A Bizarre Plot to Catch the Real-Life Zodiac Killer

'The Zodiac Killer,' from 1971. (YBCA)

My Do List co-host this week, Jamedra Brown-Fleischman, tipped me off to this Zodiac Killer movie, and it looks bananas.

It's part of a series on the "Dark Days of San Francisco" in the 1970s—films about Jim Jones, the Milk and Moscone murders, the SLA, and, of course, the Zodiac Killer. And in addition to screening the David Fincher movie from 2007, they’re showing this film, The Zodiac Killer, that was released in 1971, less than a month after the San Francisco Chronicle received deranged letters in the mail from the guy claiming to be the Zodiac killer.

The director Tom Hanson had never made a film before (he owned pizza restaurants) but with a $13,000 budget, he made it primarily as a way to catch the real-life Zodiac Killer, convinced that he wouldn’t be able resist coming to see the premiere. Hanson kept six guys stationed around the lobby of the Golden Gate Theater, ready to capture anyone who matched the police sketch.

Now, his plan didn’t work, and by all reports the movie is bad—but it’s a fascinating piece of Bay Area history.

'The Zodiac Killer' screens Saturday, May 26, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Details here.

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