They go to Grover’s apartment and find evidence of his crimes, such as bloodstained clothes, guns and zodiac symbols. They also find a tape recorder with Grover’s voice confessing to the murders.
The movie ends with a twist, revealing that Jerry is actually the real Zodiac Killer and that he framed Grover for his crimes. He explains that he did this because he wanted to be famous and to make the police look foolish. He also says that he killed Grover and that he will continue to kill until he is caught. He then shoots Parish and escapes, leaving behind another note with his zodiac symbol and a message saying “I am still here”.
- Hal Reed as Grover
- Bob Jones as Jerry
- Ray Lynch as Matt Parish
- Tom Pittman as Paul Avery
- Dion Marinkovich as Sandy
- Gloria Gunn as Bunny
- Richard Styles as Harry
- Frank Sanabek as Frank
- Ed Quigley as Ed
- Bertha Dahl as Bertha
The movie The Zodiac Killer (1971) was made with a low budget of $13,000 and was intended to lure the real Zodiac Killer out of hiding. The director, Tom Hanson, devised a plan to screen the movie at a theater in San Francisco and to have undercover police officers and a psychologist in the audience. He also installed a metal detector at the entrance and offered a $500 reward for anyone who could identify the killer. However, the plan failed and the killer never showed up .
The movie was also controversial for its graphic violence and gore, which were considered shocking and disturbing at the time. The movie was banned in some countries and received negative reviews from critics, who called it “sick”, “trashy” and “exploitative” . However, the movie also gained a cult following among fans of horror and true crime, who appreciated its campy and low-budget style .
Here are some excerpts from reviews of the movie The Zodiac Killer (1971) from different websites:
“The 16mm feature is noteworthy in a singular investigative aspect – more on that later. But for modern viewers, it is simply not very much. Too competent to be fun trash, too grotty to rise above its origins as an opportunity to rush a horrific event on screens…”  Movies and Mania
“Not trashy enough to be an exploitation classic, not gory enough to satisfy movie bloodhounds, and not unintentionally funny enough to enjoy in the same way as the likes of Lady Street Fighter and Jungle Trap, The Zodiac Killer finds itself in a twilight zone where it doesn’t quite hit any of the beats that fans of low budget indie cinema enjoy.”  60 Minutes With