What makes a cold-blooded killer tick?
Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski is one of the most notorious mass murderers in history. Currently serving ninety years in prison for six murders, he estimates his kill count as "over 200." In a trilogy of HBO specials: The Iceman Tapes (1992), Secrets of a Mafia Hitman (2001), and The Iceman and the Psychiatrist (2003), Kuklinski sat down and discussed everything. I originally learned about Kuklinski from my younger brother, who is studying to become a forensics analyst. I couldn't understand why a series of specials about a murderer (he is not a serial killer, as you will discover) could be so riveting until I requested this screener and popped the disc into the player. I was hooked for the entire two and a half hour running time.
We discover that he was the product of a dysfunctional home. Both parents liked to beat the young Kuklinski and as a result, he learned that violence was the way to gain respect and attention. He managed to hide his true profession from his wife and children for thirty years under the guise of businessman. Kuklinski calmly describes in graphic detail some of his more famous hits and eventually how he was captured. In the third special, he admits to killing police officer Peter Calabro under the orders of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. He gained the nickname "The Iceman" after stuffing a victim into a deep freezer for two years.
The Iceman Interviews are chilling in their matter-of-factness. Kuklinski doesn't hold back any details. All three are superb and insightful, as if we have a front row seat into the mind of a murderer. The most amazing thing about The Iceman Interviews is that we actually feel some sympathy for this man. Perhaps if his childhood had been less traumatic, Kuklinski wouldn't have resorted to his criminal career. Or maybe he would have all the same. All I know is that at the very end of The Iceman Tapes, when he admits remorse for what he did to his family, it will be hard not to feel some sort of sympathy.
Unlike many crime documentaries, The Iceman Interviews avoids using overly technical terms or banter. The Iceman speaks plainly and simply and the filmmakers go the same route. It is accessible to all viewers, although be advised, a strong stomach will be necessary. There is no gore, but your nerves will be razzled and stress vomiting could occur.
The full frame transfer is relatively clean, with little grain and no defects. Colors are muted at times, but this isn't a program that requires strong colors. The main attraction is the material.
The sound, in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, is exceptional, remaining faithful to the original broadcasts. Nothing remarkable occurs on the soundtrack other than plenty of good old fashioned talking. The dialogue is easy to listen to and clear every time. I wish all DVD presentations looked and sounded this good. It would make my job a lot easier.
As a fan of true crime stories, I found these programs fascinating. But I am not sure about casual viewers, so a rental is definitely the best option. For fans, the opportunity to own all three documentaries on a single disc is too irresistible to pass up.
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