The Cleveland Strangler

2015 ,    »  -   12 Comments
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7.51
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Ratings: 7.51/10 from 81 users.
Storyline
The Cleveland Strangler

Anthony Sowell methodically targeted the most vulnerable residents of his destitute Cleveland neighborhood. In large part, his eleven known victims lived on the fringes of a society plagued by drug addiction and economic instability. If they existed under more affluent and privileged circumstances, their tragic fate would have likely been avoided. Thus lies the theme of The Cleveland Strangler, a gripping new documentary that provides the kind of narrative that will attract all true crime buffs, but also offers a valuable and sobering social commentary as well.

Handsomely produced by VICE, the film follows former Cleveland resident Wilbert Cooper as he retraces the events which led to the rape and strangulation of eleven women, and the role that race and poverty might have played in law enforcement's sluggish response.

Cooper paints a vivid portrait of his hometown at the time of the murders, and it's an environment laced with despair, gang violence, and the menacing grip of a growing crack epidemic. This proved the perfect breeding ground in which Sowell could operate. Preying upon the desperate and anonymous, he lured each of his victims into his apartment, and disposed of their bodies within the confines of his living space or through burial nearby.

The warning signs were there, but were largely ignored. The film argues that each announcement of a new missing woman would inspire little investigative effort. In a sense, given their precarious day to day existence, these women were unfairly viewed as the architects of their own demise. Had certain leads and clues been followed more doggedly, Sowell's two-year reign of terror might have been thwarted much earlier.

The film offers a series of chilling and deeply emotional interviews with many key figures surrounding the event, including the lead investigators who assumed control of the case once the bodies were discovered, the store owner who complained of the stench of death from across the street to no avail, and the rape victim who barely escaped Sowell's apartment with her life.

In the end, justice was served as Sowell was convicted for his horrific crimes and placed on death row. As The Cleveland Strangler so devastatingly illustrates, the journey to justice was characterized by far too many missed opportunities and costly prejudices.

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12 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Jeane Kroecker

    Why captions in German??

  2. eddy

    Interesting subject, and point of view. The doc does shed light on the attitude and efforts of law enforcement in regards to the poor, black, drug addicted victims and how that contibuted to the killer's ability to claim so many victims - But, unfortunately, even with the access and interviews with many of the detectives and victims involved in the case, seems to fall flat.

  3. john

    Good and powerful film. Shows another aspect of racism and classism. Best documentary film I've seen since "Dark Days".

  4. Cormac

    Really good documentary, the documentary maker simply let the families of the victims and detectives tell the story with only small pieces of interjection from him. Really well made and thought provoking.

  5. Deanna

    Beautifully Told..Real

  6. Nat

    Wow, America is falling apart. Being black is an issue. The government tries to pin us against each other. Being white is an issue too because I don't feel any difference between our races. I am so ashamed of this country I just want to leave, but it takes money. I'm a poor white person because of disabilaty and I am sick of being treated the way I am because I'm poor. I don't think it's a race issue. I think it's a social issue that turns into an issue when any minority is less likely to be given a job. I can't work so I'm less valuable to society. God, there are racist on both sides and I will never deny that but I believe most people want to get along and be seen as equal. I think it's time for a revolution. Get the rich ass society money making corporations out of business so we the people can take back our Democracy (The people rule).

  7. Zazzua

    That was the most touching documentary I have ever seen. From anger, to despair to grief I felt it all. My condolences to the families and admiration to those women who fought back and survived. To those people in authority who didnt stop this man from killing- you get my middle finger thrown up high and proud. There is no justification for the neglect you served to these women and this community.

  8. bad documentry

    This movie isn't supposed to be about racial inequality. The guy who killed those black girls WAS a BLACK MAN. So what the heck?

  9. GoldenLady

    This comment "This movie isn't supposed to be about racial inequality. The guy who killed those black girls WAS a BLACK MAN. So what the heck?" profoundly shows how non-blacks will never understand the plight of black people. Despite the killer being black, the authorities did not take him serious simply b/c his victims were black, poor, and on the streets. Were they of another race, their lives/stories would have been treated w/ more value.

  10. Tommy

    Sad, heartbreaking story....bottom line - drugs kill....drugs kill individuals as well as communities...

  11. JD

    It was a good documentary but was misleading. The title makes you believe it's about the criminal when it's really about the incompetency of the Chicago Police Department. You also can't say that this a race issue. Yes, all of the victims were black but so were the retired police officers he interviewed. And I would venture to guess that most of the officers on the force were black as well because it is an area where the residents were/are predominately black. If they were white prostitutes/drug addicts, and it was a predominately white police department, it would be the exact same situation. There have been many serial killers that targeted white prostitutes/drug addicts and when those women were reported missing, it was put on the back burner as well; so it wasn't a race issue. The women were targeted because of their high-risk lifestyle. Sowell was able to manipulate them into either thinking they were getting drugs and/or money to come back to his house where he was able to do these despicable and heinous things. The survivors were ignored by police because society has allowed for the degradation of prostitutes and drug addicts for so long that they are viewed as scum with no pertinent place in this world making them expendable. It's sad.

    R.I.P to all the ladies whose lives were lost at the hands of this monster. And may the families & friends find peace as well.

  12. Jan

    VICE used to make very good documentaries. Not anymore. To spin this tragedy into being a race issue is disgusting, White meth addicts face the same problems of credibility as black and drug abuse is the issue here, not race war. But hey, who cares. They got a political point to prove. It's the system built on injustice of white privilige. Dissolve the force then, as white men's invention, and police your neighbourhood according to african traditions of law enforcement.

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