Citizen X

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Citizen X
Citizen X (poster).jpg
Promotional poster
  • Biography
  • Crime
  • Drama
Based onThe Killer Department
by Robert Cullen
Screenplay byChris Gerolmo
Directed byChris Gerolmo
Music byRandy Edelman
Executive producer(s)
  • Timothy Marx
  • Robert Stone (co-producer)
  • Webster Stone (co-producer)
CinematographyRobert Fraisse
Editor(s)William Goldenberg
Running time105 minutes
Production company(s)
Original networkHBO
Picture formatColor
Audio formatDolby
Original releaseFebruary 25, 1995 (1995-02-25)

Citizen X is a 1995[1] American television film which covers the efforts of detectives in the Soviet Union to capture an unknown serial killer of women and children in the 1980s, and the successive bureaucratic obstacles they consistently encounter. The film is based upon the true story of Soviet serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, who was convicted in 1992 of the murder of 52 women and children committed between 1978 and 1990. It stars Stephen Rea, Donald Sutherland, and Max Von Sydow.

The film is based on Robert Cullen's non-fiction book The Killer Department, published in 1993.


A body is discovered on a collective farm during harvesting in 1982. A subsequent search of adjacent woods, authorized by newly installed forensic specialist, Viktor Burakov, turns up seven more bodies in varying stages of decomposition. The film tells the story of the subsequent eight-year hunt by Burakov for the serial killer responsible for the mutilation and murder of 53 people, 52 of them below the age of 35. Burakov is promoted to detective and eventually aided, covertly at first, by Col. Mikhail Fetisov, his commanding officer and the shrewd head of the provincial committee for crime, and, much later, by Alexandr Bukhanovsky, a psychiatrist with a particular interest in what he calls "abnormal psychology".

As well as taking on the form of a crime thriller, the movie depicts Soviet propaganda and bureaucracy that contributed to the failure of law enforcement agencies to capture the killer, Andrei Chikatilo, for almost a decade. Chikatilo's crimes were not reported publicly for years. Local politicians were fearful such revelations would have a negative impact on the USSR's image, since serial killers were associated with Western moral corruption.

Chikatilo first came under scrutiny early in the search when he was spotted at a station and found holding a satchel bag containing a knife. He was promptly arrested. Unfortunately, he was shielded from investigation and released due to his membership in the Communist Party. Additionally, the Soviet crime labs erroneously reported that his blood type did not match that found at the murders. All this changed under the political reforms of glasnost and Perestroika, and the search for the killer began to make progress.

With the passage of time and easing of political restrictions, Burakov devises a plan to blanket almost all the railroad stations, where the serial killer preys upon the young and unsuspecting, with conspicuous uniformed men to discourage the killer. Three small stations, however, are left unattended, except for undercover agents. Chikatilo is eventually discovered and identified through the diligence of a local, plainclothes soldier.

Arrested, Andrei Chikatilo is interrogated for seven consecutive days by Gorbunov, a Soviet hardliner who insists that he be the one to extract a confession. Chikatilo will not yield and, under pressure from Fetisov and Burakov, Gorbunov agrees to another approach. Psychiatrist Bukhanovsky is introduced into the interview room. He recites from his lengthy analysis and speculation, made three years earlier, of the personality and tendencies of this sexually frustrated killer, whom he had entitled "Citizen X". Bukhanovsky eventually strikes a nerve, and a weeping Chikatilo finally admits his guilt and answers specific questions about the details of some murders. Afterwards, Chikatilo leads law enforcement officials to the crime scenes and three additional undetected graves.

Held in a metal cage during his trial, a wild-eyed Chikatilo is convicted and sentenced to death. The film concludes with Chikatilo being led to a nameless prison chamber and shows him staring in shock at a central drain in the room's floor as a uniformed soldier delivers a pistol shot to the back of the killer's head.




The film was shot in Hungary. The station where Chikatilo picks his victims is the Hatvan railway station, northeast of Budapest. The smaller, arched train shelter scene was shot in Nagymaros, Gödöllő, and Szokolya. Several other scenes were shot in the Gödöllő Railway Station.


The film was directed by Chris Gerolmo, who additionally wrote the screenplay (adapted from Robert Cullen's 1993 non-fiction book The Killer Department) in addition to playing a minor role in the film as a militiaman.


The score for Citizen X was composed and conducted by Randy Edelman. It has been released on CD in the US by Varèse Sarabande.


Critical reception[edit]

Citizen X was met with positive reviews from critics and audiences. It earned an 86 percent score at the movie review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes,[2] and a rating of 7.6/10 from viewers and critics on the Internet Movie Database.[3] Scott Weinberg of described it as "Fascinating and absorbing. One of HBO's finest made-for-cable flicks."


Home media[edit]

Citizen X has been released on DVD in the US (HBO, region 1 NTSC), Germany (Cargo Records, region 2 PAL), Denmark (Scanbox, region 2 PAL) and the Netherlands (Paradiso Home Entertainment, region 2 PAL). The film received theatrical release in some territories and was exhibited in the widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Only the German DVD has a widescreen transfer; all others reflect the 1990s 1.33:1 TV aspect ratio, as originally broadcast.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ O'Connor, John J. (February 25, 1995). "Television Review; A Soviet Serial Murderer". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Citizen X". Rotten Tomatoes. 1005.
  3. ^ "Citizen X". IMDb. 1995.
  4. ^ "28ed. Festival Internaciona de Cinema Fantàstic de Sitges (7/10 - 14/10)". Sitges Film Festival. 1995. Retrieved March 4, 2013.

External links[edit]