Legacy of the "Zodiac"
For over 35 years, the morbid fascination over the unsolved Zodiac killings have inspired a whole host of films, books, television shows and songs.
The first of the films was Tom Hanson’s low-budget ‘The Zodiac Killer’, released in April 1971. Two movies loosely based on the Zodiac killings were ‘Dirty Harry’ (1971), starring Clint Eastwood and filmed in San Francisco; and ‘The Exorcist III’ (1990), based on William Peter Blatty’s novel ‘Legion’ (1983), starring Brad Dourif as the ‘Gemini Killer’.
The first book, written by Cliff Smith Jr, was ‘The Zodiac Killer: Still At Large’ (1977), followed by Jerry Weissman’s ‘The Zodiac Killer’, published in 1979. Robert Graysmith’s book ‘Zodiac’ (1986) was the basis for the HBO television film ‘The Limbic Region’ (1996). Graysmith later wrote ‘Zodiac Unmasked: The Identity of America’s Most Elusive Serial Killer’ (2003).
‘Case Reopened: The Zodiac with Lawrence Block’ (1999) was a documentary video in which Block hosted a factual overview of the case, including interviews with Robert Graysmith and the webmaster of zodiackiller.com, Tom Voigt.
The Zodiac killer featured in an American television series ‘Ultimate 10’ (1999), alongside the Black Dahlia, the Green River Killer and Jack the Ripper, as well as in a History Channel television documentary ‘Perfect Crimes?’ (1999), which outlined four of the century’s most famous crimes, both solved and unsolved. The documentary television series ‘Cold Case Files’ (1999), examines the Zodiac crimes in episode 51.
A film company in Vallejo produced a short film based on the Lake Herman Road murders, ‘Disguised Killer’ (2000). In 2005, three Zodiac films were released: ‘The Zodiac Killer’ directed by Charles Adelman; ‘The Zodiac’ directed by Alexander Bulkley, about a real-life detective in Vallejo, obsessed with investigating the Zodiac case; and ‘Zodiac Killer’ directed by Ulli Lommel, a digitally recorded film set in Los Angeles in 2002, about a cat-and-mouse game between the real Zodiac and a copycat killer.
With renewed interest in the Zodiac killer, America’s Most Wanted television series screened a full feature episode on the Zodiac Killer, on 25 February 2007. The most recent film, ‘Zodiac’ was released in March 2007. Directed by David Fincher, it is based on Robert Graysmith’s two Zodiac books and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr, and Mark Ruffolo.
On 3 March 2007, it was reported that a greeting card with a 1990 postmark, addressed to the San Francisco Chronicle, was discovered in the newspaper’s files by an editorial assistant. The envelope also contained a photocopy of two US postal keys on a chain. A forensic document expert declared the handwriting on the envelope was not that of the Zodiac.
The police recognise that there can be between 20 and 30 serial killers operating in the United States at any given moment. Killers are often able to blend in to society, especially in large cities, as they appear so ordinary.