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The San Francisco area is beset by a series of seemingly random murders without motive or pattern. The police are taunted by phone calls and letters. Could the maniac be the violent, truck driver, or the seemingly mild-mannered mailman, or even a cop?
Some time after the brutal murder of a young woman in a San Francisco suburb, mailman Jerry has an argument with the landlady of an apartment building on his route. Later, Grover McDerry, a truck driver friend of Jerry, asks if Jerry will be joining him at a local bar that night, then has an argument with his ex-wife, Helen, who demands that he send her his long-past due alimony and child support payments. When Jerry arrives at his apartment and goes to feed his pet rabbits, he discovers that Leo, his favorite, has died. An anguished Jerry then buries Leo on a hillside, tearfully asking why he had to die while some people are allowed to live. That night, Jerry joins Grover at the bar but is standoffish with the women Grover has asked to join them. Grover privately asks Jerry if he is gay, then apologizes, after which Jerry joins him and the women. Late that night, while a couple is kissing near a reservoir, the young man, Judd, is shot to death in his car and the young woman is killed while trying to flee. Seven months later, reporter Pete discusses the lack of recent information on the murder cases with Sgt. Tom Pittman, who tells him that an older woman has been killed in her apartment. At a neighborhood coffee shop, Jerry is annoyed when Grover comes in and orders rabbit stew, saying that no one should eat rabbit. He is also upset when he observes a waitress with whom he is friendly arguing with Grover, whom she briefly dated. Late that night, after the coffee shop closes, while the waitress and the short order cook are sitting in her car talking about the cook's pregnant girl friend, both are killed by shots coming from a passing car they mistakenly assume is a police car. The police connect their deaths with the other unsolved murders and conclude that Grover was involved because he had recently fought with the waitress, has a history of violence and owns a gun. Because Grover had been arrested for drunken behavior the previous night, the police question him, but let him go for lack of evidence. Meanwhile, newspaper editor LeMay receives an envelope containing a large, handwritten letter with a number of ciphers at the bottom. He immediately calls Pittman after deducing that the letter may have been written by the killer. When they compare details, Pittman realizes that the author of the letter must be the killer because it reveals details about the crimes that have never been made public. The author, who has signed his letter "The Zodiac," taunts the police and brags that he will kill twelve people at random on Friday night unless the cipher is printed in the Friday editions of The San Francisco Chronicle and other papers. Several days later, Grover and Helen have a violent argument when he comes to her house and demands to see their daughter Julie. When he grabs Julie and draws his gun, Helen calls the police, who quickly arrive. Using his daughter as a shield, Grover goes out into the backyard, and when he sees a discarded newspaper with a headline about The Zodiac, screams "The Zodiac--that's me" and starts shooting. The police return Grover's fire, killing him. Soon after, Jerry makes an anonymous phone call to the police, telling them that they killed the wrong man. Some time later, after he has had several encounters with people whom he does not kill, Jerry dons a black robe and mask and chants in front of a large sign of the Zodiac in his apartment. He later goes to a lake, where he approaches a young couple having a picnic. After telling them that he is an escaped convict who only wants their car and will not hurt them, Jerry binds their hands, laughs and stabs each of them many times. He then uses the woman's lipstick to write three dates on the side of their car, dates that correspond to earlier murders. Immediately after this, Jerry makes another anonymous phone call to the police to report the crime. After killing a bikini-clad woman on his mail route because she tries to seduce him, Jerry thinks about contacting the newspapers again to gain more publicity. He then shoots out a tire on the car of an older woman and, after approaching her as a Good Samaritan offering to change the tire, kills her by crushing her head. His next murder is a San Francisco cab driver. A police car stops to radio in the murder, and when the policemen see Jerry, they ask if he has seen anyone, and Jerry affably says that he saw someone fleeing in another direction. Stymied in their attempts to stop the senseless Zodiac killings, Det. Ken Heller and Sgt. Pittman visit noted psychic Aaron Koslow, who posits that the Zodiac is a civil service employee who has a disarming and outgoing personality but is afraid of women. He speculates that the man was terminated four years previously and now works in an automotive body shop and hence has access to the many cars needed to elude the police. He also says that when they find the Zodiac, he will have a rabbit's foot on his keychain. When the skeptical Pittman and Heller leave Koslow's apartment, Jerry, who is nearby posing as a cab driver, offers them a ride, but they decline. Later, Jerry kills three more victims at random: a man in an elevator, a man in a hospital and a man sleeping on a chaise lounge beside a pool. One day, as Jerry walks through San Francisco streets, he amuses himself by thinking of the incompetence of the police and how they are hampered by new, restrictive laws. After thinking about the dictionary's definition of insanity, he laughs at its absurdity and concludes that the police will never capture him.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||R||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1971||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Color||Distributions Co:||State Rights|
|Sound:||Production Co:||Adventure Productions, Inc.|
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