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CITIZEN X (TV) (director/writer: Chris Gerolmo; screenwriter: from the book “The Killer Department” by Robert Cullen; cinematographer: Robert Fraisse; editor: William Goldenberg; music: Randy Edelman; cast: Stephen Rea (Burakov), Donald Sutherland (Col. Fetisov), Jeffrey DeMunn (Chikatilo), Max von Sydow (Dr. Alexandr Bukhanovsky), Joss Ackland (Bondarchuk), John Wood (Gorbunov), Géza Balkay (Procurator); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Timothy Marx; HBO; 1995)
Based on the true story of a Russian serial killer.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

TV director Chris Gerolmo does a good job directing this made for cable docudrama. The well-crafted and well-acted crime drama is based on the true story of a Russian serial killer, Chikatilo (Jeffrey DeMunn), a dysfunctional married factory worker from Rostov who eluded the authorities for some 8 years (from 1982 to 1990, during pre and Glasnost USSR) and is responsible for brutally killing 52 persons–35 were children under 17. The psychopath masturbated on his vics while stabbing them and ate the genitals of his male victims. It was filmed in Budapest, Hungary.

Based on the book “The Killer Department” by Robert Cullen, it paints a grim picture of a stagnant bureaucracy and an inefficient state government during the communist reign of power, as the political bureaucrats hamper the criminal investigation with ‘red tape,’ incompetency and in a power struggle refuse to yield any of their turf. One arrogant moronic bureaucrat (Joss Ackland) exclaims “The Soviet Union doesn’t have serial killers! It is a decadent, western phenomenon.”

Col. Fetisov (Donald Sutherland), a clever survivalist in the military, picks forensic expert Burakov (Stephen Rea), with no experience as a detective, to be the lead detective in the serial killer investigation because he’s efficient, honest and reliable. The other committee members demand no publicity, no help from America’s FBI, no computers, and hinder Burakov at every turn. When after a few years Burakov arrests the guilty culprit in the railroad station, where he preys on his lonely vulnerable vics, he’s forced by the authorities to release him when the DNA tests are botched. Years go by and the frustration grows for Burakov, who only after he gets the bureaucrats off his back is allowed to spring a trap at the railroad stations around Rostov and capture the suspect. But even then he’s hindered by a vain prosecutor who demands to interrogate the suspect. When the prosecutor gets no response and the authorities realize the suspect would have to be released if no further evidence is put forward, the Burakov and Fetisov team call in the psychologist Dr. Alexandr Bukhanovsky (Max von Sydow) to question the suspect and he finally gets Chikatilo to break down and confess when he gets into his sick head and tells him what motivates him and how he carries out his perversions.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”