The Body Snatcher

Boris Karloff in The Body Snatcher


The Body Snatcher (1945) Boris Karloff is at his most diabolical as cab driver John Gray in this Val Lewton-produced chiller, based on a story by Robert Louis Stevenson. Karloff plays a “resurrection man” who steals the bodies of the recently deceased and sells them to a medical doctor, turning to murder when supplies run low. The film marks the last time Karloff and Bela Lugosi appeared together onscreen. Stevenson’s 1884 tale was inspired by the true story of William Burke and William Hare, who committed a series of grisly murders in Edinburgh in 1828 and sold the bodies to physician Robert Knox, who used them in his dissection classes. The film’s Dr. Wolfe MacFarlane (Henry Daniell), a protégé of Knox’s, is the redoubtable Gray’s quarry. Gray shielded MacFarlane from public scrutiny during the trial of Burke and Hare, and now he wants his recompense. Available on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Vudu

He Walked by Night (1948) Shot in semi-documentary style, this influential police procedural details the disciplined methods of the Los Angeles Police Department in their manhunt for the killer of an off-duty patrolman. Richard Basehart plays lone wolf electronics expert and violent criminal Roy Martin, who manages to stay one step ahead of the police up to the fiery climax inside the city’s drainage tunnels. Actor Jack Webb, who appears in the film, was inspired by his conversations with the production’s police technical advisors to create the series Dragnet — first for radio, then for television. The movie is based on the real-life story of Erwin “Machine Gun” Walker, who led police on a cat-and-mouse chase that ranged over Los Angeles County during a 1945-1946 crime spree involving a string of burglaries, thefts, shootouts, and deaths. Tubi, Vudu, and Amazon Prime

The Lodger (1944) Laird Cregar brings pure menace to his role as the mysterious Mr. Slade, a boarder at the home of a respectable London family during a series of grisly, puzzling murders in the city’s Whitechapel district. A deep-seated misogyny writhes just below the surface in Cregar’s sensational portrayal of the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper. It’s a performance you won’t soon forget. Marie Belloc Lowndes’ 1913 novel was filmed previously by Alfred Hitchcock as The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927). The Lodger is a fictionalized account of the real-life murderer who mutilated five known victims, all young women who lived and worked in the slums of London’s East End, in 1888. This lurid chapter of London’s past remains one of the most infamous unsolved cases. Amazon Prime

— Michael Abatemarco


Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist (2018) In Evil Genius, filmmaker Trey Borzillieri begins a labyrinthine tale in 2003, with the murder of a pizza delivery driver who robs a bank in Erie, Pennsylvania, with a bomb strapped to his neck. It explodes, killing him as he sits handcuffed and surrounded by police. The footage is a curious and heartbreaking kickoff to a four-part mystery series populated by oddball (and dangerous) characters you’d never believe if it weren’t a documentary. Surprises abound. Netflix

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015) This six-part HBO docuseries burrows into the life of real estate mogul Robert Durst, who was suspected in the disappearance of his wife in 1982, the execution-style murder of a friend in 2000, and the killing and dismemberment of a neighbor in 2001. The reconstructions of the crimes, through interviews and some straightforward reenactment, are fascinating in themselves. But the complex relationship between director Andrew Jarecki and Durst, as revealed through direct address to the camera and portions of their 20 hours of interviews, plays a compelling role in the drama. And what an ending. HBO and Amazon Prime

The Staircase (2018) Some of the best true crime media leaves you wondering who actually did the evil deed. In 2001, novelist Michael Peterson’s wife dies from what he says is a fall in their suburban North Carolina home. The police aren’t so sure and charge him with murder. This French 13-part documentary, which first ran in 2004 and was updated with new developments in 2012 and 2018, follows the trial from the view of Peterson and his attorney. He’s convicted, perhaps in part because of the revelation that a family friend had died in a similar fashion while the writer was living in Germany. Did he do it? This is a meticulously laid-out story that will manipulate your sympathies — for and against — through the final frames. Netflix and iTunes

— T.D. Mobley-Martinez


Missing & Murdered

Hosted by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news reporter Connie Walker, Missing & Murdered investigates violent crimes against indigenous women in Canada. In the first season, Walker looks at new information and potential suspects in the cold case of Alberta Williams, who was murdered in British Columbia in 1989. In the second season, she delves into the death of a little girl named Cleo, who was taken from her Cree family in the 1970s by the Canadian government and adopted by a family in the United States. Cleo was murdered as a runaway, and her siblings, who have been looking for her for decades, have no idea where her body is. Walker, who is from a Cree family, is an expert interviewer who maintains sensitivity regarding the traumas that her subjects have endured.

My Favorite Murder

A comedy podcast about murder might sound counterintuitive — or downright insensitive — at first, but hosts Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff started My Favorite Murder out of a shared love of true crime and a belief that humor is a valid and important way to deal with violence and trauma. The Los Angeles-based pals tell stories of murder, survival, and resilience that they’ve sourced from journalists, websites, and true-crime documentaries. They also talk about their personal lives, with an eye toward taking control of one’s mental health. Once a week, they spend about 30 minutes reading listener stories of hometown murders.

In the Dark

Hosted by investigative reporter Madeleine Baran, the first season of In the Dark looks at the massively bungled investigation of the 1989 disappearance of Jacob Wetterling in rural Minnesota, whose kidnapping and murder wasn’t solved for almost 27 years. According to the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, most of what parents and children were taught about child abduction and “stranger danger” in the 1980s was incorrect. For a podcast debunking the old wisdom and offering modern family safety tips, check out Episode 51 of “Deep in Bear Country” (berenstainbearcast.wordpress .com), in which host Phil Gonzales and Alison Feigh from the Wetterling Center take on the 1985 children’s book, The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers. /in-the-dark — Jennifer Levin

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