This portayal of the true case of the two serial killers Ken Bianchi and Angelo Buono deals with the issue of rape in a very explicit way. In the 70's, the two killed 10 women, in most cases by strangling them, and afterwards displayed their dead bodies in degrading positions in public locations. The life and crimes of the killers are presented in a cold, dirty and almost nihilistic atmosphere. Having said that, The Hillside Strangler is still one of the better movies coming from the sub-genre of serial killer biographies, especially due to the excellent performances of C. Thomas Howell and Nicholas Turturro.
In the US, the movie was released in two versions. Besides the Unrated version, an R-rated version (for psychopathic violence, strong sexuality, nudity, pervasive language, sexual dialogue and drug use.) is available at department stores and from several online retailers. This version is still acceptable but not as disturbing as the original cut.
Comparison between the censored R-rated DVD and the uncensored Unrated DVD (both are from Tartan Video).
13 new cuts, 1x alternative material = 137,92 sec., which is about 2 minutes and 18 seconds
R-rated/Unrated: 0:07:22: When the strippers have sex with each other, more details are visible in the Unrated version, because the R-rated version is zoomed in.
The Unrated version is 1 frame (0,04 sec.) longer.
R-rated/Unrated: 0:09:20: When Ken joins them and they please the two strippers at the same time, the R-rated version dims out soon after that, whereas the Unrated version shows the orgiastic scene much longer.
0:12:50: The Unrated version offers one more shot of the porn movie the two watch on TV. In that shot, one woman is satisfies the other one orally.
0:40:26: Ken hits the prostitute more often. Angelo cheers for him.
0:40:43: In the Unrated version Ken chokes the prostitue much longer and Angelo encourages him by saying, "Choke her out!"
0:41:57: The R-rated version dims out, whereas the Unrated version shows how Ken has sex with the now dead prostitute. Angelo further encourages him. "Fuck her, baby. Fuck her."
0:50:16: The Unrated version shows longer how Angelo begins to strangle the blond-haired prostitute. He puts a plastic bag over her head, takes a thin white rope and after that, puts it around her throat. The woman panics and starts screaming. Angelo responds by saying, "Relax, relax. Relax, bitch!"
0:51:03: Almost the complete strangulation has been cut out. Angelo puts his arm around her neck and starts squeezing the breath out of the woman, while Ken is holding her legs to make sure that she cannot free herself. At the same time, Angelo's dog is barking outside. Therefore, Angelo shouts at him.
0:53:25: The shot of the corpse is shorter in the R-rated version.
1:01:25: When Angelo gives the naked and tied up woman a shot in the throat, the Unrated version shows this longer but is not explicit, either.
1:01:36: This shot, too, is slightly longer and was probably only made to reduce the intensity of the moment
1:04:44: When Ken suffocates the woman with gas, the Unrated version is slightly longer.
1:18:45: The beginning of the pan shot of the tied up Filicia has been removed from the R-rated version.
1:20:42: The Unrated version shows how Angelo puts the syringe to the throat of the woman.