Filmmaker Joe Berlinger has Ted Bundy on the brain.
He’s got “Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” — a Netflix documentary about the madman — and also directed “Extremely Evil, Shockingly Wicked Vile,” a feature film about Bundy and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, starring Zac Efron and Lily Collins. It will debut at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.
Bundy was executed 30 years ago after killing dozens of women in Washington, Utah, Colorado and Florida and giving birth to the term “serial killer.”
In “Conversations With a Killer,” Berlinger speaks to a variety of sources — journalist Stephen Michaud, who interviewed Bundy in a Florida prison, Washington State detective Kathleen McChesney and many law enforcement personnel — to assemble a chilling portrait of a killer who outfoxed nearly everybody on his trail. Bundy himself is heard on the tapes recounting his murderous spree.
“We’ve never gotten into the mind of a killer this way. When you listen to these tapes, they give the audience a very different view of what makes him tick,” Berlinger tells The Post. “America only has five percent of the world’s population but 67 percent of its serial killers. At any given time, the FBI estimates that there are 25 to 50 active serial killers operating in this country at any time.
“But Bundy’s name rises to the top,” he says. “He taps into our deepest fears. He was so likable, so charismatic. It proves you don’t really know the person next to you.”
With his ready-made grin and harmless, newscaster good looks, Theodore Robert Bundy was able to fool a lot of people often. Part of the problem in linking him to the murders was the reluctance of police departments to share information. Investigative techniques were primitive compared to what we accept as normal today. There was no DNA evidence, no central databases, no fax machines.
“Back in the late ’70s we didn’t have the technology we have now,” McChesney says.
And then Bundy tried to kidnap Carol Daronch in a Utah school parking lot in 1974. The brave young woman fought him off and identified him in a lineup after the cops stopped Bundy, who was driving with his lights off. Among the evidence police found in his Volkswagen was the key to the handcuffs he tried to use on Daronch.
“Carol was reluctant to participate,” Berlinger says. “I spent a year trying to convince her. She did not want to go public, but she’s critical to the story. Very few people were able to get away from Ted Bundy. She was able to recount his physicality and was [the] key to his ultimate capture.”
In March 1976, Bundy was convicted of aggravated kidnapping, putting him behind bars while investigators tried to connect him to the many unsolved murders in the three Western states. He escaped from jail in 1977.
Bundy’s bloody journey took him to Colorado, where the same cycle of murder, arrest and escape repeated itself. With the aid of 21 stolen credit cars and some cars, he made it to Florida and went on another killing spree. Among his victims: 12-year-old Pensacola, Fla. resident Kimberly Leach, slain in 1978. Bundy was apprehended and arrested, using a fake identity (Kenneth Misner) and would only come clean if he could make a phone call to his girlfriend. During that conversation to Kloepfer, he told her about a “force” that he could not control, that was changing his personality. It was tantamount to a confession. Police eventually figured out Misner was Bundy, now on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
“Bundy was apprehended each time because he was a bad driver,” Berlinger says. “He was caught driving a stolen car. Or driving without headlights.
“If he were a better driver he might never have been caught.”