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A&E Home Video presents
Serial Killers: Profiling the Criminal Mind (2000)

"When I stand on the mountain and say, 'Do it!', it gets done. If it don't get done, then I'll move on it. And that's the last thing in the world you want me to do."
- Charles Manson

Review By: Justin Stephen   
Published: December 17, 2000

Stars: Bill Kurtis (narrator), Judy Miller (narrator), John Douglas (FBI), Roy Hazelwood (FBI), Gerald Boyle, Michael McCann, Robert Ressler, Dr. Park Dietz, Bob Motta, Sam Amirante, Charles Hill, Mike Albrecht, Charles Manson, Patricia Kremwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, Vincent Bugliosi
Other Stars: Willie Mae Mathis, Mary Welcome, Larry Peterson (GA Bureau of Investigation), Gordon Miller, Jack Mallard, Glen Flothe (Alaska State Police), James Metts (Sheriff, Lexington Co., SC), Dawn Smith Jordan, Donnie Myers, Dr. Jeffrey Jentzen, Stanley Miller, Catherine Lacy, Shirley Hughes, Harlan Mendenhall, Greg Bedoe, Bob Egan, Dolores Niedler, Terry Sullivan, Louis Garippo, Bill Kunkle, Jan Fawcett MD, Bernard Lindberg, Karen Conti, Richard Kling, Greg Adamski, James Fitzgerald, Dolores Longwell, Roger Smith, Dr. David Smith, Dick Shoemaker, Dominick Dunne.
Director: Jeff Tarkington (writer/producer, "Profiling"), Michael Husain (writer/producer, "Dahmer"), Judy Cole (writer/producer, "Gacy"), Alan Goldberg (writer/producer, "Manson")

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (contains material relating to serial murder, mild profanity)
Run Time: 02h:51m:36s
Release Date: December 19, 2000
UPC: 733961701715
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

A & E Home Video has combined four documentaries in a series, each originally aired on The History Channel, into one DVD release entitled Serial Killers: Profiling the Criminal Mind. The first relates to the science of the criminal profiling of serial murderers. The remaining three are closer looks at three of the most notorious serial murderers of modern times. Specifically, the four documentary films presented are:

Profiling (runtime 43:02) — Developed in the late 1970s by FBI investigators John Douglas and Roy Hazelwood, "criminal profiling" can often be of great assistance in a serial murder investigation. From close examination of evidence and circumstances, deductive reasoning allows trained profilers to deduce information about the unknown assailant, sometimes even to successfully predict future actions. After a brief introduction to the science, three cases where profiling was used successfully are examined. The first, which marked the technique's major debut, was in the investigation into the murders of 28 inner-city children in Atlanta in 1979-80. With the help of profile work done by the FBI, Wayne Bertram Williams was eventually captured and convicted of two of these murders. In 1983 in Anchorage, Alaska, authorities were investigating the disappearance of 14 young women, mostly exotic dancers. FBI profiling assisted in the eventual capture of Robert Hanson. Finally, in Lexington, South Carolina, profiling assisted in the capture of Larry Gene Bell, who had killed two people there.

Dahmer: Mystery of the Serial Killer (runtime 42:55) — In July of 1991, Milwaukee and the rest of the nation were shocked at the images of police carrying plastic vats and portable freezers from the apartment of Jeffrey Dahmer. Dahmer had killed at least 17 young men, dismembering them and keeping body parts in his apartment, engaging in necrophilia and cannibalism. Using archival film footage and photographs, as well as interview segments with many of those involved in the case, this film looks at his early life, his murderous activities, as well as his capture, conviction, and eventual death.

John Wayne Gacy: Buried Secrets (runtime 41:39) — During Christmas of 1978, John Wayne Gacy was arrested in connection with the disappearance of a local boy in the suburbs of Chicago. What police would eventually discover were over 25 bodies, all of young men, buried in the crawlspace under his home. A total of 33 murders were eventually tied to Gacy, who would lure young men into his home, sexually assault and torture them, and eventually strangle them. Using archival footage, interviews with those involved (including Charles Hill, a longtime Gacy friend), and never before aired recordings of Gacy interviews with his lawyers, this documentary explores the man behind this heinous brutality.

Charles Manson: Journey into Evil (runtime 44:00) — The name Charles Manson is one of the most recognizable in the annals of United States criminal history. On two different nights in August of 1969, Manson and his followers invaded two homes in Los Angeles and butchered their occupants. Among the dead, actress Sharon Tate, wife of director Roman Polanski and eight months pregnant, who was stabbed repeatedly. The final death toll from these two nights of work was seven. Manson, who actually did not take part in the killings, and four of his followers were eventually convicted and sentenced to death (their sentences were later indirectly commuted to life). Using archival footage and modern interview segments with Manson, Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Kremwinkel, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, and others, this documentary explores the life of the man behind these killings, those gruesome nights in August, and the trial that ended it all.

Because these documentaries were originally aired on The History Channel, the content has been toned down somewhat to make them friendlier to a broad television audience. The latter three films of the series are all above-average and do a good job of presenting both the backgrounds of the killers themselves as well as offering a "blow by blow" of their criminal activities, their eventual capture, and successful prosecution. Interview segments and archival footage are used to good effect to bolster the presentation. Most interesting are the recording of Gacy interviews with his lawyers and new interview footage of Manson and his former followers, all of whom are still incarcerated (Fromme did not take part in the killings but later attempted to assassinate President Ford).

The weak link of the bunch is definitely the first documentary in the series, Profilers. While the background information it provides on three lesser-known modern serial killer cases makes it worth a viewing, it fails miserably in its attempt to educate the viewer about the science of criminal profiling. It is more self-congratulatory than anything, highlighting strongly the rather astounding deductions that investigators were able to make about these killers. Yet, I was left skeptical due to an almost complete lack of exploration into how these deductions were made.

Serial Killers: Profiling the Criminal Mind comes as a two-disc set, with two episodes on each single-layer disc, and an MSRP of $19.99.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: As these documentaries were originally made for television, they are presented in 1.33:1 full frame. Color and clarity of the modern interview footage contained in these documentaries is about what one would expect for documentaries originally aired on television (i.e., good but unexceptional). However, a majority of the visual portion of these films is comprised of archival footage. As such, the film quality varies depending on the quality of the original film.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Serial Killers: Profiling the Criminal Mind is presented in a pretty typical television 2.0 stereo mix. Sound on three of the four films is fair, tending slightly to the heavy and muddled side. However, the sound on the Dahmer film is exceptionally heavy and sounds a bit poor as a result. The original music is presented with reasonable restraint so that it does not trounce upon the narration and other sounds.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Packaging: Alpha
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single
Layers Switch: n/a

Extras Review: Serial Killers: Profiling the Criminal Mind contains no supplementary material of any kind. Furthermore, it also comes with no captions or subtitles in any language so you may want to bear this fact in mind if hearing-impairment is an issue in your household.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

Although the first documentary of four included in this set is a disappointment, the remaining three are interesting and detailed looks at three of America's most notorious serial murderers. This set, especially with its low MSRP, is probably a sound purchase, or at least a rental, for those interested in the subject matter.


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