Thursday, December 22, 2011

Doug Clark & Carol Bundy, Still Perfect 'American Horror Story' Fodder-- Now With The Right Platform!...


Today on a conference call with reporters to discuss the future of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy shared that season two will focus on a whole new house and new cast of characters, perhaps even drawing from some more true crime than season one (which took a stab, no pun intended, at the Black Dahlia). You can read more about what to expect in season two here, but the idea of driving down the true crime road got my fire blazing anew. In high school, true crime books were really all I read recreationally-- so much so that for my senior thesis, I chose to write a suspense thriller script instead of a standard research paper. Then when I was at USC's film school, my final student film for the introductory production class I took was a trailer for what I hoped I could someday write and produce as an independent feature. It was a modern-day interpretation of the real "Sunset Strip Killers," the team killers of Douglas Clark and Carol M. Bundy. Needless to say, for many reasons, I never obtained the rights to the story, nor made the feature film come to fruition. But maybe things really do (or don't) happen for a reason, because now looking at the platform that is American Horror Story, I can't imagine a better place to tell the Clark/Bundy story. And so I offer that story up to Murphy now, another gem from the dark, twisted history of Los Angeles, perfect for his "murder tour" of the city in season two.

Look, I'm going to miss Constance, Tate, and Vivien Harmon more than the average viewer, but what's done is done, and we can't bury ourselves in the past. As much as I may want to this time around. I'll lick my wounds in private, though, if it means new types of television are being given a chance. Onward and upward is the phrase, right? So I'm looking ahead to what could make the second season-- the new anthology chapter-- of American Horror Story the best possible for me, and this is it.

THE FOLLOW IS QUITE THE DEPARTURE FROM MY USUAL TV CHATTER. THE FOLLOWING RECOUNTS GRIZZLY CRIMES AND IS NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN, THE WORK ENVIRONMENT, OR THE SENSITIVE. THOUGH IF YOU'RE A FAN OF AMERICAN HORROR STORY ALREADY, THIS WARNING IS PROBABLY SUPERFLUOUS...

Douglas Clark and Carol M. Bundy picked up women (mainly prostitutes) in Southern California, usually luring them in out of a false sense of security or safety since it wasn't a woman getting into a van with some strange guy-- another woman was there, too. Sometimes the women were blatantly hired to perform sex acts. They mostly found these women in Hollywood, so I'm going to guess that the latter was the majority of the time. They would then kill the women, and sometimes Clark would still have sex with the bodies. On occasion, he would cut the woman's head off and keep it in the freezer to perform additional sex acts with it later. When they were arrested, Bundy played the victim card at first, saying she didn't know any better and that she didn't actually help Clark commit any of the crimes but that she did know about them. As time went on, the story changed, and Clark even claimed she committed at least one of the murders-- the only one that didn't fit the usual pattern, a guy who Bundy actually knew quite well. This was Robert "Jack" Murray, who it appears Bundy killed to prove to Clark she could be just as bad as him. She was acting out, looking for attention, and she certainly got it. There never seemed to be any question, though, that regardless of motive, they each had their part in these crimes, and they each went into them more than willingly.

What was always most fascinating to me was not the actual crimes but the mindset of the woman who helped see them through. She was not "just" an abused woman with Stockholm Syndrome. At one point she even called the police to admit her boyfriend had killed a woman. But still, she stayed. Did she think she couldn't do better-- didn't deserve better-- than him? Did she fear what would happen to her if she left him? Or did she simply like the excitement, the thrill she finally felt, even if it was while committing a heinous act? I always estimated it was the latter, and when I wrote my own fictionalized film version, that was the angle I took. I found it much more interesting, and yes, much more intense. For today's audience, though, it just feels like you can't tell the tale any other way. Bundy was a nurse; she was a single mother; she was a seemingly normal woman. Until Clark came into her life. Then something switched in her; the light went on-- or was snuffed out, depending on your point of view, I guess. These two may have been the real life, code-less Dexter Morgan and Lumen Pierce.

Clark and Bundy have been profiled in a number of books, including "The Need to Kill," "Team Killers," and "The Serial Killer Letters," as well as a special on truTV, but those were always very clinical "he said/she said" scenarios that presented the facts as the public knew them to be true. And because of the team nature of the crimes, the truth probably lies somewhere in between anyway. I think Murphy's mind is made for filling in the blanks and creating an even more complex back story than the snippets we have been given. What I could gather when I was doing research to write the feature script, though, Bundy's sons don't want this story told again and again, splashing their family into the headlines. And for that, I can't blame them. But it's been years now, and perhaps the simple fact that it would be portrayed on a fictional show, not as an expose, would be enough for them. Besides, Murphy wants to keep some of his original cast, and come on? A woman as complicated as Bundy just screams for Connie Britton!

I would like to close this post with the actual trailer to my version of this story because in my version, it wasn't just about the killers but the (female) detective who was tracking them-- a woman who was just as beaten down by life and her situation and perhaps could understand Carol's point of view, if not her complete motives, because of it. The two women were supposed to run parallel to each other, with each of them ending up in very different places. I said I would like to close this post that way because I can't actually figure out how to rip the trailer from my DVD and put it on YouTube. If any of you are better with video technology than me and do know how to do such a thing, please shoot me an email using the "Contact" tab at the top of this website. It's sophomoric, but I still think it's worth seeing. Abby Miller gave a fantastic performance as twisted Carol, and to this day, the music by Alchemist is one of my favorite instrumental tracks.

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