For this list, I’ve decided to eliminate any villains that are canonically mentally disturbed, so no Commander Jim or Tommy Marlowe. I can’t consider them creepy as the show itself generally treats characters who commit crimes because of a mental illness or disturbance with compassion which is a whole other blog post. I’ve stuck with the characters that give me goosebumps every time I re-watch an episode with them in it.
5: Eugene Pruitt: Las Vegas Strangler. One could argue that Eugene Pruitt is mentally disturbed on some level. He’s a serial killer after all. But canonically we aren’t told he is. I know he’s going to kill his mother but every single time I watch that methodical preparation for the killing, every time he walks into the garage and closes the door, I get a sick feeling in my stomach. The aftermath when Starsky and Hutch discover the body (and I can just imagine what we’d be treated to today if the show were filmed now–I’m grateful for the restraint of 70s TV) is chilling. He’s one of the villains that when the news media interviews the neighbors, everyone says how quiet he was and how he kept to himself and was a good son. Well, except for the being a serial killer and murdering his mom.
4. Artie Solkin: Vendetta. Unlike Tommy Marlowe who is a character to be pitied, Artie Solkin is to be despised. We never quite know the extent of Artie’s crimes against people like Tommy and Jimmy-the show never gives us all the answers, but one can imagine. Watching him makes me want to take a bath in bleach. Kudos to the actor Stefan Gierasch who made Solkin so utterly despicable that you want to see him get taken down completely. I imagine that Artie uses young men/boys as his playthings. What has gone on between Hutch and Artie also is never known. Did Hutch see the aftermath of something Artie did to another victim? Was Hutch molested when he was younger and Artie brings all of that back? We don’t know and it’s one of the things I love about Starsky and Hutch. Not having all the answers provides plenty of room for interpretation both in discussions and fanfiction.
3. Simon Marcus: Bloodbath. I still remember Bloodbath from my teen years. I can still remember the bear and the torches and the chanting. What I didn’t remember quite as much was Simon Marcus. The scenes between Simon and Hutch are some of my favorite in all of the series. We get bad ass Hutch and Simon who is playing games with an increasingly frustrated Hutch and enjoying every moment of it. I’m pretty sure they were going for a whole Charles Manson vibe with the character. Once again, we never know all the crimes Simon Marcus and his cult have committed–we never even know how Starsky and Hutch broke the case or what they did to bring him in. But we do know that Simon has a strong hold over his followers and to those in his cult is their God. I’ve always been fascinated in reading about cults and Simon Marcus is certainly the epitome of a classic cult leader. He’s one of the villains that I’d love to know what happens next. What happens to his cult once he is sentenced? Do others go to prison? Once again, we don’t know.
2. Professor Gage: Class in Crime. I debated whether or not Gage deserved the top spot or not, but I had to defer to another. If I were doing this by a point system, Gage would have lost to first by only hundredths of a point. Gage is so creepy because he kills for the sake of killing–almost as if killing is an experiment. Mickie, his partner, at least seems to get a sexual thrill out of killing. But what does Gage get? The satisfaction of a job well done? Or is it just to prove he can kill? I suspect it’s more the latter. Gage is so arrogant that the law means nothing to him. People are nothing but inanimate objects to play with. Even in his interactions in the classroom, he is pretentious. He is one of those people I’d hate to interact with because no matter what he always thinks he’s better than you and wouldn’t be afraid to let you know it. The only true emotion we ever see with him is at the end when Mickie is shot and even then, I wonder how much emotion he truly feels. Is he upset that Mickie got shot because he loves her or upset because someone got the better of him?
1. James Marshall Gunther: Sweet Revenge. I may be addicted to watching Sweet Revenge. It’s one of my top 5 episodes and part of it is due to the fact that I love to hate James Gunther. He is creepy to the extreme. From his introduction where we just see his hand with the gold chain and hear his voice and then have him in front of a picture of Starsky and Hutch to the end with him being handcuffed by Hutch, Gunther is a villain to top all villains. He’s arrogant, he’s rich, he obviously thinks he’s above the law, he’s ruthless, he cares only about himself–I could go on and on. The interactions between Gunther and Bates are brilliantly done and every re-watch I get something more out of them. Bates honestly believes that he can persuade Gunther that everything is not lost. He honestly believes that Gunther will listen to him. But Gunther isn’t that kind of man. Gunther wants what he wants and he will resort to anything to get it. He also wants to hang on to everything he has. The scene with Gunther telling Bates to drink his coffee is chilling. On my latest re-watch, I’ve now questioned whether or not Gunther had also thought of poisoning himself since the poison must be in the sugar bowl. Was he planning to do that or did he only want to kill Bates? What about Thomas–did Thomas know there was poison? Is Thomas in on it? I like to think that Thomas is a protected witness and turns on Gunther. Obviously Thomas is just a tool for Gunther to use–disposable as are all who associate with him. If it’s chilling to watch Gunther so calmly tell Bates to drink his coffee, it’s even more frightening to listen to Gunther’s soliloquy as he is waiting for Hutch to arrive. He’s unraveling and he knows his reign is over. When Hutch walks in and we see the dead Bates in the chair, it’s chilling and sickening at the same time. Gunther sitting behind the desk with the gun and Hutch standing up to him and telling him just the way it’s going to be is one of the best Hutch scenes in the series. Although Gunther has so much power and so much wealth, I can’t help but think when he’s being cuffed by Hutch and read his Miranda rights that despite it all, he’s just a man. Maybe that’s the important message about villains–they are just people like the rest of us. They aren’t gods, they aren’t beyond the reach of the law, they aren’t immortal, and someday, somehow, they will be brought to justice.