Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Because it is Memorial Day, today’s film, THE CROOKED WAY, features a tale about a WWII war hero suffering from amnesia. The film stars John Payne, Sonny Tufts and Ellen Drew.
Enjoy the movie!
Eddie Rice, a veteran suffering from amnesia, returns to Los Angeles from a San Francisco veterans hospital hoping to learn who he is and discovers that he is a gangster named Eddie Riccardi and has a police record. Although he does not know it, five years earlier, Eddie was acquitted of murder after turning state’s evidence for homicide detective Lieutenant Joe Williams. His partner, Vince Alexander, took the “rap” and spent two years in prison. On a Los Angeles street, a woman recognizes Eddie and reports him to Vince, who sends his thugs to beat up Eddie.
In 1674, the naturalist John Ray complied a glossary of infrequently used words. He included “loneliness” in his list, defining it as a term used to describe places and people “far from neighbours.”
In 2018, loneliness is considered a major health issue. A study conducted by the insurance company CIGNA, using the UCLA Loneliness Scale, found that of 20,000 respondents, 46% reported sometimes or always feeling alone. Generation Z (ages 18-22) are apparently the hardest hit by the loneliness epidemic.
Turned inward, loneliness can lead to thoughts of suicide. Turned outward, loneliness can lead to thoughts of murder.
In January 1980, Bob Greene, a Chicago-based syndicated newspaper columnist, received a letter from a man who described himself as being depressed, frustrated and lonely.
The lonely man felt like he had run out of options, and that a happy and fulfilling life would forever remain beyond his reach. Filled with the despair, the man said “I’ve been a disappointment to everybody my entire life — so they must die.”
Because the threatening letter originated in Los Angeles, Bob contacted LAPD. The department asked Bob to fly out from Chicago to help stop the man from making good on his threat.
Bob received a second letter, and it was even more disturbing than the first. In it the man outlined his plan, such as it was. “I was originally going to do the killings on November 15, but decided against that date. I”m sure it was a disappointment to you when I didn’t do them them. I didn’t want to disappoint you police. I have been a disappointment to everybody my entire life. But I certainly won’t disappoint you this time. We are going to find out how good of (sic) detectives you are. If you are detectives (or if you are lucky) you may catch me after the first murder or two. If you do you will thereby save the rest of the people marked for death. If you are defectives (sic) you will not catch me till I’ve gone through the whole list of people to die.”
Both letters were signed “Moulded to Murder.”
Police set up a direct telephone line for the writer to use to contact Bob, and they also consulted three psychiatric experts. The three concurred that the letters weren’t a hoax.
The police tried to convey to the letter writer that they were listening to him. They may have been the first group of people ever to do so. “We want him to know that we care about him. Everyone is very concerned that he get help. We don’t want him to be afraid of us; he hasn’t committed any crime, and we just want to make sure that he doesn’t start committing them. We have some of the best psychiatric minds in the state willing to listen to him and try to help him find a solution to his problems,” said Detective Rick Jacques.
In a ten page letter, written on lined paper, the anonymous man related details of his life to Bob.
“In my early years it was not so painful but it builds up as time goes by until it becomes unbearable. I always tried to make friends all my life–but I failed. I had several factors against me. One is that I am ugly. Second thing is that I have a defect which has made me appear even uglier. Another thing, of course, is that I had bad parents. They really didn’t love or encourage me or show me hardly any affection.”
The man continued to describe his inability to form close personal relationships.
“I have kept trying to have friends–meaningful relationships–all my life and I have failed. I tried to find a young woman–somebody to be a partner and share my life–someone who was a good person, too. I failed there, too. I dated just two girls in all my life. I think they gave me a date because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. . .I have never had sex with either a girl or a woman. Can you imagine that a man in this society almost 40 who is yet a virgin–that must really be a rarity.”
Police detectives Rick Jacques and Mike Stallcup, were making every attempt to locate the man. The clock was ticking, not in small part because the experts agreed that the letters were unlikely to have been authored by a crank. The good news, if there was any, was that the man was reaching out. He was trying in his own way to get help. It remained to be seen if help would arrive in time, or if the threatened murders would begin.
The telephone installed in Bob’s hotel suite was silent. A couple of calls came in but after being screened for authenticity, they were found not to have come from the man.
Bob had promised the man that he wouldn’t have the telephone calls traced, but by Saturday, January 5th, Bob and the police agreed that for the greater good it would be necessary for Bob to break his promise.
At 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jauary 5th, Bob received multiple calls from different telephone booths in the same geographical area. Detectives Jacques and Stallcup, aided by the telephone company, were frantic to locate the caller.
Meanwhile, Bob negotiated a meeting with the man. They met in a secluded park where the man was was taken into custody.
The man, whom Bob and the police refused to identify, surrendered himself peacefully. “I’m glad you caught me,” he said. “I was going to do it…none of it seemed real until they gave me a bulletproof vest.”
From the description the man gave of himself in his letters, police expected to find someone much different than the man they found. Detective Jacques said that the man had no visible defect. “He has a physical condition that is common to much of the populace and he considers it a defect.” Jacques would not elaborate.
In his column, Bob described the man as “a six-foot, 225-pound, weak-eyed man” and said that his thick glasses distored his eyes a bit, but that he wasn’t unattractive — “just shy and suffering from low self-esteem. He’s like a lot of people in the world–you just don’t notice them.”
Fortunately, Bob made the trip to L.A. because the letter writer said he was prepared to begin his killing spree until he heard that Bob was coming to town.
The man told Bob, “I was ready to start killing on January 3, like I said in the letter. I thought no one was listening to me at all. Then on January 2, I was listening to KFWB radio, and the announcer said that you (Greene) had flown to Los Angeles. What I first thought was that I’d listen to what you had to say. My thought still was that I would start killing people and kill them until I got caught. But I read your columns, and I thought that people might care about me after all. I knew that if I called you I would probably be trapped–but I had to call.”
The man was held for observation. His treatment, whatever form it took, must have been successful because “Moulded to Murder” never resurfaced as a threat.
In October, 1980, a press release for an exploitation film called “Schizoid” crossed
Bob’s desk.. Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, the film was hyped as “…based on a true story of a schizophrenic murderer in Los Angeles who, at the time of his dastardly deeds, was known as ‘Moulded to Murder’. He wrote cut-and-paste letters to a newspaper column…seeking help. ‘Please don’t let me kill again,’ he pleaded…’Schizoid’ is probably the most terrifying true story ever to be shown on film.”
True story? Hardly.
To their credit Bob Green and Detectives Jacques and Stllcup were revolted by the gross distortion of the unnamed man’s story. None of them ever agreed to participate in any project that exploited ‘Moulded to Murder’s’ pain.
Bob said, “We had said that we were involved in the story only because we wanted to help the man called ‘Moulded to Murder.’ If that was true, what purpose would I be serving by selling the story to the movies while he was still trying to get his life straightened out?”
Bob planned to contact the man and try to explain Hollywood’s venality to him. “I have to make the hardest telephone call of all. I have to call the man who was known as ‘Moulded to Murder’ and try to explain what has happened. I have no idea how I can make him understand that no one intended to use him or hurt him. I’m supposed to be pretty good with words, but right now I can’t find any.”
Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH starring Dick Powell, Signe Hasso, Ludwig Donath, Vladimir Sokoloff, Edgar Barrier and Maylia. Directed by Robert Stevenson.
Yesterday’s post, HOP HEADS, was about opium addiction and tonight’s film is about a crackdown on the opium trade. I’m sensing a theme.
Enjoy the movie!
In the year 1935, following a United Nations-sponsored meeting of the World Narcotics Commission, the U.S. Treasury Department, Bureau of Narcotics undertakes a crackdown on the worldwide opium trade. Assigned to the investigation is Treasury Department agent Mike Barrows, who is head of the department’s San Francisco bureau. Mike is familiar with the ruthless ways of the drug traffickers, having witnessed an unmarked Japanese freighter jettison one hundred Chinese slaves off the San Francisco coast to gain enough speed to outrun a U.S. Coast Guard patrol. A life preserver bearing the name Kira Maru , and a view of the offending captain, as seen through binoculars, are the only clues Mike has to go on as he begins his investigation in Shanghai.
Charles Henderson was high on opium when Los Angeles Police officers, lead by Detective Bean, raided his home/club room at 3631 Trinity Street. The cops weren’t looking for drugs, they were following up on a tip they’d received from a local hop head. The tipster, whom the police refused to name because they feared for his safety, had told them that he knew of at least four men who had been murdered by a gang operating out the Trinity Street house. According to the snitch, the gang was killing men in order to collect insurance policies which they had taken out on the men’s lives.
When Charles was coherent enough to make a statement to police, he scoffed at the idea of a murder house. Charles said, “You know anyone who has got the ‘habit’ ain’t got nerve enough to pull off a stunt like that fellow described. If a man ever did have any nerve he certainly loses all of it when he becomes an opium fiend. Why I couldn’t kill a chicken much less a human being.”
Charles spoke with the authority of a long-time hop head with a $9/day habit. That may not sound like much now, but in 1915, when Charles was buying dope, $9 was equivalent to $220.
Poster found here: https://bit.ly/2LgsRNh
Local police and Federal authorities had arrested Charles many times. His club room was a safe haven for opium users, and they were willing to pay for a refuge. The room made Charles a lot of money, but he set fire to most of it every time he filled a pipe.
“I have been smoking the pills for twenty years,” Charles told Bean, “and know the game all the way but I can’t believe there is any murders that can be traced to the fiends in this city.”
Charles had a point. When police raided his home/club room he was flying so high he hadn’t the will to to resist or flee.
He told Detective Bean that when the raid began he thought, “This ain’t no dream.”
He continued, “I have been one of the worst victims of the whole bunch. The other morning when you folks came and got me I was about the happiest man in the whole world. You know this stuff makes you feel that way. For a little while I didn’t know what you meant when you started to going through my house with all of them electric lights. They looked like shooting stars to me and I kind of thought that I was riding in an airship and that was the reason so many stars was so close to me.”
Captain Bean waited for Charles to resume.
“When I woke up here in jail and didn’t have no more opium it all came back to me. I realized then that I was just naturally arrested again. I tell you this comes hard on me. It costs me $9 every day to keep me dreaming right and of course I am no millionaire.”
“Gee, but I wish times was like they used to be. When I was down in Mexicali I used to get all the opium I wanted for $1.50 a day,” Charles reminisced.
“I have been tryin’ off and on for twenty years to get away from the habit but it don’t seem to be any use. In fact I don’t remember of a single man who ever quit the stuff for good who had smoked it as long as I have.”
There were no further reports regarding the murder house on Trinity Street in the Los Angeles Times, so we can only assume that Charles was right, the snitch had related one of his more sinister hop dreams to the cops.
Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is THE GREAT FLAMARION starring Erich von Stroheim, Mary Beth Hughes, Dan Duryea and Stephen Barclay. Directed by Anthony Mann and produced by William Wilder.
Enjoy the movie!
In 1936, a performance in a Mexico City vaudeville hall is interrupted by the sound of gunshots emanating from backstage. After the body of Connie Wallace, one of the performers, is found, the police investigate and arrest Eddie Wheeler, her husband, for strangling her. Following the departure of the police, Tony, the clown, is collecting his stage props when a man with gunshot wounds falls from the rafters. Tony recognizes the man as “The Great Flamarion,” a former vaudeville marksman renowned for his skill.