Overall this series is well worth the watch. Informative, in-depth, and investigative, you will be captivated throughout.
This review of Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer is spoiler-free.
The world is attracted to Times Square. It’s full of glitz, glamour, bright lights, Broadway, hustle and bustle, and is home to millions of tourists each year. However, the Times Square we know today was a very different, dark place back in the 1970s and 1980s. The streets were filled with predators, public sex, and horrific murders. New York needed saving from itself.
In Netflix’s latest crime documentary series (the last one under this banner was The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel), we get a deep insight into the history of New York and the violent murders that took place in Times Square. With three episodes, each lasting 45 minutes, and arriving on Netflix on the 29th, you can get your Crime Series fix in just before the new year.
This docuseries has a very similar format: We are presented with real footage of New York, hard footage from the crime scenes, and original interviews. There are interviews with police who worked on the case, forensic experts, journalists, sex workers, writers, and people associated with some of the victims.
At the time of these murders DNA technology hadn’t come into fruition, and you can feel the frustration from the investigators – knowing that if they had the technology we do today, it would have been a completely different story.
The series covers multiple murders, where the women were left beaten, raped, and with parts of their bodies removed, such as their hands and breasts. With the first two victims, all that was left were their clothes, so the police used the clothing to dress mannequins to see if anyone recognized the outfits. One woman was able to be identified, and she was a high-value sex worker. The other victim remains unknown. It is implied that the women were likely to all be sex workers at the time.
This documentary is interesting as the focus isn’t constantly around the victims and their families, it’s around describing and understanding New York at the time, and how the culture created such an unsafe environment for women. Time Square became an epicenter for the sex trade, which lead many men to see women as something to be purchased and used. Like any addiction, sex addiction then led to many horrendous, violent murders. What I find incredibly interesting is the way in which this documentary is blaming society as a whole and not a specific serial killer and their upbringing/background. Their motive is the environment around them feeding them their power.
Due to these murders and the rise in female attacks, women against pornography became a movement in the ’70s and we see footage of women marching for equal rights of representation and the ban of pornography as it breeds violence against women.
We see the evolution of New York and the New York sex scene, how when the AIDs epidemic started, the city shut down a lot of its playpens and the safety of women was taken seriously, and live naked shows were stopped. In seven years, all the sex shops, massage parlors, and other entertainment venues had halved.
There are multiple suspects, and one confesses he’s killed more people than they know about. Richard Cunningham claims he conducted the perfect murder and was able to go underground and stay off the radar. With real audio footage from Cunningham, his voice is powerfully eerie.
There is no loud, dramatic music or flashing lights like I have seen in other recent documentaries and the story is well told in three episodes. It is dragged out and you’re not left feeling incomplete or empty.