Image Entertainment must certainly get kudos for the clever timing of this release. ’Nova: Mind of a Serial Killer’ hits store shelves during a period when interest in serial murders should be running high thanks to the theatrical release of ’Hannibal’ and the recent DVD debut of ’Manhunter’. And while fans of fictional serial killers, such as Hannibal Lector, may be disappointed by this documentary, ’Nova: Mind of a Serial Killer’ is definitely not without its strong points.
This feature is taken from the PBS series ’Nova’, which typically focuses on scientific issues. It’s no different here, as this program details the scientific approach that the FBI uses to track and apprehend serial killers. ’Mind of a Serial Killer’, which is narrated by Patrick Stewart, opens with an brief overview of serial killers in general, giving name to many of histories most famous murderers, and then jumps into its primary story. ’Mind of a Serial Killer’ takes us inside the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and gives us a first-hand look at how the Investigative Support Unit attempts to profile serial killers. There are interviews with several FBI agents, most notably John Douglas, who many of you know from his commentary on the Criterion DVD of ’The Silence of the Lambs’. (He’s also rumored to be the person that fictional character Jack Crawford was patterned after). After these introductions, we are then taken through two examples of how the FBI work to track serial killers. The first is the 1982 child murders in Atlanta. The brief segment quickly shows how the FBI’s suspect profile is used to narrow down the list of suspects. We then turn to Rochester, New York, where a killer has been preying on local prostitutes. This story takes up the majority of the program. This segment is structured as a mystery, as we investigate the crime along with the local police and the FBI. As more victims are found, the FBI profilers are able to create a personality sketch of the killer and aid the local law-enforcement in apprehending a suspect.
Those expecting ’Nova: Mind of a Serial Killer’ to be the end-all documentary in serial killers will be disappointed. Also, some may be confused as to why such a relatively obscure case was used to depict the FBI’s techniques. The point of this program is to focus on the exploits of the FBI, not those of the killer. In that sense, ’Nova: Mind of a Serial Killer’ does a wonderful job. The program is very thorough and concise and gives a great amount of detail in showing how the FBI catches serial killers. The techniques used before and after a suspect is apprehended are used. For those who have read/seen ’Manhunter’ (’Red Dragon’) and/or ’Silence of the Lambs’ and wanted to know more about the technical aspects of the investigations, ’Nova: Mind of a Serial Killer’ is worth checking out.
The DVD of ’Nova: Mind of a Serial Killer’ presents the program in its original full-frame format. The image is very clear, and near broadcast quality, although there is some slight grain noticeable at times. The colors on the DVD look very good, with flesh tones all appearing quite natural. The audio on this DVD is a Dolby Digital Mono mix which does a nice job of presenting Patrick Stewart’s impressive narration and given us clear and audible dialogue.