The most impressive thing about CONVERSATIONS WITH A KILLER: THE TED BUNDY TAPES was the way it retold the case and events. Viewers felt like they were following Bundy’s case step-by-step as it was happening rather than watching a re-enactment of the events.
The 70s in the US were tumultuous times to say the least. Drastic changes were taking place all over the country and crime rates had spiked. Jimmy Hendrix died in 1970, the Watergate scandal took place in 1971, the 26th amendment was rectified to allow 18-year-olds to vote, Microsoft is founded in 1975 and so on. Citizens, especially students and women, supported political protests and movements for equal rights between men and women all over the country. This saw a rise in women hitch hiking and travelling alone more.
The 70's were also scary times as the streets were riddled with crime and notorious killings also occurred during this decade. Murderers such as Charles Manson, Zodiac Killer, John Wayne Gracey the ‘Killer Clown’, ‘Son of Sam’ David Berkowitz’ and Jim Jones just to name a few. There was also Theodore ‘Ted’ Bundy who spread mass panic and fear among small communities and young women.
Creator Joe Berlinger takes a tame and laid-back approach in how the documentary is narrated and it possesses the quality and atmosphere of a conversation. Berlinger made Bundy and the tapes, that the then-rookie journalist Stephen Michaud recorded, the focus of the documentary and used them to narrate the events that took place between 1974 to 1978. The documentary makes use of archived footage, pictures and other media to seamlessly put together this story that almost educates viewers on who Ted Bundy really was, what his psychological reasoning behind his crimes where, what his thoughts in general were and why he behaved the way he did.
The documentary was a study of Ted Bundy and not his crimes. Viewers don’t necessarily feel the usual horror, disgust and terror that they usually feel when confronted with a cold-blooded murderer. Viewers know from the beginning that Bundy is the killer, they can piece together the evidence presented themselves, but they can’t help but see him as the media did which is a charming and likable guy who doesn’t fit the profile of a murderer.
Journalist Stephen Michaud is the one who takes the viewers on this journey with the help of his mentor journalist, Hugh Aynesworth as they work to get a Bundy to open up in their interviews. Bundy made it clear that the only reason he would do these interviews was because he wanted them to prove his innocence and the only way Michaud got Bundy to speak about himself was by appealing to his intellect and by persuading him to speak about himself in the third person. Bundy loved this idea and proceeded to analyse and profile himself and his own crime scenes.
Through the tapes, trial footage and interviews, Bundy quickly becomes a vile human being who is not only narcissistic but also incapable of taking responsibility for his own actions. He started to use the tapes to record his own life story, he wanted to be famous and known. He was remorseless until three days before his execution when he pleaded guilty and confessed, in great detail, about how many victims there were, where they were buried (not all were found) and how he killed them.
Berlinger created a documentary that has left viewers appalled at Ted Bundy. The style may have been conversational, clinically informative at times and it felt like viewers were following a live news story on the Bundy case, but viewers could feel the terror of allowing Bundy to remain free.
There was a feeling of horrified shock when Bundy’s execution was turned into what seemed like a carnival, with food trucks, alcohol, music and even merchandise being sold. It goes to show what a monster Bundy truly was for a state to celebrate his death so joyously.
*Extremely Wicked Shockingly Evil a movie based on Ted Bundy’s crimes will be released on Netflix in the next few months. Zac Efron stars as notorious killer Ted Bundy and Lilly Collins plays Bundy’s long-time girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer.
- Watched on Netflix. 24/01/2019