RING LIGHT for Phones
Introduction: RING LIGHT for Phones
this ring light is so useful for youtubers or people who take a lot of selfies
i'ts a low budget lightning that's very handy to use
some resisitors (if you will power it with 5v,in my case it's 3.3v so i don't need a resistor)
Step 1: Watch the Video
watch the video so you can have an idea on how to make this ring
Step 2: Print the Case
it's all about the design ...so i've designed it for you guys you can upload the files and start printing
Step 3: Solder the Leds
make sure you solder them all in parallel and solder some resistor if your source is above 3.3v
Step 4: Solder the Usb
make sure to check the polarity otherwise you will burn the diodes
Step 5: Put Everything in Place
PLACE EVERYTHING and close the lid
i used a glue to fix everything in place and stop the diodes from coming out
Step 6: Success
CONGRATULATIONS !! you've done it
Make sure you follow me on youtube and share this project with your friends
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I noticed that in almost every scene in the work place, there was a phone ringing in the background! Did anyone notice this? And what's the point? Is it like that Fight Club starbucks coffee rumour?
The two prominently featured workplaces are a police station and a newspaper. Two places where phones ring all the time. My guess is it was a convenient way to have ambient noise so the audience settles in and can pay attention better and also juxtapose the more thrilling scenes which were accompanied by silence. Nothing more, nothing less.
I would have imagined something similar to this. Ringing phones fit into the background of a busy newspaper office in the same way that honking horns fit into the background of a busy city street.
I wouldn't really look to far into it. Although, to be fair, it's been a little while since I've seen the movie. Maybe upon revisiting it and paying attention to this detail, I would develop a different opinion about it.
Why did you get downvoted? This is most likely the reason.
What is the Fight Club starbucks coffee rumor?
Apparently, there's a starbucks coffee cup in every scene of the movie.
That's what they say, I never sat down to check.
That there was a starbucks coffee cup in every single room or whatever.
What do you think it means?
A phone ringing is often used as background noise especially in the workplace, it might be, but I don't think Fincher set out to add. If you listen to the office background you'll hear it all the time
t I know it doesn't answer your question but this was a great underrated movie
I noticed this when I saw the movie for the first time. Seems the same background sound track in every damn office scene. Very annoying, once you notice it you can't 'unhear' it. I think the movie is terribly overrated anyway. Fincher fails to bring any liveliness to the laborious story.
It's a period piece. Remember this is the 60s/70s, there is no "Silent" or "Vibrate". And like previously mentioned, it is set mostly in a newspaper business and police station.
seeing it opening weekend
waiting until it's streaming
Ranked by Size
Not Many People Have Basements in California ...
Robert Graysmith visiting the home of Bob Vaughn in ‘Zodiac’ is David Fincher’s most purely terrifying scene. Here’s how it came together—and came to stay in the movie.
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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Se7en and the 10th anniversary of The Social Network , The Ringer hereby dubs September 21-25 David Fincher Week . Join us all throughout the week as we celebrate and examine the man, the myth, and his impeccable body of work.
On a wet September night in 1978, Robert Graysmith couldn’t resist his curiosity.
A month earlier, the San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist had received an anonymous phone call regarding the identity of the Zodiac, the notorious Bay Area serial killer. “He’s a guy named Rick Marshall,” the mysterious voice told him at the start of an hourlong conversation. The killer’s string of murders in 1969 had gone unsolved, but Graysmith suddenly had a new lead. According to the tipster, Marshall—a former projectionist at The Avenue Theater—had hidden evidence from his five victims inside movie canisters, which he’d rigged to explode. Before hanging up, the nameless caller told Graysmith to find Bob Vaughn, a silent film organist who worked with Marshall. The booby-trapped canisters, Graysmith learned, had recently been moved to Vaughn’s home. “Get to Vaughn,” the voice told him. “See if he tells you to stay away from part of his film collection.”
After years spent independently entrenched in the open case, Graysmith dug into Marshall’s history and found several coincidences. His new suspect liked The Red Spectre , an early-century movie referenced in a 1974 Zodiac letter, and had used a teletype machine just like the killer. Outside The Avenue Theater, Marshall’s felt-pen posters even had handwriting similar to the Zodiac’s obscure, cursive strokes. On occasional visits to the upscale movie house, Graysmith observed Vaughn playing the Wurlitzer and noticed the Zodiac’s crosshair symbol plastered to the theater’s ceiling. There were too many overlapping clues. He had to make a trip to Vaughn’s house. “We knew there was some link,” Graysmith tells me. “I was scared to death.”
Almost three decades later, director David Fincher turned Graysmith’s nightmarish visit into one of the creepiest movie scenes of all time. It takes place near the end of Zodiac , after Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) follows Vaughn (Charles Fleischer) to his home through the rain in his conspicuous, bright-orange Volkswagen Rabbit. Once inside, the mood quickly becomes unnerving. After disclosing that he, not Marshall, is responsible for the movie poster handwriting, Vaughn leads a spooked Graysmith down to his dimly lit basement. As the organist sorts through his nitrate film records, the floorboards above Graysmith creak, insinuating another’s presence. After Vaughn assures his guest that he lives alone, Graysmith sprints upstairs to the locked front door, rattling the handle, before Vaughn slowly pulls out his key and opens it from behind. Graysmith bolts into the rain as though he’s just escaped the Zodiac’s clutches.
Ultimately, the third-act encounter is a red herring. Vaughn was never considered a credible suspect. But in a movie filled with rote police work and dead ends, those five minutes of kettle-whistling tension turn a procedural into true horror. The scene is a culmination of Graysmith’s paranoid obsession with the Zodiac’s identity—a window into the life-threatening lengths and depths he’ll go to solve the case—and a brief rejection of the movie’s otherwise objective lens. “It’s actually so different from the rest of the movie,” says James Vanderbilt, Zodiac ’s screenwriter. “It does kind of give you that jolt that a lot of the movie is working hard not to [give].”
Most simply, the basement scene is a signature Fincher adrenaline rush—a moment buttressed by years of intensive research, attention to accuracy, and last-minute studio foresight. Thirteen years after the movie’s release, it still sends shivers down Graysmith’s spine.
Vanderbilt was 15 years old when he picked up Graysmith’s first book, Zodiac . He couldn’t put it down after that. Written from the cartoonist’s perspective, it unpacks all the firsthand accounts, key evidence, and investigative efforts to unmask the serial killer that terrorized Northern California through the early 1970s. Vanderbilt, an angsty high schooler aspiring to write his own crime stories, became obsessed with the book and the mysteries surrounding the Zodiac’s correspondence. The author’s prose and compulsive pursuit sucked him in, and Vanderbilt descended further down Graysmith’s rabbit hole. “At that age, I wanted to make movies,” he says. “I sort of went, ‘Someday, this would make a great movie.’”
For the majority of the 1990s, the option rights for Graysmith’s source material had been owned by Touchstone Pictures. The studio’s own script had been in development hell, twisted into a modern fiction that tidied up the story’s unresolved ending. When the rights became available in 2002, Vanderbilt pounced at the opportunity to start his dream project. The young writer had a few screenplay credits to his name, and had shared his goal with Phoenix Pictures co-president Bradley J. Fischer, with whom he’d recently collaborated. Vanderbilt wanted to depict the investigation just like it occurred—an interminable slog filled with jurisdictional impasses and zero resolution. In a pitch meeting with Phoenix, he convinced the production company’s head Mike Medavoy to pursue the rights, agreeing to pen a spec script if he received a production credit. He then sent Graysmith a letter professing his love for the book. “I can’t promise you that I can get this movie made,” Vanderbilt wrote to him. “But I can promise if I do, it will be R-rated, it will take place in the real time period and the Zodiac won’t get caught in the end.”
Graysmith liked his vision, and the fact that Vanderbilt and Fischer assured they would adapt Zodiac and its follow-up, Zodiac Unmasked , with the necessary scrupulousness. “We were conscious of the fact that not only was it a true story, but there were a lot of people whose lives were touched in really profound and traumatic ways,” Fischer says. To develop the script, the pair spoke with numerous sources, including lead investigator, Dave Toschi (played by Mark Ruffalo in the movie), who showed them around the murder locations—Blue Rock Springs Park, Lake Berryessa, and the corner of Washington and Cherry Street in San Francisco—for a full geographic audit. Inspired by HBO’s The Wire , Vanderbilt took a “nuts and bolts” approach to the drama, gleaning the minute details of each police report, warrant request, and handwritten note. “I was sort of feeling like no one had really cracked that,” he says.
Upon completion, Fischer sent Vanderbilt’s 157-page screenplay to Fincher’s agent. The acclaimed director had already made his serial killer movie in Se7en , but the story hit close to home for the Marin County native. Fincher had grown up around the Zodiac’s hoopla, and remembered highway patrol officers following his school bus for weeks after the killer had threatened to bomb one. “At that time, you had this childhood fear that you kind of insinuated yourself into it. What if it was our bus? What if he showed up in our neighborhood?” Fincher said upon the film’s release. Intrigued by the script’s investigative approach and ambiguous ending, he conditionally agreed to start the project, expressing the need to use everyone’s real name and present all the facts. “What I’d love to do is put the script in a drawer and make a list of every individual who was involved in this story,” Fincher told them. “Treat this like a journalistic endeavor.”
In the next 18 months, the trio turned into a group of determined sleuths. They interviewed suspects, spoke with ex-officers, and tracked down surviving victims; they sifted through 10,000 pages of documents and evidence; they filled timelines with notes, ciphers, and photos. Every date needed to be correct, and every eyewitness account needed cross-checking. “I was slightly embarrassed about how much [more] research there was to do, but I was totally down for it,” Vanderbilt says. Fischer remembers the director’s conference room wall became so cluttered that their research eventually extended out into the hallways. “We definitely went through the looking glass on it,” he says.
“They understood the case, they understood the mystery,” Graysmith says. “They weren’t going to make this movie unless they were able to be certain about every fact.”
Once the necessary information had been processed through lawyers, Fincher officially came aboard and financing began in earnest. Although the script had undergone a variety of extensive changes, the only scene that remained mostly untouched was Graysmith’s visit with Vaughn. Because of its first-person perspective, Vanderbilt didn’t need to stray far from the book’s descriptive play-by-play, which the author had also recorded on tape. “I remember reading the scene and getting completely freaked out,” editor Angus Wall says. “I was reading it at night. I peered out through [my kitchen’s] French doors to just make sure nobody was there.”
To enhance the paranoia on the page, Fincher cast Gyllenhaal as Graysmith, thanks in part to a recommendation from Jennifer Aniston , who had worked with the actor on The Good Girl . His bug-eyed features matched the quiet and calculating rhythms of Fleischer, who nailed his audition for Vaughn. The comic actor, famous for voicing Roger Rabbit, was an easy choice for Fincher, who “was as gleeful as any of us for the cinematic baggage of Charles Fleischer in that role,” Vanderbilt remembers. That Gyllenhaal had attended the same high school as the veteran actor’s children was just a bonus. “I’d been to his house on Halloween,” Fleischer says. “It was nice to have that synchronicity there.”
The movie eventually received split backing from Paramount and Warner Brothers, allowing Fincher to start his six-month shoot in September 2005. Like the scene’s placement in the movie, Graysmith and Vaughn’s encounter would occur late into production. And even after filming multiple murders, Fincher knew the scene would be the drama’s most nerve-wracking moment, a blind-alley climax filled with the horror tropes Fincher had omitted to that point. “The basement scene is creaky floorboard, bare lightbulb, scary music ,” Vanderbilt says. “We got really excited about the idea.”
By the third act of Zodiac , Graysmith’s fear and restlessness has grown to dangerous levels. The self-anointed gumshoe learns from handwriting expert Sherwood Morrill that The Avenue’s movie posters share nearly identical lettering with the Zodiac; he later discovers the killer had been inspired by The Most Dangerous Game , a 1932 horror film that the theater likely projected. In the weeks following his anonymous tip, Graysmith becomes haunted by hang-up phone calls, and his home—soon void of his wife and children—turns into a cluttered mess of police reports and boxes of notes. “It was nothing like it really was,” Graysmith says of Fincher’s somehow modest depiction. “If he’d shown my actual apartment, you would have not believed it.” By the time he greets Vaughn and follows him home, Graysmith is fully convinced he’ll find his smoking gun.
Fincher wanted the interiors of Vaughn’s home to have movable walls and flexible furniture, allowing cinematographer Harris Savides to capture the angles he needed. So, after a brief outdoor establishing shot on location in Silver Lake in Los Angeles, production moved to a darkened Hollywood soundstage. “It’s very hard to find locations that have the perfect [dimensions],” production designer Donald Graham Burt says. ”Especially with David, he’s so precise about wanting to walk this direction this amount of distance.” Taking measurements from the house’s exterior, Burt and his construction team matched the door’s hardware, building a 4-foot elevated entryway, hall, and kitchen. “We [even] had some rain on stage,” he adds.
Burt didn’t want to fill Vaughn’s old home with only period-specific appliances, an ideal that mimicked Fincher’s obsessive need for accuracy. “In the ’50s, they had things from the ’20s in houses. In the ’70s, they had things from the ’30s in houses,” he says. It helped that Fincher had mapped how the scene would move and which pieces of furniture and colors would accentuate his sickly aesthetic. “It’s great because he knows what he wants,” Burt says of his longtime collaborator. “He and I both have an aversion to bright color … To get even tonality you usually fall into gray versions of color because that’s an anchor that hooks everything together.”
As the scene unfolds in the kitchen, Vaughn makes tea and stands behind his counter while Graysmith sits down to discuss his host’s connection with Marshall. Throughout their conversation, Fincher positions his camera at his protagonist’s eye level—establishing a noticeable power dynamic—before Vaughn opens up. He admits knowledge of his colleague’s film canisters and then drops the bomb about his handwriting. Mouth agape, Gyllenhaal pauses and blinks, slowly looking back at the poster. “I was a little spooked,” Graysmith admits, thinking back 42 years. “It’s a kind of zone where everything is just still, you’re not upset, and it’s just like moving in slow motion.”
Then, in a chilling shot, Fincher zooms into Gyllenhaal’s face, framing a blurred Fleischer just above his shoulder. With panic now palpable, Vaughn asks Graysmith to follow him downstairs to examine his film records, a request punctuated with an inspired callback.
In one of his early letters, the Zodiac had mentioned having a basement, a small detail that Vanderbilt had inserted into a previous conversation to set up this specific interaction. “We have to hang a light on that earlier so that when we get to this moment, it’s like an ‘Oh, fuck!’ moment,” Vanderbilt says. “You want to deploy that right before he goes down.”
“Not many people have basements in California,” Graysmith notes.
Luring his guest from the table, Vaughn reponds: “I do.”
When Fincher began scouting basements, he found inspiration inside Dermot Mulroney’s home . The actor, who plays Captain Marty Lee, had a basement that “had these concrete foundational pieces built into it with a walkway that made it feel like you were walking through a tunnel,” Burt remembers. Like the upstairs set, Burt recreated the look of the basement on the same soundstage, starting on the floor and building a staircase to connect the two halves of the scene. “The basement had its own vibe,” says Wall.
Indeed, the setting feels like a scary movie cliché—the space is dark and grimy, floorboards drip and creak, and just a couple of 60-watt lightbulbs brighten spiderwebs and the dusty shelves of film canisters. “It was a maze,” Graysmith remembers of the actual basement. Because Zodiac was the first movie shot and produced entirely in digital, the production’s innovative Viper cameras allowed Savides to shoot comfortably with minimal light . The tapeless filming method also gave Wall the unique opportunity to organize and line up Fincher’s multiple takes on the same screen through his editing bay—helpful for a quiet scene more concerned with sound effects, lighting, and facial expressions than obscure angles and dialogue. “He shoots take after take in a very similar way,” Wall says. “Sometimes you’ll have three different takes of a particular moment and you can basically look at all three against each other and assess the different strengths and weaknesses of those choices.”
At the boiling point of the pair’s encounter, Fleischer is “in complete control of the scene,” Wall says. As he sorts though the film log, his eyes fall into dark shadow, and his posture, leaning into a wooden beam, makes it appear that he’s become part of his surroundings. As Fleischer returns the book to its shelf, Fincher hides his entire body behind the spare overhead light, and for a moment, just his voice hovers in the dark. “I don’t think that really scary, creepy people think they’re scary or creepy,” Fleischer says of his deliberate mannerisms and unsettling tone. “If you’re playing scary-creepy, it comes off [false] that way.” Unlike Gyllenhaal, who had grown used to Fincher’s multiple takes, Fleischer initially thought the director’s repetition was an indictment of his acting. “Once I realized that’s how he worked, it was an exciting opportunity to explore,” he says. While watching Fleischer recite his lines over and over, Fischer recalled quivering in the actor’s presence. “He was as scary and uncomfortable to be around on that set as he is when you’re watching it all unfold on screen,” he says.
Soon, the floorboard creaking returns. Graysmith asks Vaughn if anyone is upstairs, but never receives a clear answer. “There was somebody in that house and you can hear the creaking on the tape recorder,” Graysmith says. “I thought Rick Marshall was upstairs. I wanted to leave.” On cue, Gyllenhaal backs away and races through the kitchen to the exit—the scene’s long takes give away to quick pans and rapid cuts as Gyllenhaal rushes up the basement steps. “The whole point of that is to build the tension until you can’t stand it,” Wall says. “Then, basically, it explodes when he bails out of there.”
As a final, petrifying flourish, Graysmith remains trapped at the front door. He waits for Vaughn—captured at first through an expertly placed mirror—to unlock it, and sprints back to his car. “You’re like, ‘Fuck, is he going to get knived?’” Wall says. “What’s going to happen here?” Watching his guest leave, Vaughn peers through the doorway. “Good night, Mr. Graysmith,” he says in a sinister and sly tone of voice, ending the scene. Knowing his guest’s motive, “there was a bit of a smirk,” Fleischer admits. “I was kind of witnessing how scared he was, how frightened he became, and that amused my character, no doubt.”
“Whether he’s the killer or not, he’s like, ‘I totally fucked with you,’” Vanderbilt says of Fleischer’s performance. “[And] Jake is so wonderfully guileless that you can completely believe him bumbling into this situation.”
Still, he and Fincher couldn’t ever understand why the real Graysmith did what he did that night. “We were always like, ‘Robert, why would you go to the basement?’ He’s like, ‘I don’t know , ’” Vanderbilt laughs. “Robert is unfailingly polite. He didn’t want to offend this guy who might be a serial killer.”
Despite its crackling presence in the movie, the basement scene almost got scrapped. Near the end of editing, Paramount asked Fincher if he could trim anything from his final cut, which ran close to two hours and 40 minutes. The director relayed the request to Vanderbilt, and the writer, appeasing the studio, scanned the screenplay at its most structural level.
“You can take out the basement scene,” Vanderbilt suggested.
From a character perspective, Vanderbilt knew the scene crystallized Graysmith’s complete descent into the case—how he was willing to throw his life away to get closer to the truth. “This is a guy who’s got two kids, who’s a political cartoonist, who’s driving a bright orange Volkswagen Rabbit trying to solve crime, and he ends up in this really sketchy dude’s basement where he could have been hacked to death,” Vanderbilt says. The scene also adds another narrative layer of hopelessness surrounding the search for Zodiac’s identity. “The whole idea of the movie is making the viewer feel the frustration,” he says. “We were always interested in how much that accrues over time, so by the end of the movie you’re literally going, ‘Please walk away from this.’”
Ultimately, though, he resolved that chopping the scene wouldn’t harm the bones of the plot. But in a rare moment of administrative care, when he and Fincher took the idea to Paramount, the studio gave them a reality check. “They were like, ‘Are you insane? That’s the best scene of the movie. We’re not taking out the basement scene.’” Vanderbilt recalls. “After that they stopped asking us to make the movie shorter.” At later audience screenings, Vanderbilt understood why the studio had been so adamant. “I like to sit in the back and watch people’s heads, because if their heads don’t move, you have them,” Vanderbilt says. “You can feel it in the room when you get to that scene. You can feel sphincters tightening.”
Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Zodiac hit theaters on March 2, 2007, and made $33 million at the domestic box office. Though the majority of critics praised the movie for its grim mood, character acting, and atmospheric detail, audiences had trouble connecting with its inconclusive ending and long runtime. Like many Fincher titles, the narrative surrounding the movie shifted considerably after its release. Now considered one of Fincher’s best works, Zodiac has earned an estimated $21 million in DVD sales and has turned up on “best of the century” lists.
The basement scene, on the other hand, never needed reheating—its masterful qualities have been heralded from the jump. The tension of a “trip to a basement,” Roger Ebert wrote in his original review of the movie, “is, in its way, one of the best scenes I’ve ever seen along those lines.” Today, the scene is still debated on Reddit message boards and broken down on YouTube, satisfying both Zodiac truthers and horror fans. As a stand-alone piece, it “sort of satisfies the desire to have the shit scared out of you,” Wall says. In context, however, it pounds home the movie’s recurring fits and starts, and “lets you in on the joke that nobody knows who the Zodiac actually was.”
For those involved in its creation, the scene stands as yet another example of Fincher’s genius. As Vanderbilt notes, nothing actually happens that night—Graysmith enters a stranger’s home, has a conversation, walks up and down a flight of stairs, and leaves. “The conclusion to the scene is our hero fucked up and was wrong and did something dumb,” he says. And yet, the director’s talent transforms it into a white-knuckling experience, one built on small, authentic details and intuitive filmmaking. “He put that scene in that gear for a specific reason,” Vanderbilt says. “When he wants to turn on … [he] can fucking scare you.”
Graysmith, better than any, can attest to the scene’s impact. There’s a reason he’s watched the movie only one time in his life.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is a sports and entertainment writer based in New York. His work has also appeared in Esquire.com, GQ.com and The New York Times .
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Welcome to david fincher week on the ringer.
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- How They Made It: The Terrifying Basement Scene in ‘Zodiac’
- The David Fincher You Meet in His Movies
The Legacy of Chicago Mayors and Filmmaking with Raymond Lambert
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Yes. The movie shows Zodiac suspect Arthur Leigh Allen (John Carroll Lynch) wearing a watch that bares the killer's symbol and the brand name Zodiac. The real Arthur Leigh Allen wore an identical watch, the Zodiac Sea Wolf watch (pictured below). Robert Graysmith commented on this in an interview, "To use the symbol ... to wear that watch, and to be at the crime scenes and to know the victims ... he would have to be the Zodiac." A Zodiac Sea Wolf watch similar to the one worn by suspect Arthur Leigh Allen.
"I saw it going into obscurity," Graysmith said during an MSNBC interview. "And I thought, 'Well, wait a minute. Nobody is sharing, all the different jurisdictions, all this information. They are not going to tell each other, even within departments. What if, as a private citizen, I went around and got all the information?' Well, it took a full 10 years. I put it all together." The initial print of Robert Graysmith's Zodiac book hit store shelves in 1986, and it became a national bestseller.
Yes. In the movie, we watch as Robert (Jake Gyllenhaal) becomes obsessed with his amateur Zodiac investigation, which eventually results in the destruction of his marriage to Melanie (Chloë Sevigny). In real life, the Zodiac book took Robert ten years to complete, and it cost him his marriage. When asked if he regrets his obsession with the Zodiac killer, Graysmith responded, "it affected my life in one bad way because I got divorced, but on the other hand I have the greatest kids ... As far as the personal relationship [with my children], that was not good. Zodiac was number one, that just took over." In a separate interview, Graysmith summed up his staunch devotion to the case, "In the end, it wasn't all bad. I think, had I to do it over again, I probably would do it. Probably would. But it does grip you. It takes over your life." Jake Gyllenhaal's character is based on author Robert Graysmith, who wrote the book that inspired the David Fincher movie.
In his letters, the Zodiac serial killer claimed to have murdered 37 people. However, there are only five known victims: David Faraday (17), Betty Lou Jensen (16), Darlene Ferrin (22), Cecelia Shepard (22), and Paul Stine (29). The attacks occurred as follows: David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen on December 20, 1968 along Lake Herman Road in Vallejo, Darlene Ferrin and Mike Mageau on July 4, 1969 in a parking lot in Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo, Cecelia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell on September 27, 1969 at Lake Berryessa near Napa, and taxi driver Paul Stine on October 11, 1969 in the Presidio Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. The Zodiac killer's five known victims. He claimed to have murdered 37 people.
Michael Mageau, the lone survivor of the July 4, 1969 Zodiac shooting that killed his friend Darlene Ferrin, expressed strong reservations about viewing director David Fincher's Zodiac movie. "Why would I want to see that?" Mageau said during a phone call interview. "I don't want to remember that time anymore." Darlene Ferrin, 22, and Mike Mageau, 19, were shot in the parking lot of the secluded Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo, California. As portrayed in the film, the suspect exited his vehicle and walked towards their car with a flashlight pointed in their direction. He then began shooting a 9mm semi-automatic pistol at them. After firing five shots, the man turned and headed back towards his car. Michael screamed in pain, and the suspect returned and fired two more shots into each of them. Michael was hit four times, Darlene five. The only other known survivor of the Zodiac attacks, Bryan Hartnell, was also not in favor of the movie being made. Hartnell changed his mind a little after meeting with director David Fincher. "It became pretty clear that he didn't want to do something sensational or inaccurate," Hartnell said. "He was going to recreate things just the way they happened." This included the September 1969 attack at Lake Berryessa in Napa County, California, during which the Zodiac killer hogtied Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard, 22. The Zodiac, who was disguised in a black hooded outfit, stabbed Hartnell seven times in the back, "I was positive I was going to die," said Hartnell. Cecelia Shepard passed away three days later as a result of her injuries from the Zodiac's knife. Hartnell, 57, currently lives in Redlands, Washington. During his time as an advisor on the film, he struggled emotionally with memories of the attack. He has found the movie too difficult to watch. Yet, he admits that David Fincher was the right person to tell the story. "...I knew that, sooner or later, someone was going to tell this story again," he said. "So you want to put it in the hands of someone you trust. David wants to get it right. That's all you can ask a person." Hartnell was especially impressed with David Fincher's re-creation of the attack by the lake, "He went to the same spot on the lake, on the same day it happened."
In the movie, Kathleen Johns (Ione Skye) is driving on the highway when a man starts honking his horn and blinking his lights at her to get her to pull over. He tells her that her wheel is wobbling and that he can fix it. However, instead of tightening the lug nuts on her right rear wheel, he actually removes them. When Kathleen tries to drive away her whole wheel spins off. The man then tells her that he can give her a ride to a nearby service station. In real life, the man took her to the Richfield station at Chrisman Road, but it was closed. According to Kathleen, the man then drove around for an hour and a half or more, passing station after station. Whenever Kathleen would tell him to pull in, he replied by saying that it was not the right one. A police report states, "She said she was very scared of this man, did want to get out, but did not tell him to stop the vehicle or let her out." When Kathleen asked the man if he always went around helping people like this, the man apparently responded as he did in the movie, "By the time I get through with them, they won't need my help." After more driving, Kathleen made her escape when the man stopped the car short of a stop sign. Holding her baby tightly, she ran across a nearby field and up an embankment where she hid in the shadows. After about five minutes, the man drove away. Kathleen was soon picked up by a passing Samaritan and taken to the local police station in Patterson. There she recognized the man from a composite sketch of the Zodiac killer on a WANTED poster. The Zodiac WANTED Poster 1 is shown above ( Version 2 is shown here ). A Sheriff's Deputy found her car completely burned and still smoldering. In his July 24, 1970 letter to the San Francisco Chronicle , the Zodiac claimed responsibility for these events, including setting fire to Kathleen's car. The July 24, 1970 Zodiac Letter is displayed below. Over the years, Kathleen's account of her experience on the evening of Sunday, March 22, 1970 has varied. Initially, she told two separate police officers shortly after her abduction that the man simply closed the car door and drove away. Eight months later, she changed her story for a San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article written by Paul Avery. His article has the man blatantly threatening the woman and her baby, and getting out of the car with a flashlight after her escape. This is the version of Kathleen's story that has since appeared in Robert Graysmith's bestselling 1986 book Zodiac , and in director David Fincher's 2007 film (although the film doesn't recreate Kathleen's escape).
Yes. You can watch a video clip from the 1969 program here . The caller, who is believed to have been the Zodiac, wants to be addressed as Sam. Melvin Belli, who is portrayed by Brian Cox in the movie, was a famous personal injury lawyer. He can be viewed below next to the actor talking to the Zodiac killer in the movie. Melvin Belli's clients included celebrities like Zsa Zsa Gabor, Muhammad Ali, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Lana Turner, Tony Curtis, Mae West, and Sirhan Sirhan, the convicted assassin of Robert F. Kennedy. Melvin Belli also appeared in numerous films and television shows, and he was perhaps best known for his 1968 role as the evil being Gorgan on the television series Star Trek . The real lawyer Melvin Belli (left) and actor Brian Cox (right) in the film.
Yes. The officer who was inside the police car, Don Fouke, told ABC's Primetime in 2002, "When the headlights hit him I took a look at him. It was a white male and [I] continued on. He came down ... the north side of the street and turned and went up a flight of stairs into a courtyard." As revealed in the movie Zodiac , Officer Fouke didn't stop the man because the initial police bulletin reported that the suspect was black. Moments after Don Fouke passed the man, the dispatcher corrected her description of the suspect to say that it was a white male. In a letter sent to the San Francisco Chronicle approximately one month later on November 9, 1969, the Zodiac murderer confirmed that Officer Fouke had spotted him, "Hey pig! Doesn't it rile you up to have your nose rubbed in your booboos?"
Yes. Three days after the murder of the taxi cab driver on October 13, 1969 in Presidio Heights, the Zodiac killer mailed a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle . Included in the envelope was a piece of the taxi driver's shirttail. "This is the Zodiac speaking. I am the murderer of the taxi driver ... To prove this here is a bloodstained piece of his shirt." On the night of the murder, three young witnesses had observed the killer from a nearby window as he entered the front passenger side of the cab. The police believe that this is when the killer took the pieces of the driver's jersey. He sent two more pieces of the taxi cab driver's shirt to other newspapers. Lawyer Melvin Belli (Brian Cox) holds up a piece of the taxi driver's bloody shirt in the movie. Inset: The real piece of taxi driver Paul Stine's shirt that the killer mailed to the Chronicle .
Yes. In his October 13, 1969 letter to the San Francisco Chronicle , the Zodiac wrote, "School children make nice targets. I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning. Just shoot out the front tire and then pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out." The 2007 movie's director, David Fincher, grew up in the Zodiac area of San Francisco during the time of the attacks. As a 7-year-old boy, Fincher can remember police escorting his school bus. "I know what it's like to be afraid of your neighbors," Fincher said in a USA Today interview. This same scenario of a serial killer preying on school children was brought to life in the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie Dirty Harry . In the film, a serial killer named Scorpio kidnaps a bus-load of school children and demands a ransom.
Yes, but not exactly how the film portrays it. At the end of the movie Zodiac , Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes face-to-face with his prime suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, inside of a hardware store where Allen works. Graysmith described the real encounter during an interview with RopeofSilicon , "...I'm following [Allen] around in an orange VW Rabbit and I park outside of Ace Hardware and obviously he's seen me from the big window and so I'm parked and he pulls alongside me so I can't get my door open and he gives me this look like you wouldn't believe." In addition to his parking lot encounter with Arthur Leigh Allen, Graysmith attempted to obtain a sample of Allen's handwriting by sending friends in to buy things at the hardware store in Vallejo. Allen worked at the Ace Hardware in Vallejo for over a decade until complications from diabetes forced him to quit prior to his death in 1992. The real Arthur Leigh Allen (left) and actor John Carroll Lynch (right) in the movie.
In 1992, the health of Robert Graysmith's prime suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, had begun to deteriorate. Allen quit his job at the hardware store. To earn money, he began renting the upper section of his home to a young woman, while he continued to reside in the basement. Diabetes had caused his kidneys to fail, and he had to undergo renal dialysis on a regular basis. Diabetes complications had also left Allen legally blind and with a large abscess on his foot. This made it hard for Allen to work or to leave his home. On August 26, 1992, Allen's kidneys succumbed to his disease. Brain tissue was preserved from Allen's autopsy, and it remains available for DNA testing.
While working in a San Francisco crime lab in 2002, Dr. Cydne Holt discovered a fingerprint on a stamp affixed to one of the Zodiac's letters. "I found a partial DNA fingerprint from a male individual who, at some time, has had contact with the stamp," Holt said. When she tested the partial DNA from the stamp against Arthur Leigh Allen's DNA profile, she discovered that Allen was not a match. This result did not convince Robert Graysmith, who believes that the letters may have been tainted by investigators who handled them over the years. Graysmith also believes that the Zodiac letters were not accurately preserved for DNA testing, given that they endured 100-degree summers in plastic envelopes for a duration of approximately 30 years. "Even in those days," Graysmith said, "if I were going to write an anonymous letter, I'm guaranteeing, especially if Zodiac wore gloves, [he] would never lick a letter." Graysmith's reasoning for this is that although there was no DNA test back then, there was a saliva test that could determine a suspect's blood type.
Three Zodiac letters that were lost for 20 years surfaced in 2002 during research conducted by ABC for its Primetime news program. The letters are going to be tested for DNA, and if a DNA profile can be built, it will be compared with millions of other profiles in national databases. Detective Mathew Meredith in Vallejo, Ca believes that the DNA from the lost Zodiac letters could finally lead to some answers. "Hopefully, it will turn something up," Meredith said. "And if it doesn't, this is kinda stirring the pot, and we'll see what floats to the surface."
Yes. As the movie Zodiac emphasized, there were 2,500 suspects in all. What initially drew Robert Graysmith to Arthur Leigh Allen was something that a Stanford professor had told him. Dr. Lunby at Stanford said that whoever the killer is he will have offered to catch himself. When Graysmith called investigator Dave Toschi, he asked Toschi if he had ever received that type of letter. "Toschi replied, 'I only got one, I just got it!' He takes it out and it's from Arthur Leigh Allen from prison and it says, 'Sorry I wasn't your man, blah, blah, blah...'" Circumstantial evidence then began to mount against Allen. David Fincher's movie, which is based on Robert Graysmith's Zodiac books, concludes with Graysmith's belief that Arthur Leigh Allen is the man responsible. It should be noted here that other high profile Zodiac suspects have existed since 1968. Suspect Rick Marshall Some of these suspects are briefly focused on in David Fincher's 2007 Zodiac movie. They include former San Francisco movie projectionist Rick Marshall and others. In the movie, Robert Graysmith is alerted to handwriting similarities between Rick Marshall's movie posters that he drew and the handwriting in the Zodiac letters. You can view one of Rick Marshall's movie posters below. Marshall's association to classic films (old movies were played weekly at the Avenue Theater where he worked) could also link him to the Zodiac, whose costume at Lake Berryessa was similar to the costume worn by Dr. Zodiac in the 1933 film Charlie Chan at Treasure Island . In the movie, the killer sends messages to local police and news media. Like the real-life killer, the character also wears the symbols of the Zodiac around his neck. In addition to this classic film, the Zodiac signed one of his letters as "the Red Phantom," which was also the title of a silent film that Rick Marshall had at one time invited guests at his apartment to watch. Rick Marshall's movie posters like the one above have handwriting similarities to the Zodiac's letters.
Yes. In the movie, Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) visits the home of a man who supposedly knew Zodiac suspect Rick Marshall. He goes there in search of film canisters that may contain Zodiac murder footage. When Graysmith is in the man's home, he asks him about the movie posters that Rick Marshall drew. The man tells Graysmith that it wasn't Marshall who drew the movie posters, it was him. He then takes Graysmith into the basement where Graysmith hears footsteps above him, even though the man had told him they were alone. This is all true and really happened to Graysmith, even the footsteps. Some investigators who have researched the case believe that this man and Rick Marshall may have been working together.
The following is a transcript of a KCRA-TV Channel 3 news report, which aired at 12 noon on Tuesday, October 7, 1969. In the segment, KCRA's Bill Harvey interviewed Zodiac survivor Bryan Hartnell at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa, California. The interview was conducted ten days after Bryan's near-fatal encounter with the Zodiac killer, or "code killer," on Saturday, September 27, 1969 at Lake Berryessa. Bryan's female companion at the lake, Cecelia Shepard, parished from her injuries. Cecelia and Bryan had dated two years prior to the attack. She had come to his school to visit some friends and the two got to talking during dinner at the school cafeteria. They decided to take a drive out to the lake. The original news segment ran for a duration of 6 min 47 seconds. A young Pacific Union College student who survived a knife attack at Lake Berryessa a week ago Saturday, in which his girl companion was killed, is now in satisfactory condition at a Napa hospital and was able to talk about his ordeal. The police suspected Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shepard were victims of that so-called "code killer" believed responsible for three previous murders in the Vallejo area. Bryan talked about the events of that Saturday afternoon with KCRA's Bill Harvey. It all started while Hartnell and Cecelia were sitting and talking quietly along the shore of the lake: Bryan Hartnell: I happened to hear some rustling behind us and I asked her to look because she was facing that direction and I was facing toward the water, and I asked her to note, you know, what was going on and she said, "Oh, there's a man walking around there," and she became concerned about it. And I said, you know, "Well, actually don't worry about it, there's a lot of people, picnickers, etc.," and, you know, if he kept coming to let me know. She kind of kept watching. I noticed she wasn't following my conversation, and she told me he was stepping behind a tree. The tree was about 30 feet behind us. And when he came out she said he's got a mask on. That was my first inkling there was anything actually wrong going on. Bryan Hartnell recovering in the hospital after the attack. He came, I turned around, and we were both still sitting down and he told me that just to come up slowly and hold up my hands, that he wanted our money. And I actually laughed at the moment because I told him, I said, "I've only got 75 cents in my pocket," and I said, "You're welcome to have it. But if you need help I'm sure I could give you help otherwise." I asked him what his problem was and he mentioned that he was a convict trying to get to Mexico and needed money and transportation. And I offered him assistance. I told him what I was doing in school and that if I could be of any assistance whatsoever--I offered him my phone number, anything like this, but this just wasn't what he wanted. He said he wanted money. I was real sorry, I said, "Would you like a check, I'd really like to help you if you'd be willing to accept help." He said, "Well, what I need right now is to get you tied up." And so he had the girl tie me and, of course, she was real nervous and tied me rather loosely, and he came and he tightened the knots up. Then he tied her up. And we continued to dialogue along most of this time. He told me to get down now, and he wanted to tie my ankles to my wrists and I offered some objection because I, you know, it was one thing being, sitting out there tied up and another thing having to lay out there tied up. I didn't know when help would come. I still suspected this was still a robbery case and there was no reason for concern. I mean, I was cooperating with him. There was no reason why he would be acting otherwise. Bryan Hartnell (Transcript Page 2): So, I finally, after he threatened me with the gun to get down, I did get down. He tied us both up separately but beside each other on our faces. He asked me to put my wrists tighter and he tied us up then. I did look around and he was messing with his gun and I got to see what the gun looked like, and he put it away and I was convinced this was the end of the episode and I just rolled over on my face again, you know, just waiting for him to leave and to muse in my mind what we were going to do next, and how we were going to get away and how I was going to untie her, etc., etc. The next thing I can remember is the knife being put in my back. Did you, after he attacked you, he then went and attacked the girl, did you see that? Bryan Hartnell: Well, yeh, because as soon as he started getting me, the girl, of course, I don't know what her, what she thought, but she started calling asking him to stop and almost trying to reach over and stop his blows, because of course she was tied up and she could only just move, and he kind of put her on her side, I think, and as soon as he had given me about six or seven blows, he went on to her and I looked and I saw he was stabbing her and it just really made me sick to see the fellow and there was nothing I could do. So I just turned on my face and lay real still, you know, because there was nothing I could do. Cecelia Shepard lost her life when she and Bryan Hartnell were tied up and stabbed by the Zodiac killer. Can you describe for us what your attacker looked like? Bryan Hartnell: Well, when he was standing up he would kind of shift around. He acted like a very nervous person. He was of medium to short height, kind of pouchy, real casually, I don't want to say sloppily, but real casually dressed and, of course, a little dusty from the lake, and he had this black hood on that came clear down to here. Just little slits in the eyes and wearing these clip-on glasses, they were clipped into those little loops. See Robert Graysmith's Zodiac killer sketch. You remained conscious through the entire ordeal. How long was it until help finally came? Bryan Hartnell: Well, as soon as he got us, of course, CeCe and I prayed that whatever the Lord wished that it could be expedient and that we would be willing to do whatever He had in mind. But we also realized that half of the battle was going to have to be ours, that we were going to have to help ourselves. And, I got till I was able to untie one of her hands, but she was too weak to untie me at that time, so I scooted into a position where I could be looking out across the lake, and after calling several times, I found one position that had a little more Bryan Hartnell (Transcript Page 3): echo to it that I thought was a little louder, and I called and several boats went by but they didn't stop. I don't know if they thought we were joking, or what. But finally, one fisherman who was going a little slow, he stopped and shut off his motor, and we cajoled and called and we did everything to try to get him to come. He sat there for about fifteen minutes, and he did finally come closer but wouldn't come to the shore. I guess he was afraid the man might still be around. And he said he'd go get help. But I assumed he was like a lot of people you read about, he just didn't want to get involved. So I decided that we were going to have to do this on our own. So I encouraged her enough to get me untied. I got one wrist loose so that I could get the rest untied. Then I untied her. She was still so weak she couldn't move. How were you finally found? Bryan Hartnell: Well, she was found down on the blanket still. I made it up about 300 yards, up almost to the road. It was a slow process because I kept blacking, I couldn't see. I kept blacking out and my legs kept getting weak, but I was making progress. I think I could have made it to the road, but a pickup truck was coming along one of the dirt roads. Apparently, this man had called for help and he picked me up and took me back down to the girl. Bryan Hartnell's attacker is still at large, and a murderer. The Napa Sheriff's Office reports it is still checking out numerous leads.
Watch Zodiac related video clips below and see authentic news footage from when the Zodiac killer held the San Francisco Bay Area in a perpetual state of fear. Listen to what is suspected to be the Zodiac's voice when he called KGO-TV to speak with lawyer Melvin Belli on the air. Then, view several interviews with real-life amateur investigator Robert Graysmith and the actor who portrayed him in the 2007 movie Zodiac , Jake Gyllenhaal.
- Read the Zodiac Letters
- Zodiac Killer Found? Son Says It was his Dad, Earl Van Best, Jr.
7 – fact vs. fincher – scene by scene – 61 thru 70.
Scene 61 – Sherwood’s Garden
Graysmith visits with Sherwood Morrill at his home, and watches as the retired expert tends to his garden. Morrill explains that handwritings habits and tendencies are solidified early in life and do not change as a person ages. He also tells Graysmith that all of the suspects were cleared by his conclusions, and through comparisons to the fingerprint found on the cab at the last known Zodiac murder.
Scene 62 – The Calls Begin
Graysmith is at home when the phone rings. He answers only to find heaving breathing on the line.
NOTE: In media interviews, Graysmith had previously claimed that these sinister “breathing” phone calls first began after the publication of his book in 1986.
Scene 63 – Narlow Again
Graysmith consults Ken Narlow of the Napa County Sheriff’s Office. Narlow tells Graysmith that Marshall is his “favorite suspect.” Graysmith asks how Marshall was cleared as a suspect and Narlow explained that the suspect’s fingerprints did not match the fingerprint from the cab. Narlow tells Graysmith that the fingerprint may actually belong to a curious bystander at the poorly preserved crime scene. He also mentions the gloves found in the cab as evidence that the Zodiac did not leave fingerprints.
FINCHER: Narlow dismisses the evidentiary value of the cab fingerprint and blames poor preservation of the crime scene. He also refers to the gloves found in the cab.
FACT: According to Inspector David Toschi, Officer Armand Pelissetti, and others present on the night in question, San Francisco police kept the crime scene well preserved and did not allow bystanders to touch the cab, much less permit them to cover their fingers in the victim’s blood and then do so.
The gloves found in the cab were a size seven, the smallest size for men, and therefore most likely did not belong to the killer. According to Graysmith’s book, upon which Fincher’s film is based, Toschi determined that the gloves belonged to a woman passenger who had ridden in the cab earlier that day with another driver.
Scene 64 – Morrill Again
Graysmith obtains a sample of what he believes to be the writing of suspect Richard Marshall. He then consults with Sherwood Morrill and learns that the expert considers Marshall’s writing to be “the closest I’ve ever seen” to the writing of the Zodiac.
Scene 65 – Zodiac Again – April 1978
Inspector David Toschi sits in a car with his new partner, a man apparently unaware and unappreciative of Toschi’s fondness for Animal Crackers. Suddenly the radio call instructs Toschi to contact headquarters. He learns that a new Zodiac letter has arrived and that the killer mentioned Toschi’s name. The inspector speeds to the hall of justice to see the new letter
Scene 66 – Forgery?
Graysmith sits at the dinner table with his family while the television announces that the Zodiac has returned with a new letter after four years of silence. Melanie allows him to leave the table to watch the breaking news. A reporter states that Chronicle columnist Armistead Maupin had received anonymous fan mail written by Toschi, and he suspects that the publicity-seeking cop may have forged the new letter in order to get attention. Graysmith calls Toschi’s home and the inspector’s wife tells the concerned cartoonist that Dave has been taken off the case and transferred to the pawn shop detail. Graysmith says he knows that Dave did not forge the new letter.
Scene 67 – Go Away, Graysmith
Graysmith approaches Toschi outside the hall of justice and finds that the inspector wants nothing to do with him. The cartoonist begs for help with his investigation of Richard Marshall, but Toschi tells him that the “Richard Marshalls of the world” are a waste of time. When Graysmith mentions Sherwood Morrill’s opinion that Marshall’s writing is a close match to that of the Zodiac, Toschi spits out, “Sherwood Morrill, who drinks like Paul Avery now,” and reveals that the handwriting expert had been fired for mysterious reasons. Toschi angrily tells Graysmith to go away, and says that Zodiac was “my case, not yours.”
Scene 68 – Quality Time with the Kids
Graysmith’s children have fun as they help him track press reports of unsolved murders according to astrological patterns. He receives a phone call from now Captain Ken Narlow and shares his new astrological findings. The children then present Graysmith with a copy of one of the Zodiac’s coded messages.
NOTE: In his book, ZODIAC, Graysmith described how he took his children on a trip to the Ace Hardware store so that he could blend in while spying on the man he believed was a prolific child molester and the most wanted serial killer in California history, Arthur Leigh Allen.
Scene 69 – Graysmith, TV Star – August 9, 1979
A television reporter tells viewers that Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith has solved one of the Zodiac’s mysterious codes. Paul Avery, aging and in need of an oxygen tank, sits in a darkened bar and watches the television report with amusement.
FINCHER: Graysmith solves the Zodiac’s code.
FACT: While reporters may have been eager to swallow Graysmith’s solution to the Zodiac’s code, FBI cryptanalysts and other code experts quickly concluded that the cartoonist’s solution had no merit. Even a cursory examination of Graysmith’s code key reveals contradictions that effectively prove his solution is not internally consistent and therefore invalid. Absent any further explanation, the scene gives the viewers the false impression that Graysmith had actually solved the Zodiac’s code when, in fact, he did not do so.
Paul Avery was healthy and gainfully employed in 1979, and, he was in good health when interviewed for a television program in 1989. In fact, Avery did not require the use of oxygen until the late 1990s.
Scene 70 – Problems at Home
Graysmith comes home to find that Melanie is unhappy about his television appearance. When Graysmith dismisses her fears, she asks, “Who’s been calling” in the middle of the night. Distracted by his hunt for the killer, he tells Melanie that Darlene’s sister is in jail and can identify Rick Marshall as the strange man at the “painting party.” Just then, the phone rings with more tips from the anonymous informant. He instructs Graysmith to meet with Marshall’s friend, Bob Vaughn. As he attempts to leave, Melanie confronts him regarding his obsessive behavior and failure to act as a husband and father. Graysmith darts out of the door and on his way to a divorce.
Introduction – Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7 – Part 8 – Conclusion
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'Zodiac" is the "All the President's Men" of serial killer movies, with Woodward and Bernstein played by a cop and a cartoonist. It's not merely "based" on California's infamous Zodiac killings, but seems to exude the very stench and provocation of the case. The killer, who was never caught, generously supplied so many clues that Sherlock Holmes might have cracked the case in his sitting room. But only a newspaper cartoonist was stubborn enough, and tunneled away long enough, to piece together a convincing case against a man who was perhaps guilty.
The film is a police procedural crossed with a newspaper movie, but free of most of the cliches of either. Its most impressive accomplishment is to gather a bewildering labyrinth of facts and suspicions over a period of years, and make the journey through this maze frightening and suspenseful. I could imagine becoming hopelessly mired in the details of the Zodiac investigation, but director David Fincher (" Seven ") and his writer, James Vanderbilt , find their way with clarity through the murk. In a film with so many characters, the casting by Laray Mayfield is also crucial; like the only eyewitness in the case, we remember a face once we've seen it.
The film opens with a sudden, brutal, bloody killing, followed by others not too long after -- five killings the police feel sure Zodiac committed, although others have been attributed to him. But this film will not be a bloodbath. The killer does his work in the earlier scenes of the film, and then, when he starts sending encrypted letters to newspapers, the police and reporters try to do theirs.
The two lead inspectors on the case are David Toschi ( Mark Ruffalo ) and William Armstrong ( Anthony Edwards ). Toschi, famous at the time, tutored Steve McQueen for " Bullitt " and was the role model for Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry. Ruffalo plays him not as a hotshot but as a dogged officer who does things by the book because he believes in the book. Edwards' character, his partner, is more personally worn down by the sheer vicious nature of the killer and his taunts.
At the San Francisco Chronicle , although we meet several staffers, the key players are ace reporter Paul Avery ( Robert Downey Jr., bearded, chain-smoking, alcoholic) and editorial cartoonist Robert Graysmith ( Jake Gyllenhaal ). These characters are real, and indeed the film is based on Graysmith's books about the case.
I found the newspaper office intriguing in its accuracy. For one thing, it is usually fairly empty, and it was true on a morning paper in those days that the office began to heat up closer to deadline Among the few early arrivals would have been the cartoonist, who was expected to work up a few ideas for presentation at the daily news meeting, and the office alcoholics, perhaps up all night, or already starting their recovery drinking. Yes, reporters drank at their desks 40 years ago, and smoked and smoked and smoked.
Graysmith is new on the staff when the first cipher arrives. He's like the curious new kid in school fascinated by the secrets of the big boys. He doodles with a copy of the cipher, and we think he'll solve it, but he doesn't. He strays off his beat by eavesdropping on cops and reporters, making friends with the boozy Avery, and even talking his way into police evidence rooms. Long after the investigation has cooled, his obsession remains, eventually driving his wife ( Chloe Sevigny ) to move herself and their children in with her mom. Graysmith seems oblivious to the danger he may be drawing into his home, even after he appears on TV and starts hearing heavy breathing over the phone.
What makes "Zodiac" authentic is the way it avoids chases, shootouts, grandstanding and false climaxes, and just follows the methodical progress of police work. Just as Woodward and Bernstein knocked on many doors and made many phone calls and met many very odd people, so do the cops and Graysmith walk down strange pathways in their investigation. Because Graysmith is unarmed and civilian, we become genuinely worried about his naivete and risk-taking, especially during a trip to a basement that is, in its way, one of the best scenes I've ever seen along those lines.
Fincher gives us times, days and dates at the bottom of the screen, which serve only to underline how the case seems to stretch out to infinity. There is even time-lapse photography showing the Transamerica building going up. Everything leads up to a heart-stopping moment when two men look, simply look, at one another. It is a more satisfying conclusion than Dirty Harry shooting Zodiac dead, say, in a football stadium.
Fincher is not the first director you would associate with this material. In 1992, at 30, he directed "Alien 3," which was the least of the Alien movies, but even then had his eye ("Alien 3" is one of the best-looking bad movies I have ever seen). His credits include "Se7en" (1995), a superb film about another serial killer with a pattern to his crimes; " The Game " (1997), with Michael Douglas caught in an ego-smashing web; " Fight Club " (1999), beloved by most, not by me; the ingenious terror of Jodie Foster in " Panic Room " (2002), and now, five years between features, his most thoughtful, involving film.
He seems to be in reaction against the slice-and-dice style of modern crime movies; his composition and editing are more classical, and he doesn't use nine shots when one will do. (If this same material had been put through an Avid to chop the footage into five times as many shots, we would have been sending our own ciphers to the studio.) Fincher is an elegant stylist on top of everything else, and here he finds the right pace and style for a story about persistence in the face of evil. I am often fascinated by true crime books, partly because of the way they amass ominous details (the best I've read is Blood and Money , by Tommy Thompson ), and Fincher understands that true crime is not the same genre as crime action. That he makes every character a distinct individual is proof of that; consider the attention given to Graysmith's choice of mixed drink.
Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.
Your Place or Mine
Life Upside Down
History of the World, Part II
Matt Zoller Seitz
Rated R for graphic violence and drug abuse
Mark Ruffalo as David Toschi
Robert Downey Jr. as Paul Avery
John Carroll Lynch as Arthur Leigh Allen
Brian Cox as Melvin Belli
Philip Baker Hall as Sherwood Morrill
Chloe Sevigny as Melanie
Anthony Edwards as Armstrong
Charles Fleischer as Bob Vaughn
Zach Grenier as Mel Nicolai
Dermot Mulroney as Capt. Marty Lee
Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith
Elias Koteas as Sgt. Jack Mulanax
Based on the book by
- Robert Graysmith
- James Vanderbilt
- David Fincher
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Zodiac: 8 things fincher’s movie gets right about the unsolved case (& 7 it gets wrong).
The story of the Zodiac killer has fascinated the public for decades and inspired David Fincher. What did he get right and wrong about the case?
The story of the Zodiac killer is one that has continued to fascinate the public for over fifty years. While not the first serial killer to terrorize America, the Zodiac was unique for speaking publicly about his murders via letters that were published in San Francisco newspapers.
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Though the case of the Zodiac killer remains unsolved, it has been the subject of interest in Hollywood for years, with the most famous depiction being David Fincher's 2007 Zodiac . The film is often praised as being one of the most historically accurate films based on real events. Of course, it does still take some liberties as well as exclude key details. Here are some things Zodiac gets right about the case and some things it gets wrong.
Updated on February 7th, 2021 by Kristen Palamara: Although David Fincher's Zodiac is an older movie released in 2007, it was a very comprehensive representation of the real-life events of the Zodiac killings that lasted decades. The movie takes its specifics from Robert Graysmith, who was involved in the events as he was a cartoonist at the newspaper the Zodiac Killer frequently sent letters to and Graysmith became obsessed with solving the case. Fincher's Zodiac is a well-researched movie that tries to stay as close to the truth as possible, but of course, there are a few differences between real-life and the movie.
Right: Robert Graysmith And Arthur Leigh Allen Meeting
The movie depicts a meeting between Robert Graysmith and his main suspect he believes is the Zodiac Killer, Arthur Leigh Allen. The movie shows Graysmith going inside the hardware store that Allen works at and the two staring each other down, which is pretty similar to actual events.
Graysmith claims he went to the hardware store that Allen worked at and Allen drove up next to him in the parking lot, blocking the driver car door, and the two stared each other down.
Right: Almost Catching The Zodiac Killer
The movie depicts the Zodiac Killer killing a taxi cab driver and when Dave Toschi arrives at the crime scene he learns that a few officers had seen a civilian leaving the scene when they arrived.
The officers had received an incorrect description of the shooter and didn't think anything of the man walking away, but eye witness accounts of the shooter and the description from the officers were very similar meaning that they had a chance to possibly stop and catch the Zodiac Killer then, and this seems to be pretty similar to the real-life events.
Wrong: Sherwood Morrill
While it's true that Sherwood Morrill (Philip Baker Hall) was the main handwriting expert working on the case, in real life he wasn't really an antagonist to Graysmith and Toschi's investigation.
He was a well-respected expert in the field and most agreed with his findings and although some disagreed it was typically in a respectful manner. The movie depicts Morrill as somewhat of an antagonist to the two even though in real life Morrill backed Toschi when some accused him of manufacturing Zodiac letters.
Right: Zodiac Threatening School Children
In the movie, the Zodiac Killer sends a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle and claims that he'll blow up a school bus and shoot any of the survivors that escape the crash.
This was a real threat from the Zodiac, and like in the movie, the Zodiac Killer never did this but it was certainly enough to terrify everyone who knew about the letter and the threat.
Wrong: Michael Mageau's Eye Witness Account
Although it's true that in real life Michael Mageau did claim that it was Arthur Leigh Allen who attacked him and his girlfriend and he narrowly survived, Zodiac seems to imply that this is an important part of the case at the very end of the movie.
In reality, even Mageau himself said there was no way he could be certain that it was Allen because he barely saw the man's profile, was disoriented by a bright flashing light and was shot at close range. Police didn't believe this to be valid or important evidence to the case because Mageau's eyewitness account was so fuzzy.
Right: Robert Graysmith's Obsession
The movie focuses on various people involved in the case, but the main focus is Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) . Graysmith was a cartoonist at The Chronicle, one of the newspapers Zodiac communicated with. He eventually began his own investigation and wrote a book on the subject.
The movie shows Graysmith becoming consumed with the case and his obsession leads to the end of his marriage. By Graysmith's own admission, this is accurate as the investigation took over all aspects of his life and his family-life suffered as a result.
Wrong: Paul Avery
Another one of the main characters in the film is Paul Avery ( Robert Downey Jr. ), the crime reporter at The Chronicle. Avery was a central figure in some aspects of the investigation and was indeed named by the killer as a future target, but large aspects of his characterization in the film are fictionized.
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While Avery and Graysmith did work together, their close collaboration on the Zodiac case is something largely invented by the film. Avery is also depicted as falling into poor health and living a reclusive life, still obsessed with the killings. Those close to him have claimed this is inaccurate.
Right: Arthur Leigh Allen As Suspect
Though the case remains unsolved, the movie does narrow in on one prime suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen (John Carroll Lynch). The movie shows Allen to be a favorite suspect of detective Dave Toschi ( Mark Ruffalo ) who has a mountain of circumstantial evidence linking him to the crimes.
Allen was indeed a person of interest in the case who Toschi favored as the killer. Also, much of the evidence against Allen that is presented in the movie was real. He did wear boots that matched the crime scene footprints, he did wear a watch that had a Zodiac symbol, and he did talk to friends about ideas that eerily match the later killings.
Wrong: Cecelia Shepard And Bryan Hartnell
The second Zodiac attack depicted in the film is of Cecelia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell on September 27, 1969. The film shows the young couple cuddling by a lake when they are approached by a masked gunman who then tied them up and stabbed them. Only Hartnell survived the attack.
While the movie follows Hartnell's account of the attack incredibly closely, the movie does make one small and false insinuation. The scene gives the impression that the two are a romantic couple whereas they were simply friends at the time. Interestingly, Fincher added in a line about Hartnell's major in school to hint they might not be as close as we'd assume.
Right: Rick Marshall
One of the tensest scenes in the film finds Graysmith visiting a colleague of suspect Rick Marshall. Graysmith thinks he finds a sample of Marshall's writing that perfectly matches Zodiac, but the man informs him it is his own writing. As Graysmith's nervousness increases, he hears footsteps from the floor above and leaves in a hurry.
Remarkably, this is based on a real incident Graysmith claims happened to him while looking into Marshall as a suspect. Some other investigators have theorized this friend of Marshall's helped him in some way.
Wrong: Woman In The Car
Another extremely disturbing scene finds a woman and her baby who is given a ride by a stranger after being stranger on the highway. While the man appears to be a helpful good Samaritan at first, he soon threatens to kill them both before the woman escapes the car with her child.
This is based on a true incident, and not only did the woman claim it was the Zodiac in the car, but the killer took credit for it in another letter. However, as time past, police began to have major doubts that this was indeed the Zodiac.
Right: Zodiac's Lies
Though the movie does seem to present that particular case as one involving the Zodiac, it also mentions the doubt surrounding the case which leads to an interesting revelation. Paul Avery identifies a number of crimes Zodiac claimed credit for without offering any evidence, unlike the other murders. This suggests Zodiac was trying to appear more deadly than he really was.
This is something that police discovered as the investigation went on and Zodiac's letters continued. He took credit for murders they knew he had nothing to do with. Many see this as the killer's attempt to remain in the spotlight.
The movie shows that the first letter Zodiac sent to newspapers included a code which he claimed included his identity. While the killer presented it as a brilliant and unbreakable code, it was solved fairly quickly by a high school teacher and his wife days after it was published.
An interesting aspect that the movie leaves out is that the man who broke the code became a suspect in the crimes for a short time. Police were suspicious of how quickly he broke the code as well as some very circumstantial evidence. Many believe it was simply a desperate movie by police.
Right: The Zodiac On Live Television
The movie does a great job of showing how the public became so obsessed with the Zodiac and the story around him. This is best seen in the sequence in which the killer calls into a news program live on the air to speak with Melvin Belli (Brian Cox).
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The idea of a serial killer calling into a news show seems so farfetched, but this incident really did happen. While there's no way to confirm that it was the real killer who was speaking on live television, given the killer's apparent desire for the spotlight, it's entirely possible he would do such a thing.
Wrong: Other Suspects
While the movie doesn't come to any conclusions about the case, it does strongly hint at the fact that Arthur Leigh Allen was the Zodiac killer. This isn't surprising as much of the movie is based on Robert Graysmith's book who came to that eventual conclusion.
However, the movie does ignore some important things to arrive at Allen as such a convincing suspect, which is something Graysmith has been criticized for. There were several other key suspects, including Richard Gaikowski who, similar to Allen, had a lot of circumstantial evidence against him. It also fails to mention Allen's DNA failing to match DNA found at the scene of one of the crimes.
NEXT: 10 Best Serial Killer Movies From The 70s
The Real Story Behind David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’
Real Stories is an ongoing column about the true stories behind movies and TV shows. It’s that simple. This installment focuses on the true story depicted in David Fincher’s Zodiac, paying special attention to some of the real events not depicted in the movie.
It goes without saying that David Fincher ‘s best movie , Zodiac , takes its inspiration from a true story. Reviewers praised it for its historically accurate depiction of the hunt, by journalists, law enforcement, and the public, for the serial killer known as the Zodiac, who tormented the San Francisco Bay Area beginning in the late 1960s.
Fincher’s movie is based on two books by cartoonist-turned-journalist Robert Graysmith: Zodiac and Zodiac Unmasked . Jake Gyllenhaal plays Graysmith on screen. Because the movie so closely follows the real events, an article dedicated to those events would function too much like a plot summary. Instead, this column takes a look at some of the parts of the true story that Zodiac does not depict. We also look at the recent gains investigators have made in their search for the infamous Zodiac Killer.
The First Confirmed Zodiac Killing
On December 20, 1968, David Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen went on their first — and tragically their last — date. The two teenagers went to different high schools in Vallejo, California, and had only known one another for a couple of weeks. According to SF Weekly , Jensen wore “a purple dress with a Christmas bell brooch pinned to its white collar” when she introduced her parents to David before they attended a holiday concert at Betty’s school.
After a brief stop at a friend’s house, the young couple made their way to the concert and had planned to be home by 11. After leaving the school, Faraday drove his station wagon to one of the area’s “lover’s lanes,” a private area near a pumping station.
When police arrived on the scene, they found Faraday outside the passenger door with a gunshot wound above his ear, still breathing. But by the time they arrived at the hospital, he was dead. Police found Jensen’s body 28 feet from the vehicle. She had five bullet wounds in her back and two in the front.
Police wrongly assumed the motive was jealousy or drugs. They couldn’t solve the case. Months later, on July 5, 1969, they got a lead when another young couple was shot while parked on another lover’s lane in the same area. After that second shooting, a man calling himself the Zodiac called the Vallejo police department. “I also killed those kids last year,” he told the dispatch.
That second killing is where David Fincher’s movie begins .
The Real Dave Toschi
In David Fincher’s Zodiac , Mark Ruffalo plays police officer Dave Toschi. Known for his Dandyish outfits, Toschi is a hungry dude in more ways than one. He’s always eating, always looking for the next piece of information, always wanting to solve the case.
His New York Times obituary describes him as “colorful.” Literally. According to Toschi’s daughter, he always wore a colored shirt, never a white one.
Toschi also served as the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s character in the Dirty Harry film franchise , Inspector Harry Callahan. And Steve McQueen based the police officer he plays in the 1968 movie Bullitt on Toschi. His dress and choice of a quick-draw holder for his .38-caliber pistol, according to SFGate , drew McQueen’s attention.
Ruffalo’s Toschi attends a screening of Dirty Harry in Fincher’s movie. And just as he did in real life, he walks out of the screening not happy with Callahan’s cavalier attitude. Ruffalo, who spent time with Toschi before his death in 2018, told Collider :
“He couldn’t take it. It was so simplified. He was in the middle of one of the biggest cases in the United States at the time and they were having no movement on it and he knew they had a mountain of evidence and it took them nine months to get a search warrant to toss the guy’s trailer…I think that was frustrating for him.”
Was Arthur Leigh Allen the Zodiac Killer?
Much of David Fincher’s Zodiac concerns Toschi’s — and later Graysmith’s — fixation on a man named Arthur Leigh Allen ( John Carroll Lynch ), one of the leading suspects in the case. The movie ends with Mike Mageau ( Jimmi Simpson ), a survivor of the Zodiac’s second killing, identifying Allen as the killer. But he does point to another man’s face, saying the killer’s face was rounder than Allen’s, thus leaving room for doubt.
And in real life, doubt still remains.
In the years that followed, other witnesses, including a police officer, said Allen did not equal the killer they had spotted in weight. Allen died in 1992. Days later, police secured another warrant to search his apartment.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle , a decade later, in 2002, police conducted a DNA test to try and find the killer. They took genetic traces from the envelopes the killer used to send his letters. Kelly Carroll, one of the investigators in the case, made it clear:
“Arthur Leigh Allen does not match the partial DNA fingerprint developed from bona fide Zodiac letters.”
A number of other suspects have been named and publicly discussed . But of course, the Zodiac has not been found.
The 2020 Breakthrough
Journalists and investigators are destined to follow the case of the Zodiac forever. In 2020, a team of experts from three countries solved one of the killer’s notorious ciphers, 51 years after he first sent the message.
The so-called “340 cipher” was solved, according to CNN , by Virginia software developer David Oranchak, Belgian computer programmer Jarl Van Eycke, and Australian mathematician Sam Blake.
Zodiac’s “340 cipher” comes after one of the best moments in David Fincher’s movie. Famous attorney Melvin Belli ( Brian Cox ) appears on television to talk with the killer over the phone in real-time. The man who calls in talks about being sick and his fear of being sent to the gas chamber for his crimes. Shortly thereafter, authorities trace the call and find that it was not the Zodiac who phoned into the program.
The cipher decoded by experts in 2020 responds to such events. The killer wrote, via the Washington Post :
I HOPE YOU ARE HAVING LOTS OF FUN IN TRYING TO CATCH ME THAT WASNT ME ON THE TV SHOW WHICH BRINGS UP A POINT ABOUT ME I AM NOT AFRAID OF THE GAS CHAMBER BECAUSE IT WILL SEND ME TO PARADICE ALL THE SOONER BECAUSE I NOW HAVE ENOUGH SLAVES TO WORK FOR ME WHERE EVERYONE ELSE HAS NOTHING WHEN THEY REACH PARADICE SO THEY ARE AFRAID OF DEATH I AM NOT AFRAID BECAUSE I KNOW THAT MY NEW LIFE IS LIFE WILL BE AN EASY ONE IN PARADICE DEATH
After they decoded the message, the team sent it to the FBI. According to the Washington Post , the FBI publicly acknowledged the citizens’ contributions. A spokeswoman said:
“The Zodiac Killer case remains an ongoing investigation for the FBI San Francisco division and our local law enforcement partners.”
Watch Zodiac now on Hoopla or wherever you rent or buy movies online.
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