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front cover onlyWhat Killed Eliot Ness?

(2003-6, 80 min. DVD, $14.95+tax, s&h) Eliot Ness amounted to far more than one half of yet another American match between cops and robbers, or a modern marshal living out the Western mystique by running the bad guys out of town – though he certainly did do all that and more. Like the rest of us, Ness was multidimensional – he was a bit of a bonvivant who enjoyed a drink or two, hung out with some of Cleveland’s prominent artistic circles of his time, and cared about the downtrodden. He suffered two disappointing and childless marriages, yet finally met his soul mate in Elisabeth, with whom he adopted a son, Robert. Eliot Ness is routinely described by those who knew him or studied him as kind, quiet, tenacious, curious, humble and hard working.

His time in Cleveland, Ohio – compared to that in Chicago – ran far deeper and longer, and cast Eliot Ness as not just Director of Public Safety and modern reformer of a lax and shady municipal structure, who made the city of Cleveland a more livable one. Ness also became a reluctant but intrepid warrior in a decidedly darker, chilling and supreme battle between nothing less than the forces of good and evil. And whether it seems a matter of fate or just timing, it appears Ness did, indeed, find and crush the killer – but at tremendous cost to Eliot Ness.

The case of the Torso Murderer left behind whatever innocence remained from the 1900s; it needed no twentieth century mythologizing to be rendered, in turn, gripping and decidedly frightening, still calling for resolution, well into a new millennium. Such conflict was also testament to the bravery and tenacity of Cleveland’s finest: rank and file detectives like Peter Merylo, as well as other police officers under Ness’ command who for years chased down every lead, unearthed unspeakably grisly remains, and suffered the indignities of going underground to ferret out this inhuman abomination.