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Carl Panzram is sent to Leavenworth Prison for burglary. While there, he is brutally beaten by a guard. Neophyte guard Henry Lesser feels sympathy for Panzram, befriends him, and gets him to write his life story. Lesser learns that Panzram's past is much more violent than he thought, but also that he's capable of being a much better person than the rest of the prison staff believes - or so Lesser thinks. Written by
Jon Reeves <email@example.com>
Don't get me wrong; this movie is worth at least one viewing. James Woods - as usual - is great in his performance, and the supporting cast is good, too.
Killer: A Journal of Murder is based on Thomas Gaddis' and James O. Long's fascinating 1970 book of the same name. It contains many of the letters Panzram wrote to Henry Lesser (who was a Washington, D.C. jail guard, not a prison guard at Leavenworth) while he was on death row in Leavenworth.
While it is a common practice for films to take artistic liberties when dealing with true stories, this film went a bit far in trying to make Carl Panzram (Woods) into a sympathetic character. True, Carl Panzram was the product of a barbaric prison system, but he stands out in history as one of the few arch-criminals who did not want sympathy, something this film ignores.
This was a film that needed to be made, but unfortunately, the story was mishandled in a maudlin attempt to get the viewer to care about one of the most reprehensible human beings who ever lived. If they had wanted to make a biographical film to convey their particular message, the people responsible for this movie should have made a film about Caryl Chessman, a criminal more eloquent, tragic and - most importantly - far more sympathetic than Carl Panzram.
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