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The Deliberate Stranger

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The Deliberate Stranger
VHS cover
  • Crime
  • drama
  • thriller
Based onThe Deliberate Stranger
by Richard W. Larsen
Screenplay byHesper Anderson
Directed byMarvin J. Chomsky
Theme music composerGil Mellé
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producerMalcolm Stuart
ProducerMarvin J. Chomsky
CinematographyMichael D. Margulies
  • Lori Jane Coleman
  • Howard Kunin
  • Ronald LaVine
Running time188 minutes
Production companiesStuart Phoenix Productions
Original release
ReleaseMay 4, 1986 (1986-05-04)May 5, 1986 (1986-05-05)

The Deliberate Stranger is a book about American serial killer Ted Bundy written by Seattle Times reporter Richard W. Larsen that was published in 1980. The book spawned a television miniseries of the same title, starring Mark Harmon as Bundy, that aired on NBC on May 4–5, 1986.


Bundy: The Deliberate Stranger was written by Seattle Times reporter Richard W. Larsen and published in 1980. Larsen covered politics for the Times and had interviewed Bundy in 1972, several years before he became a murder suspect, when Bundy worked as a volunteer for the re-election campaign of Gov. Daniel J. Evans and had been seen trailing the campaign of Evans' Democratic opponent with a video camera.

Larsen would go on to cover the "Ted" murders in 1974, when Bundy was first identified as a suspect in Seattle area homicides, and then cover the Ted Bundy story up until Bundy's execution in 1989. Bundy: The Deliberate Stranger was published in paperback in editions as late as 1990 but has since gone out of print.

Television miniseries[edit]

The Deliberate Stranger was adapted into a two-part television movie originally broadcast on NBC on May 4 and 5, 1986.[1] The film, based on Larsen's book, starred Mark Harmon as Bundy. Parts of the film were shot in Salt Lake City and at Utah State Prison as well as Farmington, Utah and Seattle, Washington.[2]

The film omits Bundy's childhood, early life, and first six known victims (five murders and the first victim who survived), picking up the story with the murder of Georgann Hawkins and following Bundy's further crimes in Washington, Utah, Colorado and Florida. Frederic Forrest starred as Seattle detective Robert D. Keppel, and George Grizzard played reporter Larsen.


Broadcast technical difficulties[edit]

During the second part's broadcast, a few NBC affiliates (including WPXI channel 11 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and KPRC channel 2 Houston, Texas) were interrupted by a frozen scene and a static sound until placing their own technical difficulties tel-op graphics for less than 30 seconds before returning to its fixed program.[3][4]


Bundy's lawyer Polly Nelson, in her book Defending the Devil, characterized the film as "stunningly accurate" and said it did not portray anything that was not proven to be factual. She singled out praise for Harmon's portrayal of Bundy, noting how Harmon reproduced Bundy's rigid posture and suspicious expression.[5] According to Nelson, her client, still on death row when the program aired, showed no interest in seeing the film.[6]

Ann Rule, who had known Bundy before the murders when they worked together on a suicide crisis hotline (Jeannetta Arnette played a character based on Rule), felt that Harmon's portrayal missed the insecurities that lurked under Bundy's confident façade.[7] Harmon was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Bundy.[8]

According to The New York Times, the two shows ranked seventeenth and sixth in the Nielsen ratings.[9] Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times described it as "taut, suspenseful, scary".[10]


  1. ^ O'Connor, John J. (May 2, 1986). "TV WEEKEND; NETWORKS INTRODUCING NEW SHOWS". The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
  2. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  3. ^ "KPRC issued technical difficulties during second part". May 5, 1986. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved July 12, 2020 – via YouTube.
  4. ^ "WPXI issued technical difficulties during second part". May 5, 1986. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved July 12, 2020 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ Nelson 1994, p. 68.
  6. ^ Nelson 1994, p. 66.
  7. ^ Rule 2000, p. 482.
  8. ^ Carter, Alan (August 31, 1998). "Times Have Changed for Mark Harmon". New York Daily News – via Lakeland Ledger.
  9. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (October 7, 1986). "2 MINI-SERIES TO LOOK AT SAME KILLING". The New York Times. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
  10. ^ Rosenberg, Howard (May 3, 1986). "Weekend Tv : 'Stranger': Cold Look at a Killer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 5, 2014.

External links[edit]