In the annals of 20th-century American crime, few horrors compare to the July 13, 1966, rape-torture-and-murder rampage of Richard Speck.
Without warning on that unseasonably cool Chicago night, the 24-year-old career criminal invaded a dormitory residence and committed unimaginable atrocities on eight of the student nurses living there.
A ninth nurse, Corazon Amurao, successfully hid and described Speck’s tattoo to authorities. It read: “Born to Raise Hell.”Related: Richard Speck, 50 Years Later – Slayer of Nurses, Destroyer of American Innocence
After arresting Speck, investigators connected him to numerous other unsolved crimes, most of a similarly sadistic and sickening nature. A court sentenced Speck to die in the electric chair, but after Illinois banned capital punishment, his penalty was commuted to life behind bars.
The apparent randomness and ruthless cruelty of Speck’s spree profoundly rattled the public, particularly as it occurred smack between the 1960s other two end-of-the-innocence abominations: the JFK assassination in ’63 and the Manson Family murders in ’69.
Oddly, then, no serious — let alone major — film has yet been made about the Richard Speck story. The list below suggests that perhaps the time has come for such a production … or perhaps, for any number of reasons, it never will.
VIOLATED ANGELS (1967)
Director: Koji Wakamatsu
Cast: Juro Kara, Keiko Koyanagi, Miki Hayashi
Koji Wakamatsu, a pioneering provocateur of Japanese “pink film” — i.e., tawdry sexploitation — essentially recreates the Richard Speck nurse slaughter with a prurient emphasis on the sexual aspects of the crimes.
Shot in black-and-white over the course of three days with mostly nonprofessional performers, Violated Angels garnered some critical attention at the time of its release, particularly from devotees of the “underground” cinema scene in the United States that would in time beget John Waters, David Lynch, and others.
Nonetheless, nothing onscreen in Violated Angels necessarily suggests that Wakamatsu would later go on to produce and/or direct various acclaimed projects, including the arthouse classic In the Realm of the Senses (1976). Alas, he did.
NAKED MASSACRE aka BORN FOR HELL (1976)
Director: Denis Héroux
Cast: Matthieu Carriere, Debra Berger, Christine Boisson
The curious international grindhouse potboiler Naked Massacre recasts the Richard Speck attack in war-torn Belfast.
German actor Matthieu Carriere stars as Cain Adamson, the Speck stand-in. He’s a Vietnam War vet who touches down in Northern Ireland on his way back to the States.
Set off by sudden shootings and explosions between British forces and the Irish Republican Army, Adamson bursts into a house containing eight student nurses. The film graphically depicts what happens from there.
Director: Keith Walley
Cast: Doug Cole, Beverly Sotelo, Stacy Cunningham
As Ed Gein (2000), Bundy (2002), Gacy (2003), and other cheap, direct-to-DVD true-life serial killer films inundated video-store rental shelves just after the turn of the century, the likes of Speck was inevitable.
The movie itself is standard no-budget exploitation, distinguished a bit by an odd black-and-yellow color scheme. Speck also favors narration over dialogue. That might have been an artistic choice, but also might have been a way to not reveal an amateur cast. Guess which reason is more likely.
CHICAGO MASSACRE: RICHARD SPECK (2007)
Director: Michael Feifer
Cast: Corin Nemec, Amy Lyndon, Coley Feifer
The 2000s’ chintzy true-crime horror flick cycle dipped twice into the Richard Speck well. Speck (see review above) was the first; Chicago Massacre represents the return trip. Like its predecessor, this one’s not any good either.
As Speck, Corin Nemec attempts to forever bury any memories TV-sitcom viewers had of him in the title role of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. Such a feat requires him to tell Speck’s story from a jail cell through confusing flashes (both backward and forward). One such jump goes to the nurse massacre.
100 GHOST STREET: THE RETURN OF RICHARD SPECK (2012)
Director: Martin Wichmann
Cast: Steve Bencich, Tony Besson, Hayley Derryberry
A “mockbuster” from The Asylum, the premiere studio in that field (they made, among others, Snakes on a Train), 100 Ghost Street combines aspects of the actual Richard Speck sex murders with the “found footage” spookery of the Paranormal Activity movies.
A group of ghost hunters with video cameras spend the night in the nurses’ dorm where Speck did his worst. The killer’s malevolent spirit, it turns out, is still there, and — oh, yes — it can still wreak havoc.
In short, 100 Ghost Street is exactly as tasteful as it comes off in description.
To learn more about this case, watch the “And Then There Was One” episode of Investigation Discovery’s A Crime to Remember on ID GO now!
Main photos: Richard Speck’s 1961 mug shot [Dallas County Sheriff Department]