The Stupid Movie That (Possibly) Inspired The Zodiac Killer
In addition to being a real-life terror in the 1960s, the notorious Zodiac Killer has inspired his fair share of movies; from Dirty Harry to Zodiac (naturally) to The Batman, which features a distinctly Zodiac-esque version of The Riddler – which definitely did not drive the actor insane, by the way. But it turns out that Zodiac (who may or may not have been a dude named "Gary") may have himself taken inspiration from an old Hollywood movie …
Before you go scouring Casablanca for the serial killer subplot you forgot all about, the movie in question is 1939's Charlie Chan at Treasure Island. Charlie Chan, of course, is the famous fictional police detective who also happens to be a glaringly repugnant Asian stereotype, usually played by white actors on film. Note, this wasn't some folksy relic of the past that everyone was cool with at the time. The National Asian American Telecommunications Association and the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium both urged Fox Studios to cancel the franchise for promoting "an offensive stereotype who revives sentiments and social dynamics that should be relegated to the past."
In any case, this movie -- that no one should really ever watch again -- shares several similarities to the real Zodiac case, forcing some to consider whether or not the real killer could have possibly been inspired by the film. For starters, it takes place in San Francisco and begins with a murder, followed by a mysterious note about the danger posed by "Zodiac." However, unlike the real investigation, this clue leads the detective to investigate a psychic literally named "Dr. Zodiac."
This obviously recalls the notes the Zodiac Killer sent to the San Francisco Chronicle -- as seen here in the David Fincher movie:
Author Robert Graysmith (AKA the Jake Gyllenhaal character in Zodiac) argues in his book that the suspect he believed to be Zodiac, Arthur Leigh Allen, watched Charlie Chan at Treasure Island on a local TV station in the '60s and that it became the "last blueprint for Zodiac." According to Graysmith, one of Allen's childhood friends even claimed that it was "Leigh's favorite movie as a kid." This seems like pretty compelling evidence – but then again, it could be that the killer simply took inspiration from a dumb watch ad:
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Top Image: Paramount Pictures