6.4/10
2,046
16 user 16 critic

Killer: A Journal of Murder (1995)

Trailer
1:56 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $9.99 (SD) on Prime Video

ON DISC
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 ... See full summary »

Director:

Tim Metcalfe

Writers:

Thomas E. Gaddis (book) (as Thomas Gaddis), James Long (book) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Cop (1988)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

An obsessive, insubordinate homicide cop is convinced a serial killer is loose in the Hollywood area and disobeys orders in order to catch him.

Director: James B. Harris
Stars: James Woods, Lesley Ann Warren, Charles Durning
Documentary | Biography | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

The true story of lifelong criminal and serial killer, Carl Panzram who wrote his autobiography for a jail guard in 1928.

Director: John Borowski
Stars: John DiMaggio, Tom Lodewyck, David Salmonson
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

An LA police officer is murdered in the onion fields outside of Bakersfield. However, legal loopholes could keep his kidnappers from receiving justice, and his partner is haunted by overwhelming survivor's guilt.

Director: Harold Becker
Stars: John Savage, James Woods, Franklyn Seales
Best Seller (1987)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A hitman approachs a writer to help him create the next best seller on his career, but the violent world he was a part of has other plans.

Director: John Flynn
Stars: James Woods, Brian Dennehy, Victoria Tennant
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

Sam Shepard's coming of age drama about a dirt-poor 1950's-era farm family. Dad's a foul talking drunk, and Mom is desperately trying to save what's left of their family life.

Director: J. Michael McClary
Stars: James Woods, Kathy Bates, Randy Quaid
Fast-Walking (1982)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A corrupt prison guard becomes involved in a plot to murder a black revolutionary serving time in his prison.

Director: James B. Harris
Stars: James Woods, Tim McIntire, Kay Lenz
Dirty Pictures (TV Movie 2000)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A Cincinnati museum director goes on trial in 1990 for exhibiting sadomasochistic photographs taken by Robert Mapplethorpe.

Director: Frank Pierson
Stars: James Woods, Ann Marin, Craig T. Nelson
Documentary
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

Ukraine. Across its eastern border is Russia and to its west-Europe. For centuries, it has been at the center of a tug-of-war between powers seeking to control its rich lands and access to the Black Sea. 2014's Maidan Massacre triggered a bloody uprising that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and painted Russia as the perpetrator by Western media. But was it? "Ukraine on Fire" by Igor Lopatonok ... See full summary »

Director: Igor Lopatonok
Stars: Fanny Sage, Lotus Bech, Arina Belanova
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Based on a real-life court case, the film finds members of the McMartin family on trial for alleged sexual molestation and abuse of children at their well-regarded preschool. ... See full summary »

Director: Mick Jackson
Stars: James Woods, Mercedes Ruehl, Lolita Davidovich
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

The life of Buddy Young, a comic legend in flashbacks but an old man looking for work in the present.

Director: Billy Crystal
Stars: Billy Crystal, David Paymer, Julie Warner
In Love and War (TV Movie 1987)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

This movie is an account of US Navy Commander James Stockdale's 8 year imprisonment in North Vietnam. During his confinement in such camps as the infamous "Hanoi Hilton", Stockdale, among ... See full summary »

Director: Paul Aaron
Stars: Jane Alexander, James Woods, Concetta Tomei
Documentary
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 3/10 X  
Directors: Vince DiPersio, Bill Guttentag
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Woods ... Carl Panzram
Robert Sean Leonard ... Henry Lesser
Ellen Greene ... Elizabeth Wyatt
Cara Buono ... Esther Lesser
Robert John Burke ... R.G. Greiser
Richard Riehle ... Warden Quince
Harold Gould ... Old Henry Lesser
John Bedford Lloyd ... Dr. Karl Menninger
Jeffrey DeMunn ... Sam Lesser
Conrad McLaren Conrad McLaren ... Judge John W. Kingman
Steve Forrest ... Warden Charles Casey
Richard Council ... Cop
Christopher Petrosino Christopher Petrosino ... Richard Lesser
Michael Jeffrey Woods Michael Jeffrey Woods ... Harry Sinclair (as Michael Jeffery Woods)
Rob Locke Jones Rob Locke Jones ... Junkie
Edit

Storyline

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 <jreeves@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Liar. Thief. Murderer. He hated all of humanity, himself most of all.


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong language and strong, brutal violence, including a rape | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

6 September 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Killer See more »

Filming Locations:

Connecticut, USA See more »

Edit

Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$31,993, 8 September 1996, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$65,682, 15 September 1996
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR

Color:

Black and White | Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The film is dedicated to Sam Peckinpah because The Wild Bunch (1969) inspired director 'Metcalfe, Tim' to become a director. See more »

Goofs

When Carl Panzram begins narrating the beginning of his journal the text shown doesn't match the narrative. The text states that Panzram is a liar, a degenerate, and a murderer, while the voice over immediately jumps into his early childhood and upbringing. See more »

Quotes

Carl Panzram: I don't want to be alive. I want out of these clothes. I want out of this body. I want out of this world.
See more »


Soundtracks

WE TRIED TO REACH FOR THE MOON
Music & lyrics by Bill Elliott
Performed by Bill Elliott & His Orchestra
Sung by Jeff Gilbert
Courtesy of Windswept Pacific Entertainment Co.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Escape from Shawshank Cliches...
3 February 2004 | by MovieAddict2016See all my reviews

All films that take place in prison are essentially focused on one central theme, and that is survival. Clint Eastwood was a survivor in "Escape from Alcatraz" and so was Tim Robbins in "The Shawshank Redemption."

One of these stories was anchored in reality and the other was purely fantasy. But both had the same theme and so does "Killer: A Journal of Murder."

The primary difference between "Killer" and "Shawshank" is that the latter is greater than the former in many various ways. But the former is also based on fact, which makes it more important--in some ways--than "Shawshank." But "Shawshank" had more spirit than the former and the former's morals don't come across as strong as the latter's.

The latter, regardless of it being a completely false tale and a semi-copy of "Alcatraz," is a much better story. Even if Stephen King wrote the short story.

It's the true story of a petty thief (James Woods) who claimed to have murdered twenty-one men during the 1930s, and was sent to prison under the care of a devilish warden and a new worker who had a mysterious connection with him (Robert Sean Leonard). Their relationship is never very convincing and the film doesn't do a very good job of making us care for either of its characters.

Acting as a tertiary consumer, the thief kills the secondary consumer, The Bad Guard (Robert John Burke). The thief is moved to a new jail cell afterwards. He has all the cigarettes, books and magazines he could wish for, not to mention a larger cell. "I shoulda killed a man ages ago," says the thief.

Is he crazy or not? Did he brutally beat the bad guy via a split personality, or was he in a right state of mind? This is the question that the film wants to press--whether the man was injustly hanged--but it never takes the idea any farther than a fleeting moment in the mind of the good jail guard who understands that prison is wrong. Hey, no society is perfect. You want them all to be let loose on the streets? You don't have any better ideas about capital punishment? Then quit whining.

There are too many ideas in a film such as this. First we have the touching story of a jail guard who becomes best buddies with the notorious criminal who inhabits the place. Then we move into the Danger Zone of cliches--the mean warden, the bad jail guards who are bad for no reason, etc. Then we move on to the journal written by the thief and we get a half-hour flashback of the man's life. Then we're back in the present and everything turns into a murder trial. Then we get an unsatisfying ending where the good guy blows all his money buying beer. Say what?

Essentially these types of films in this type of genre rely on likable characters to carry them towards the touchdown. "Killer: A Journal of Murder" has none and isn't very inspiring in any sort of subtle way, which makes me wonder why--and how--it ever got green lit in the first place.

James Woods is a good actor because he can lend himself to various characters in various situations. He played a criminal in Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America," too, but he also played a radio talk show manager in "Straight Talk" and a nasty bird in "Stuart Little 2." He's played a cop before and he's played an everyman before and he's played a doctor before. He plays everything.

Surprising, then, that this movie relies entirely on Woods' performance for support--and entirely fails.

There's nothing wrong with it except that there's nothing behind it. There's no life in this petty criminal he portrays--a man who may or may not have been insane but was hanged in the 30s anyway. Woods lends no likeability or believability or characteristic traits to this man he is portraying, and in the end he comes across as a pointless incarnation of a man whose life, perhaps, never even merited the Hollywood treatment in the first place.

This is the type of stuff Oscars are crafted and polished for, but the director had it mixed up from the get-go.

The common conception is that it is hard to survive in prison. This is a well-known fact. But it's also very hard to survive yourself. That is why prison is representative of more than just bars and criminals--prison relates to all of us, and we all relate to the confinement of prison. But the common misconception is that prison automatically makes a good film. It's the exact opposite. You've got to have the material first, then put the prison in as a sort of metaphorical bridge for the characters to pass over.

No one does any passing in "Killer: A Journal of Murder." It's sort of depressing in a non-depressing sort of way.

2.5/5 stars.

  • John Ulmer


4 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 16 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Popular Action and Adventure Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular action and adventure titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed