Story: In the late 1970s, the Los Angeles area would be besieged by a surge in murder cases and at times, before one case could even be processed, another corpse would be found. Some victims were just dumped in more off the beaten path spots, while others were dropped right in people’s yards, which horrified an already shaken community. Women would refuse to travel alone, even just to school or work, as patterns of targeting them had become obvious. This rash of brutal killings would last years and was not the work of a serial killer, but instead, the sick actions of multiple serial killers, all stalking Los Angeles at the same time. In City of Angels, City of Death, we are taken inside this horrific series of murders and shown how detectives managed these high profile cases.
Entertainment Value: I’ve seen a wealth of true crime docuseries, but this one is especially remarkable, as it takes us up close to a series of high profile, infamous cases that unfolded as multiple serial killers preyed on the same general area. I can’t even imagine the pressure involved in trying to capture one killer, let alone a series of murderers, some of whom had similar patterns, which only made solving the cases even more difficult. The series brings in first hand accounts from the detectives involved in the cases, which is invaluable since we can hear their memories directly and see the emotion involved, even all these decades later. You can see the toll these crimes took on these detectives and they provide candid, open interviews about the cases and their personal feelings at the time. That is the ideal way for true crime stories to be told, as we hear from the actual people involved, not just researchers or amateur sleuths. While the detectives have the main spotlight in the interviews, we also hear from surviving victims, reporters, and forensic experts.
City of Angels, City of Death runs six episodes and while some information is repeated, I didn’t mind since there are so many cases going on, especially in the first few episodes. A lot of information is shared in short bursts here, so being reminded what’s going on with this case or another before the narrative switches lanes was a wise choice. As the stories unfold and some find resolution, there is more of a focus on the remaining cases, which means things are less complicated to follow and at that point, the recaps slow down. As for which serial killers are involved, the series examines The Toolbox Killers, The Sunset Strip Killer, The Dating Game Killer, The Hillside Strangler, and The Freeway Killer, so imagine all of these sick predators on the prowl at the same time. The focus is on the detectives and their crusade to end the murders, so don’t expect in depth profiles on the killers, but the show does take some time to provide context and basic information. I found City of Angels, City of Death to be a powerful, gripping look at a perfect storm of brutal crime that plagued Los Angels. I recommend this to anyone with an interest in serial killers or true crime.