Thursday, June 9, 2011

Carl Panzram: The Movie

About ten thousand years ago, give or take, I became interested in a book called Killer: A Journal of Murder, by Thomas E. Gaddis and James O. Long. Killer is the story of Carl Panzram, one of the earliest documented serial killers in America. He was executed way back in 1930.

The book is a fascinating blend of Panzram's unflinching autobiography, and the reportage of Gaddis and Long, who fill in the story's blanks.

Some years after discovering Killer I used it as the basis of a screenplay. The screenplay wasn't very good and never went anywhere. Not that I expected it to: who could possibly be interested in this obscure, brutal story?

And so it astonished me to learn, in 1996, that the book had been made into a feature film starring James Woods as Panzram. Unfortunately, the movie was pretty bad. The less said of it now, the better.

But I'm pleased to say that another film aiming to tell Panzram's story is in the works. Production of Carl Panzram: The Spirit of Hatred and Vengeance began about four years ago. The film goes beyond the boundaries of the Gaddis and Long book. I've had occasional contact with its director, John Borowski. Not because I have anything to do with the film, because I don't. Rather, I imposed myself because the project interests me, and Borowski has been nice enough (and tolerant enough) to reply to my emails.

The story of Carl Panzram is important; it demonstrates how we reap what we sow. Dr. Karl Menninger, the noted psychiatrist, examined Panzram, and later wrote, "I have always carried him in my mind as the logical product of our prison system."

Borowski says he hopes to finish Carl Panzram by the end of this year. He could use some help, though. He's begun an online fundraising campaign in collaboration with Indie Go Go.

Click here to see how you can help with this film's completion.

You can see some clips, and hear John Borowski talk about it, in the video below.

1 comment:

  1. How can you claim any authority AND not like the 1996 movie? It was moving, well done and accurate. I smell sour grapes.