There are many bizarre crime stories that have taken place in Phoenix that are crying out to be made into a movie, and the tale of the notorious “Trunk Murderess” Winnie Ruth Judd certainly ranks way up there in the top 10 (Hinman kidnapping is number one in my book, sorry). 85 years ago this Sunday; October 16, 1931, Winnie fought violently with her two former roommates in their small Phoenix cottage (that still stands to this day!). Angry words were spoken, accusations flew. Suddenly there was a gun, a struggle, and an ironing board! When it was all over, Winnie’s roommates Hedvig ‘Sammy’ Samuelson and Agnes ‘Anne’ LeRoi lay dead. Winnie then disposed of the bodies, dismembering one of them so both bodies would fit in a trunk. She then boarded a train and hauled herself and the bleeding luggage to Los Angeles. Upon arrival at Union Station, Winnie’s strange cargo was easily noticed by the authorities, and after being confronted, Winnie fled the train station. She roamed L.A.for several days looking for places to hide before finally surrendering to authorities in a funeral home. From there, everything about Winnie Ruth Judd and this lurid case took a very bizarre turn, as Winnie’s story became national news. Intrigued by the 1973 book about the crime Winnie Ruth Judd: The Trunk Murders by J. Dwight Dobkins, L.A. filmmaker and former Koo Koo Boy front man Scott Coblio has taken the story of Winnie Ruth Judd and has cleverly transcended the tale from the sublime to the ridiculous with his film ‘Murderess’ screening at 7 pm this Sunday night at Filmbar. Coblio’s film explores every bizarre facet of the crime, employing marionettes to recreate the flagitious, gory and downright strange story of the most famous murder in Phoenix. This is the Judd story like you’ve never seen it, but always heard it, as goofy puppets clumsily meander through outrageous scenery to tell the whole story of Winnie Ruth Judd in a serious, salacious and outrageous fashion.
Coblio originally made ‘Murderess’ in 2007. Since then, his film has screened every year in Phoenix on (or very close to) the anniversary of the crime. The film will be presented by The Trunk Space, where most of the films regular screenings took place during the last 10 years. Although director Coblio states that his film is not a “campy” take on the infamous Phoenix murder, he still manages to costume one of the characters just like Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? as well as voicing the Winnie puppet in a dead-on Joan Crawford. “The Winnie Ruth Judd story appealed to me for all its drama and, in a strange way, glamour.” Coblio said, “If you look at the old newspaper photos of Winnie and the cast of characters involved with this case, they often look like stills from an old Hollywood movie.”
Shot in black and white and color, ‘Murderess’ is an entertaining noir true crime
comic oeuvre that plays out just like a child’s puppet show, but is every bit the story of a twisted, philandering, conniving grown-up world where jealousy, corruption and secrets demand the ultimate price. The motivations and behavior of the real life adults in this story are every bit the silly, quirky and misguided motions of the puppets playing them. Coblio truly appreciates the story of Winnie Ruth Judd, yet presents it (at times word-for-word from trial transcripts) with the same eye rolling, tongue in cheek cynicism that anyone would after reading the lurid volumes of literature available about this case and the ensuing media circus. The medium he chose to tell the story of the trunk murderess was perfect, peering just on the edge of serious investigation while skating on the fringe of sardonic observation.
“This thing was film noir in real life.” Coblio said, “It has all the elements of a great movie to it: An attractive and intelligent young woman shows up at a train station with baggage containing the bodies of her best friends, disappears when asked to reveal their contents, shows up a week later claiming self defense, with some evidence to suggest that it might be true or partially true, and the story just gets stranger and stranger from there. It’s a movie waiting to happen!” ‘Murderess’ is happening this Sunday night, October 16 at 7 pm at Filmbar Phoenix . Admission is $9.
Final Take – Terrific story telling with no strings attached.
- Murderess: The true story of Winnie Ruth Judd
Famous Phoenix crime known as 'The Trunk Murders' is brought to life with puppets.